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BAMAKO – The United Nations has sent human rights experts to central Mali to investigate a weekend massage of at least 157 villagers, seen as one of the worst blood exits in a country affected by ethnic violence.
The attack, in which women and children were burned in their homes by gunmen, escalated a conflict between Dogon hunters and Fulani shepherds who killed hundreds of civilians in 2018 and spread across the Sahel, the dry region between the Sahara desert to the north. and the savannahs of Africa to the south.
"A team of 10 human rights specialists, a child protection agent and two MINUSMA investigators have been deployed to the Mopti region to undertake a special investigation into Saturday's horrible events," said UN mission service Olivier Salgado on Wednesday. MINUSMA refers to the UN mission in Mali.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda said this week that the crimes could fall under ICC's jurisdiction and that a delegation would be sent to Mali. A UN Security Council had already visited the West African state to seek solutions to ethnic violence when the massacre took place.
An official from a nearby town said on Saturday that armed men dressed as dog hunters infested villages populated by Fulani Shepherds. Dogon suspects Fulani of having Islamist militants accuse Fulani of refusing.
The attack came less than a week after an Islamist attack on an army post that killed at least 23 soldiers, also in Mali's central region. This attack was claimed by an al-Qaeda affiliate.
In a statement Tuesday, MINUSMA said that a Dogon village in the region was also attacked on the Fulani massacre, leaving at least four people dead.
Quiet outsourcing of the fight against jihadists to vigilante groups with scores to settle has released ethnic conflict over the Sahel. In the nearby Burkina Faso at the end of December, ethnic Mossi militia killed dozens of Fulani in revenge for killing a village chief by jihadists.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said on Tuesday that 219 people had been killed by anti-jihadist vigilante groups in Mali since the beginning of this year.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita responded to the attack on Fulanis by dissolving an anti-jihadist vigilante group called Dan Na Amassagou whose Dogon warriors are suspected of being behind the massacre.
The group has denied its members involved and rejected the government's dissolution.