At least 13 civilians have been killed by suspected jihadists in chronically unstable northern Mali, elected officials who requested anonymity said on Wednesday.
“The provisional toll is now 13 dead, a dozen wounded and hundreds of people fleeing several villages in the Gabero area” in the Gao region, said a local official, who added that the Malian army was not present in the area.
“They killed a lot of people, more than 17 people,” another local official said.
“All the young people have left. Usually, they take the animals. It’s the first time they (the jihadists) have killed like this,” he said.
To the east of Gabero, Gao and Menaka have been the location of a major Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) offensive since early 2022.
The violence has left hundreds of civilians dead, and many people in the area have moved to towns or camps, including across the border with Niger.
The landlocked Sahel state has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north in 2012.
Anger at the government’s failure to stem the violence helped spark two coups in 2020 and 2021, with the West African country’s military junta breaking with traditional ally France and turning towards Russia.
Mali has since hired what it calls Russian military instructors to aid its fight against the rebels, but Western countries say they are mercenaries from the Wagner group, accused of abuses in multiple conflict zones.
Jihadist groups are continuing to fight against the Malian state, plunging the country into a major security and political crisis.