Jihadists killed 17 civilians in an attack of “inexplicable horror” in northern Mali near the border with Niger, local militia groups said on Wednesday.
“On May 1, members of the same terrorist group summarily executed 17 people in Tindinbawen and Taylalene,” the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad said in a joint statement with the Imghad and Allies Touareg Self-Defence Force (GATIA).
MSA split in 2016 from the Tuareg separatist group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). GATIA was established in August 2014 and is reportedly close to the Malian Army. Both are part of the pro-government Platforme Coalition.
Elderly people were burned alive in their homes and the attackers took property belonging to locals, the statement said. The groups called them “crimes of inexplicable horror.”
On April 27, suspected jihadists killed dozens of Tuareg on the Mali-Niger border. According to MSA, 43 people were killed in two raids in Aklaz and Awakassa, a region where unrest between jihadist militants and Tuareg-led armed groups is common. All of the victims were from the Idaksahak pastoralist berber group.
MSA and GATIA said the perpetrators of Tuesday’s attacks in Tindinbawen and Taylalene were from the same group that carried out the April 26 and 27 attacks.
Operation Barkhane on Wednesday said the perpetrators of the Tindinbawen and Taylalene attack were likely part of a group calling itself Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the group led by Adnane Abou Walid Sahraoui, a former member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Around 4,000 French troops are deployed in Mali under Operation Barkhane alongside the United Nations’ 12,000-member Minusma peacekeeping operation. Minusma is currently conducting two operations in northern Mali, the mission said last week.
Clashes between French soldiers and an armed jihadist group in Menaka left three “terrorists” dead, an army spokesperson said April 26. Three French special forces personnel were also injured, local media reported.
France launched an intervention in its former colony in 2013. That mission evolved into the current Operation Barkhane deployment launched in 2014 with an expanded mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel region of West Africa, and around 4,000 French troops are deployed.
In June 2015, Mali’s government signed a peace agreement with the Platforme Coalition and some armed groups in the separatist Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) alliance, but other insurgents remain active, linked to drug, arms and migrant trafficking in the vast Sahel region.
With reporting from AFP