BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Attacks by suspected jihadi rebels in central Mali have killed at least 40 civilians, a local official said Monday.
“We recorded attacks by armed men against three villages: Dialassogou, Segue and Lesago. … Investigators are on the spot today to find out exactly what happened,” Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, the biggest town near the attacked villages, told The Associated Press.
The attacks have not yet been claimed but bear the hallmarks of armed groups linked to al-Qaida which have been increasing their violence in central Mali.
The Malian government has not yet issued a statement on the attacks.
For several weeks extremist rebels in central Mali have been blocking the road between the northern city of Gao and Mopti in central Mali.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali issued a statement about the attacks on Twitter saying it is concerned by “attacks against civilians in the Bandiagara region (the area of central Mali) perpetrated by extremist groups. These attacks have reportedly caused casualties and displacement of populations.”
In a separate incident, a U.N. peacekeeper died on Sunday from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device, the U.N. mission to Mali said in a statement.
The head of the U.N. Mission to Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, said that since the beginning of 2022, several attacks have killed U.N. uniformed peacekeepers.
He said that attacks on peacekeepers can constitute war crimes under international law and reaffirmed the mission’s commitment to supporting peace and security in Mali.
Since the beginning of the year, several hundred civilians have died in attacks in central and northern Mali. The attacks are blamed on jihadi rebels as well as the Malian army, according to a report by the human rights division of the U.N. mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali began in 2013, after France led a military intervention to oust extremist rebels who had taken over cities and major towns in northern Mali the year before. The mission now has about roughly 12,000 troops in Mali and an additional 2,000 police and other officers. More than 270 peacekeepers have died in Mali, making it the U.N.’s deadliest peacekeeping mission, say officials.