Gunmen opened fire on women, adolescents and elderly individuals in a village in central Mali, reportedly killing 134 people, according to Reuters.
"We are provisionally at 134 bodies recovered by the gendarmes," Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of a neighboring community, said to the news site.
The ambush occurred Saturday morning in the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara, and Guindo says several men dressed in hunter garb stormed the area and began firing shots. While a motive for the attacks remains unknown, an unidentified survivor hinted the assault was a form of revenge for an associate of terrorist group al Qaeda after an attack from the terrorist group left 23 soldiers dead last week.
CNN reports the African nation's Fulani community is constantly under scrutiny for allegedly being connected to jihadist groups.
The Malian government issued a statement following the act of violence and promised to continue protecting its citizens against violent adversaries.
"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," the statement read. "The government condemns with the utmost severity this heinous act and expresses its compassion to the families of the innocent victims."
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A representative from United Nations affiliate UNICEF echoed the government's remarks and confirmed the organization is providing relief to survivors of the shooting.
An attack on a village in Bankass in Mopti, central Mali, has reportedly killed more than 130 people. UNICEF is deeply saddened and outraged that children are among the casualties. We urge all parties to put an immediate end to the violence and to keep children out of harm’s way.— Henrietta H. Fore (@unicefchief) March 24, 2019
"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 in a statement posted to the nonprofit's website.
The Saturday ambush is not the first time a wave of violence has struck the Fulani community, which the BBC describes as a "largely Muslim ethnic group of semi-nomadic herders."
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