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Massacre of 160 people in Mali 'underlines need for international presence', Dept Defence says

There are currently 20 Irish Defence Forces personnel deployed to the EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali.

File photo
File photo
Image: RollingNews.ie

A MASSACRE OF 160 people in a village in central Mali “underlines the need for an international presence”, the Department of Defence has said following calls to bring home members of the Defence Forces from the region. 

The deadly raid took place on 23 March in the village of Ogassogou, home to the Fulani herding community, near the town of Mopti in central Mali.

A militia from the Dogon ethnic group – a hunting and farming community with a long history of tension with the Fulani over access to land – is suspected to have carried out the raid.

The victims, many of them woman and children, were shot or hacked to death with machetes, a security source told AFP.

The United Nations has launched an investigation into the attack. 

Irish Defence Forces

There are currently 20 Irish Defence Forces personnel deployed to the EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali. Ireland has participated in the mission since it was launched in 2013. 

The mission includes 9 Irish personnel who occupy staff appointments in the mission headquarters in Bamako and 11 personnel who are based in the Koulikoro training centre. 

Koulikoro is located around 650 kilometres from where the incident took place. 

Last week, Luke Ming Flanagan MEP called on the government to bring home the Irish personnel following the massacre. 

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Flanagan raised concerns over the risk to Ireland’s reputation of further involvement in the Malian conflict.

“EUTM in Mali was originally meant to be a fifteen-month operation. It is six years later and we have been drawn further and further into this terrible conflict,” Flanagan said.

It’s time to bring the 20 members of the Irish Defences Forces who have been training the Malian Army back home.

Flanagan added that the “disturbing killings” must be condemned in the “strongest possible terms”.

“Our involvement as a nation in the Malian conflict needs to be carefully looked at in light of this terrible event,” he said. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Defence said Minister of State Paul Kehoe is “very concerned at the horrific reports” of the massacre. 

The Department said the “massacre and senseless loss of innocent lives underlines the need for an international presence and highlights the important function of the UN mandated EU Training mission”.

“Continued participation in this mission supports Ireland’s ongoing obligations to international peace and security and the commitment to maintaining the Defence Forces capabilities in international operations”, the Department said. 

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces continually monitor the security situation in all overseas missions and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of Irish Defence Force personnel. 

This has been the deadliest attack in Mali since the 2013 French-led military intervention that drove back jihadist groups who had taken control of the north of the country. 

Jihadist raids remain a persistent threat, and in the centre of the country, an ethnic mosaic, the attacks have had a bloody impact on groups with a history of rivalry.

The Fulani have been accused of supporting a jihadist preacher, Amadou Koufa, who rose to prominence in central Mali four years ago.

So-called self-defence groups have emerged in the Dogon community in the declared role of providing protection against the insurgents. 

But these militias have also used their status to attack the Fulani.

With reporting by © AFP 2019

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