Looters massacre 20 civilians in Mali, landmine kills UN peacekeeper
Raiders in Mali killed at least 20 civilians in attacks on villages near the northern town of Gao over the weekend, while a landmine killed a UN peacekeeper in the troubled region.
“Criminal terrorists” killed at least 20 civilians on Saturday in several hamlets in the town of Anchawadj, a few dozen kilometers north of Gao, said a senior police officer who requested anonymity.
A local official blamed the attacks on jihadists and put the death toll at 24, saying the killings took place in Ebak, about 35 kilometers (23 miles) north of Gao, the region’s main town.
The official described a “general panic” in the region.
The situation in Anchawadj was “very worrying” and civilians were fleeing the area fearing further violence, he added.
After Saturday’s bloodshed, a landmine on Sunday killed a UN peacekeeper while patrolling further north in Kidal, tweeted the head of the MINUSMA force in Mali, El Ghassim Wane.
The spokesman for the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, condemned the killing of the peacekeeper, who he said was from Guinea.
“Attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” the spokesperson added.
Separatists and jihadists
Although there has been no official confirmation that the attacks were carried out by jihadist groups, fighters affiliated with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group are active in the area.
The region has become increasingly violent and unstable since separatist Tuareg rebels rose up against the government in 2012.
Jihadist fighters used their rebellion to launch their own offensive, threatening the capital Bamako in the south until a French-led force pushed them back in 2013.
Tuareg separatists and the government agreed to a peace accord in 2015, but it has yet to be implemented.
So now Mali’s weak national government faces both separatist and jihadist insurgencies in the north of the country – a largely desert region that is virtually devoid of state infrastructure.
“A good part of the region of Gao and that of Ménaka” are occupied by the jihadists, indicated the official in Gao. “The state must do something.
Some of the rebel groups also fought as they battled for influence and territory. Added to this unstable mix are traffickers and other criminal groups.
Government stability was interrupted by military coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
Following his latest report on the region, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last month that instability in Mali and Burkina Faso was undermining attempts to stabilize the region.
The security situation in the Gao region has seriously deteriorated in recent months, he said.
He also expressed concern about Menaka, the eastern region bordering Niger.
Initially captured by a Tuareg rebel group a decade ago, it was later taken over by Islamist groups.
Read all the latest news, breaking news, watch the best videos and live TV here.