Malian leader vows security in visit to massacre village

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita arrives at the Ouagadougou airport on March 1, 2019 (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

Ogassogou (Mali) (AFP) - Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita vowed Monday to beef up security as he visited a village where more than 130 people were killed by suspected militiamen from a rival ethnic group.

"We need security here -- this is your mission," Keita said, giving a public order to military chief General Aboulaye Coulibaly, who was abruptly appointed on Sunday after the massacre.

"Justice will be done," he vowed.

The deadly raid took place on Saturday at Ogassogou, a village in central Mali near the border with Niger inhabited by the Fulani herding community.

A militia from the Dogon ethnic group -- a hunting and farming community with a long history of tension with the Fulani over access to land -- is suspected to have carried out the raid.

State television ORTM on Sunday gave a "provisional toll" of 136 dead.

An AFP reporter on Monday said many homes in the village had been burned down, and the ground was littered with corpses.

"I have never seen anything like that. They came, they shot people, burned homes, killed the babies," said 75-year-old survivor Ali Diallo.

The perpetrators "are not jihadists. They are traditional hunters," a health worker told AFP.

The victims, many of them woman and children, were shot or hacked to death with machetes, a security source told AFP.

It was the deadliest attack in Mali since the end of the 2013 French-led military intervention that drove back jihadist groups who had taken control of the north of the country.

Jihadist raids remain a persistent threat, and in the centre of the country, an ethnic mosaic, the attacks have had a bloody impact on groups with a history of rivalry.

The Fulani have been accused of supporting a jihadist preacher, Amadou Koufa, who rose to prominence in central Mali four years ago.

So-called self-defence groups have emerged in the Dogon community in the declared role of providing protection against the insurgents.

But these militias have also used their status to attack the Fulani.

Violence between the Fulani and Dogon and between the Fulani and Bambara ethnic group claimed some 500 civilian lives last year, according to UN figures.

In January, Dogon fighters were blamed for the deaths of 37 people in another Fulani village, Koulogon, in the same region.

On Sunday, Keita fired the heads of the army and air force and replaced armed forces chief of staff M'Bemba Moussa Keita with Coulibaly.

The Dogon militia, called the Dan Nan Ambassagou, was ordered to be dissolved.