A general view shows the damage at the site of an attack on the Dogon village of Sobane Da, Mali, June 11 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MALICK KONATE
A general view shows the damage at the site of an attack on the Dogon village of Sobane Da, Mali, June 11 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MALICK KONATE

Bamako — The final death toll of a massacre at a village in central Mali was 35, of whom 24 were children, government officials said on Wednesday. This was far fewer than the provisional toll. 

Six people were arrested after “routine checks”, they said.

Gunmen surrounded the village of Sobane Da, in an ethnic Dogon enclave, on Sunday, killing inhabitants and torching homes in a seven-hour assault, survivors said.

The killings stirred fears of tit-for-tat violence in the region, an ethnic patchwork where tension soared with the emergence of a violent jihadist-led movement in 2015.

Earlier, the government gave provisional figures of 95 dead and 19 missing, based on early information from troops and the district mayor who visited the village, also known as Sobane-Kou.

“This number is based on a painstaking count carried out by a team comprising officials from the (Malian) civil protection force, forensic doctors (and) the public prosecutor of Mopti” region, officials said on Wednesday.

About 100 women escaped to the village of Koundo, and this was one of the causes of the confusion, they said.

The government, referring to the risk of another turn in the cycle of violence, urged local people “not to fall into the trap of guilt by association and revenge”.

Ethnic violence in central Mali surged with the emergence in 2015 of a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa.

On May 16, the UN's Mali peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, reported “at least 488 deaths” in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018. At the same time, aArmed Fulanis killed 63 civilians in the Mopti region, it said.

In the bloodiest raid, about 160 Fulani villagers on March 23 by suspected Dogon hunters at Ogossagou, near the border with Burkina Faso.

The Fulani are primarily cattle breeders and traders, and the Bambara and Dogon are traditionally sedentary farmers.

In the heart of the Sahel, Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries. Unrest in its volatile central region coincides with a jihadist campaign that the government is struggling to contain, despite military support from France and UN peacekeepers.

AFP