At least 21 civilians killed in central Mali attack – sources

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Gunmen killed at least 21 civilians in an attack on a village in central Mali’s insurgency-hit Mopti region on Friday, two local sources said on Saturday.

The unidentified assailants struck in the afternoon, targeting the village of Yarou near the town of Bandiagara, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It was real carnage, armed men burst into the village and fired on people. The toll is heavy between 20 and 30 killed and wounded,” one of the sources said by phone.

The second source said the reported death toll stood at 21 and included women, while 11 others were wounded.

Reuters was not able to independently verify their accounts. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The West African nation is battling a violent insurgency with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State that took root in its arid north following a Tuareg separatist rebellion in 2012.

Militants have since spread to other countries in the Sahel region south of the Sahara, seizing territory, killing thousands and uprooting millions of people in the process.

Frustration over the growing insecurity has spurred two military coups in Mali since August 2020. The junta has burnt bridges with traditional Western allies and turned to Russian mercenaries for help.

Its unexpected demand in June for the departure of U.N. peacekeepers has raised fears the country could slide deeper into chaos.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Alison Williams)