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38 dead in latest intercommunal violence in central Mali

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BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A pair of attacks on ethnic Dogon villages in central Mali has left at least 38 people dead and many wounded in the latest intercommunal violence to destabilize the troubled area near Burkina Faso, authorities said Wednesday.

It was the second time this month that Dogon villages have come under attack by suspected ethnic Peuhl militia fighters. It is believed that the violence is in retaliation for a massacre in a Peuhl village in March that left nearly 160 people dead.

A Malian intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters, told The Associated Press that survivors of the latest attacks had identified the perpetrators as ethnic Peuhls.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the latest attacks took place in the villages of Yoro and Gangafani, in the Mopti region in central Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso.

He said Malian defense and security forces were deployed to secure the zone and to investigate the attacks.

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Tensions have mounted between the communities over the last several years as Islamic jihadists have increased their presence in central Mali. The remnants of extremist groups that once controlled northern Mali have moved south since 2015 and are accused of collaborating with ethnic Peuhls.

Peuhl leaders maintain the community is not behind the attacks but others allege some Peuhls are among the jihadists.

Peuhl leaders also have accused ethnic Dogon militias of working alongside Mali’s military as it has battled to extinguish the extremists.

Human Rights Watch says the Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou, suspected of being behind the March massacre, has carried out scores of deadly attacks. The militia’s leader has said they are defending civilians against jihadists in areas where Mali’s military has not intervened.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres again called for an end to the cycle of violence in the center of Mali, for perpetrators of violence to be brought to justice, and for accelerated efforts to promote reconciliation between communities, Dujarric said.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix arrived in Mali on Wednesday for a joint high-level mission with Pedro Serrano, the European Union’s deputy secretary general for Common Security and Defense Policy and Crisis Response, the U.N. spokesman said.

Dujarric said their visit, until June 21, was aimed at accelerating implementation of a 2015 peace agreement and the restoration of state authority in northern and central Mali. Lacroix and Serrano were expected to meet government authorities, armed groups that signed the peace deal, political representatives, members of civil society and women groups, and international partners, he said.

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