Extremists kill over 100 civilians in Mali, UN Chief expresses shock

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, on Wednesday, expressed shock and outrage over reports that over a hundred civilians had been killed in the past week, during attacks by armed extremists in central Mali, and further north.

According to reports, at least 100 civilians reportedly died when rebel militia attacked several villages in the Bandiagara region, close to Mopti.

Guterres in a statement issued by his Spokesperson, Mr Stéphane Dujarric, said that he was “equally appalled” at the reported loss of life there.

The UN chief said he was shocked at high loss of life and livelihoods in other regions of the country as well, including in Ménaka where tens of thousands of people have been displaced in recent weeks.

The secretary-general expressed his deep condolences to the families of the victims of the recent massacres, as well as to the people of Mali.

“He condemns these attacks in the strongest terms and calls on the Malian authorities to swiftly investigate them and bring the perpetrators to justice,’’ Dujarric said.

The secretary-general called on Mali’s military leadership to redouble their efforts to restore peace and stability across the country and reiterates the readiness of the UN stabilisation mission MINUSMA, to support their efforts.

According to a statement issued earlier by the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, several homes and shops were burned, and the attacks also led to the forced displacement of several hundred civilians.

Dozens more were killed in other attacks by extremists to the northeast, in the Gao region.

Mali and the whole central Sahel region has faced an uptick in violence targeting civilians by armed extremists in recent months.

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This is an issue which has plagued the nation for years, stemming from 2012 when Islamist rebels took control of the north and centre, before Government forces backed by international support, put down the attempted coup.

The extremist violence has spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, destabilising border regions, and according to news reports, in recent weeks, rebels have been blocking the road between the northern city of Gao, and Mopti, to the south.

Meanwhile, in its statement on Tuesday, MINUSMA said it was joining the nation in mourning once again, but would waste no time in setting up a “preliminary mission” to aid regional authorities to deal with the aftermath of the violence, leg by an integrated team from the Mission, despatched from Mopti.

“Other concrete measures are envisaged in support of the Malian authorities’ efforts to assist the population and strengthen their security,” said MINUSMA.

“More broadly, the Mission will continue its efforts to help stabilise central Mali, which is one of its strategic priorities.”

MINUSMA said that specific measures would be taken to address the resurgence of violence against civilians in the Gao region.

“These will be a continuation of the action” which began several weeks ago after extremist groups killed dozens in the Asongo district, in the Gao region, reportedly in retaliation for the arrest of some rebel leaders.

In accordance with its human rights mandate, MINUSMA said it would investigate the precise circumstances of the recent attacks.

“This will support the relevant Malian authorities in their efforts to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of these heinous acts,” it stated. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

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