At least 32 herdsmen were killed and 10 declared missing in an attack believed to be carried out by ethnic hunters in Central Mali.
Armed Dozo hunters, linked to the Dogon ethnic group, ambushed the isolated village of Koumaga in the Mopti region on Saturday, killing dozens of herders, including children.
“They surrounded the village, separated the Fulani people from the others and killed at least 32 civilians in cold blood,” said Abel Aziz Diallo, president of the local Tabila Pullaku association.
Another 10 people were missing, he added.
“The men were dressed in Dozo clothing but we wonder if they were all Dozo hunters,” said an elected official from the region, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Malian authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Violence has increased over the past three years in central Mali between nomadic Fulani herders and Bambara and Dogon farmers, sparked by accusations of Fulanis grazing their cattle on Dogon land and disputes over access to land and water.
Central Mali is a vast area where the state is near-absent and “jihadists”, blamed for exacerbating the dispute, roam with little constraint.
The Bambara and Dogon ethnic groups accuse the pastoralists of colluding with “jihadists”.
The armed forces are facing increasing accusations of arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings in their fight against the insurgents.
“What is happening is very serious, we must avoid confusion. Just because we are Fulani does not mean we are terrorists,” Diallo said.
Clashes between herdsmen and farmers are common across West Africa.
In Nigeria, suspected herdsmen were believed to have killed over 80 persons in Plateau state on Saturday.