Armed men reportedly dressed as traditional hunters have killed 134 people, including women and children, during an attack on a village in central Mali.
A further 55 civilians were hurt in the attack in Ogossagou in the Mopti region.
The region’s Fulani ethnic community is frequently targeted and accused of having ties to jihadist organizations in the area, according to the UN.
The Malian government said it “reiterates its determination to make every effort to hunt down the perpetrators of this barbarity of another age and to punish them, in accordance with the laws in force.”
“In the same spirit, the government will continue to ensure the protection of the people, to recreate the conditions of true social cohesion and to promote national reconciliation,” it added, saying the “government condemns with the utmost severity this heinous act and expresses its compassion to the families of the innocent victims.”
On Sunday, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar and the Council of Ministers announced the dissolution of a so-called self-defense group, according to a government communique. The communique did not note whether this group was to blame for the attack in Ogossagou.
The group, called Dan Na Ambassagou, is composed of members of the Dogon ethnic group. Last year, Human Rights Watch accused Dan Na Ambassagou of targeting members of the Fulani ethnic group and attacks that “led to dozens of civilian deaths and injuries.”
UNICEF said it was providing assistance to victims of the attack.
“Many of the injured children have been evacuated to health facilities for treatment. UNICEF is on the ground helping provide first aid, medicines and therapeutic food,” Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
“Mali’s children are paying the highest price for the intensifying violence in central Mali. Since 2017, rising insecurity has led to an increase in the killing, maiming and recruitment of children. Gender-based violence is on the rise,” Fore added.
The Mopti region of Mali has seen repeated instances of violence in recent months.
Several soldiers were killed in Dioura last week, while 10 people from the Dogon community were killed in an attack on the village of Gondogourou in February.
A UN spokesperson said the organization’s secretary general António Guterres was “shocked and outraged” by Saturday’s attack.
“The Secretary-General condemns this act and calls on the Malian authorities to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the spokesperson said, adding that he “calls on the Malian authorities to redouble their efforts to bring back peace and stability to central Mali.”
There are nearly 3 million Fula people in Mali, who are traditionally nomadic and mostly Muslim.