Armed men, dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, encircled and attacked the towns of Ogossagou and Welingara. UN condemns the violence.
At least 134 Fulani herders died in central Mali Saturday when gunmen attacked the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara, although authorities say the exact number of victims is still unknown, Reuters reports.
Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass said armed men dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, encircled and attacked Ogossagou at about 4 a.m. (0400 GMT). Hours later, the group moved on and attacked another nearby Fulani village, Welingara.
“We are provisionally at 134 bodies recovered by the gendarmes,” Guindo told Reuters by telephone from Ogossagou.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement late Saturday night saying he "is shocked and outraged by reports that at least 134 civilians, including women and children, have been killed and at least 55 have been injured."
Security sources had confirmed that the dead included pregnant women, children and elderly people.
The U.N. communique read that the secretary general "condemns this act and calls on the Malian authorities to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice."
One Ogossagou resident, who asked not to be identified, said the attack appeared to be in retaliation for an al Qaeda affiliate’s claim of responsibility on Friday for a raid last week that killed 23 soldiers.
That group said that raid was payback for violence by Mali’s army and militia against the Fulani.
Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years to boost recruitment and render vast swathes of territory virtually ungovernable.
This latest attack occurred as a U.N. Security Council mission visited Mali seeking solutions to violence that killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel region. Although the United Nations confirmed the assault, they did not confirm the number of casualties.