More than 20 Tuareg civilians were killed late last week near Mali’s frontier with Niger, security sources told AFP on Monday.
“On Friday and Saturday at least 25 Tuareg civilians were killed in Amalaoulaou by armed men,” a local elected official told AFP. A security source and another local official confirmed the incident.
The attackers came on motorcycles “and fired indiscriminately at residents, their faces hidden behind their turbans,” the first elected official said.
A Malian security official said: “The assailants killed at least 25 civilians in a well-planned attack.”
Another local official said the dead came from the same Tuareg clan and described the attackers as “jihadists”.
Tuareg group the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad said in a September 29 Facebook post that “armed individuals attacked the village of Amalawlaw about 20 kilometers from Inatès in Niger.” At least seven civilians were killed, MSA said.
It is unclear who carried out the attack
Some 200 people, many of them civilians, mostly from the Fulani and Tuareg communities, have been killed in the region since the beginning of the year, but attacks appear to be escalating lately.
On the September 25, armed men on motorcycles killed at least 27 Tuareg people in Tinipchi, around 45km west of Menaka. Mali’s security ministry later said the clashes were between members of the same Tuareg tribe.
The recent unrest in Mali began with a 2012 Tuareg separatist uprising against the state, which was exploited by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda who took key cities in the north.
The insurgency gradually spread to the country’s center, where local grievances are sometimes exploited by radical Islamists in a region awash with guns. The groups have morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, sometimes winning over local populations by providing basic services and protection from bandits.
MSA split in 2016 from Tuareg separatist group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). It is part of a coalition with the Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group (GATIA), which was established in August 2014 and is reportedly close to the Malian Army.
Both groups are part of the pro-government Platforme Coalition. 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 people trafficking in the vast Sahel region.
MSA and GATIA aid Operation Barkhane, France’s counter-terror mission across the Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Its primary target is Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Around 4,500 French personnel are deployed to Operation Barkhane, and they work alongside the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force that aims to train 5,000 troops, as well as peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations’ Mali stabilization mission, Minusma.
On August 26, a French airstrike in the Menaka region killed a senior Islamic State in the Greater Sahara official, a bodyguard and two civilians.
With reporting from AFP