Attack on ethnic Fulani village in Mali kills 16, government says
Fulani leader puts death toll at 32 civilians with 8 people missing
Mali's government said Sunday that 16 people were killed in an attack on a Fulani village as the ethnic group faces growing pressure over accusations of links to al-Qaeda militants.
The leader of the country's largest Fulani association said that a community militia had attacked Koumaga village in the central part of the West African nation on Saturday and put the death toll at 32 civilians.
The body counts differ because many victims had been buried by the time Malian security forces arrived, said Abdoul Aziz Diallo pf the Tabital Pulaku association.
The militia members first killed herders outside Koumaga before entering and "starting to fire on the villagers," he said, adding that another eight people were missing.
Koumaga village has the reputation of being home to a number of al-Qaeda-linked militants. Such fighters have been attacking security forces and a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali regularly since 2015.
Security is a key concern ahead of the July 29 election, in which President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is running again.
Concerns have been rising over alleged abuses during counterterrorism operations by Malian security forces in Fulani-majority areas where militants linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS have carried out attacks and recruited locals as fighters.
Last week the United States expressed concern after Mali's government acknowledged allegations by the Fulani association and others that soldiers had entered another village, Nantaka, separated out 25 Fulani men and killed them.
Mali's government also confirmed the existence of three graves discovered by residents outside the village and said it would investigate.
The vast majority of civilians reported killed in counterterrorism operations have been Fulani, and human rights groups have warned that abuses risk pushing villagers into joining extremist groups.