27 killed in assaults on Christian villages in Mali

27 killed in assaults on Christian villages in Mali

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Soldiers patrol before the arrival of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita outside the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali, on November 21, 2015, after an attack by militant Islamists.(Photo: Reuters / Joe Penney)

Suspected Islamic radicals killed at least 27 people, some of whom were burned alive, in a series of attacks that lasted from Tuesday to Wednesday evening in three villages that supporters claim to be predominantly Christians in central Mali.

When communal violence in the West African country has escalated in recent years, local officials told Reuters that attacks in the villages of Bankass, Koro, and Tillé were carried out by armed men on motorbikes they believed to be jihadists are who claim to be protecting Fulani shepherds from Dogon farmers.

"We were surprised by the attack on the village of Tillé," Deputy Mayor of Doucombo, Yacouba Kassogué, told the news agency. "Seven were killed, all Dogons, some of them burned alive."

At least 20 other people are said to have been killed in the neighboring villages of Bankass and Koro.

According to local authorities, most of the victims were shot or burned in these two villages.

According to the interdenominational Christian aid organization Barnabas Aid, "mainly Christian Dogon villages" fell victim to the attacks last week in central Mali.

"Jihadists have been waging war to occupy northern and central Mali since 2016 with the stated goal of establishing Sharia law (Islamic law) across the country," the aid organization said.

"Mali suffered the worst year of extremist violence in seven years in 2019. Jihadi fighters carried out murderous attacks in the north and in the center, devastated Christian villages and caused hundreds to flee with their clothes on their backs."

In June 2019, dozens of people were reportedly killed in an alleged Fulani attack in the mainly Christian village of Sobame Da, a village in the Mopti region of central Mali.

Although initial reports indicated that over 100 people were killed in Sobame Da, officials later revised the death toll to 35, including 24 children, on the grounds that officials had mistaken previously missing people for the people killed.

However, some community leaders argued that the initial death toll was correct and that, according to the Washington Post, investigators had not uncovered all of the homes burned by the perpetrators.

Mali, a predominantly Muslim country in West Africa, is the 29th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA's 2020 World Watch List.

According to the Joshua Project, the Dogon community has traditionally celebrated animistic religion, but is increasingly turning to Islam "because there is no alternative". Today, most Dogon communities are Muslims, but about 11% believe in Jesus.

"In the few villages where Christianity was lived by missionaries or locals who have become Christians elsewhere, you can actually see the growth of Christian faith," reports the Joshua Project.

According to an Open Doors dossier on Mali, militant Islamists in the country were "busy attacking the country's security forces and Christians." The document reports that "Christian villages have been targeted and destroyed, with attacks sometimes having both ethnic and religious elements."

"With the increasing attacks in the Mopti region and other areas, church schools and churches were burned down, hundreds of schools (including Christian schools) were closed in 2019," an Open Doors field researcher was quoted as saying.

In recent years there have been escalations in Mali in violent attacks between Dogon farmers and Fulani herders.

In March 2019, Dogon militias were accused of carrying out an attack that killed up to 150 Fulani herders in Ogossagou. Another attack on Fulani in Ogossagou in February is said to have killed 31 people. Both Dogon and Fulani fighters were accused of carrying out reprisals.

Courtesy of the Christian Post

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