BAMAKO (Reuters) - At least 23 people are dead and 300 missing after an attack on Sunday on a village of Fulani herders in central Mali where communal violence has surged in recent months, a local mayor said.
Two other Fulani communities were targeted on Sunday evening, amid a string of deadly assaults between herders and ethnic Dogon farmers who have long fought over land and resources but whose rivalry has been stoked this year by the growing presence of armed Islamist groups.
After raiding the village of Saran, the attackers went on to another village called Bidi, but people had already fled, said Harouna Sankare, mayor of nearby Ouenkoro, who blamed the attack on Dogon hunters.
"Since they didn't find anybody (in Bidi), they burned the village and the houses and attacked the cattle," he said.
Other local officials confirmed the attack but did not share the number of casualties. Neither the central authorities nor the army were reachable for comment.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government has vowed to disarm the militias but has struggled to do so.
Tit-for-tat violence between the rival communities has escalated this year. In March, suspected Dogon militiamen killed more than 150 Fulani in central Mali, one of the worst acts of bloodshed in the country's recent history. Raids on Dogon villages in June killed over 40 people.
Instability is fuelled further by the presence of jihadist militants, who use northern and central Mali as launchpads to stage attacks across the Sahel.
Elsewhere in central Mali, 12 civilians including a baby were killed on Sunday when the vehicle they were travelling in hit a landmine. Local mayor Issiaka Ganame said none of the passengers survived. It was not clear who laid the mine, but jihadist groups are known to deploy this kind of ordnance in the region.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo, Writing by Alessandra Prentice, Editing by Edward McAllister, William Maclean)