Bamako, Jun 10 (AP/UNB) — Unknown assailants killed at least 95 people in a central Mali village overnight, government officials said Monday, the latest massacre in a growing ethnic conflict driven by fear and suspicion over alleged ties to extremist groups once limited to the West African country's north.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the ethnic Dogon village, though tensions have been high since an ethnic Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a massacre in an ethnic Peuhl village in March that left at least 157 dead.
The killings highlight the Malian security forces' inability to contain the spreading extremism by fighters linked to the Islamic State organization and al-Qaida and the growing danger of frightened communities arming themselves.
Nineteen people were missing after the Dogon village of Sobame Da was attacked around 3 a.m. on Monday, said Interior Security ministry spokesman Amadou Sangho. Homes were burned and animals slaughtered, the government said. The village is in the commune of Sangha, the heart of the Dogon militia blamed for the March attack that has been the deadliest so far.
Some Peuhl leaders had vowed to carry out reprisal attacks for the March bloodshed that was blamed on the Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou. Militia leader Youssouf Toloba has denied his fighters were involved.
On Monday a prominent group representing the Peuhl community, Tabital Pulaaku, issued a statement blaming the "cycle of violence" on the absence of state authority and impunity for perpetrators of attacks.
"The insecurity and the large-scale massacres exploited by terrorist groups are the seeds of a total and lasting destabilization of the region," the statement said.
Mali has long battled Islamic extremism in its far north, with a French-led military intervention dispersing jihadists from the region's major towns. The extremists have infiltrated communities much further south in recent years, stoking animosity between ethnic groups in the more populated region.
The Peuhl are accused of working alongside jihadists from the Islamic State of Greater Sahara organization to attack Dogon villages and prevent residents from cultivating their land.
In turn, the Peuhl have alleged that the Dogons are collaborating with Mali's military though there is no conclusive sign of state support.
But the groups have not been evenly matched. Human Rights Watch says the Dan Na Ambassagou militia has been behind violence that resulted in much higher death tolls. This is due in part to the sophistication of their weapons.
The latest act of "unspeakable barbarism," however, is a reminder that in this conflict there is no good side and bad side, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said in a statement: "Everyone is responsible."
The violence in central Mali is characterized by "killings, enforced disappearances and burning of villages on an appalling scale," Amnesty International said Monday. The U.N. Security Council's meeting this month on Mali to discuss the renewal of what has become the world's deadliest active U.N. peacekeeping mission should focus on the protection of civilians, the rights group added.
Mali's president has vowed to extinguish the Dan Na Ambassagou militia, though the massacre in March in Ogossagou has led some once-demobilized fighters to take up arms again.
Rural bands of hunters have "become paramilitary groups equipped with weapons of war," arguing that they need to defend their communities if Malian security forces can't, Jean-Herve Jezequel with the International Crisis Group wrote after the March massacre.
The tensions go back several years, however, over issues such as land use, he added. "The availability of weapons of war and the pretext of fighting jihadist groups have opened the floodgates to a level of ethnic-based violence that is without precedent in the region."
The victims have included women and young children, and observers say hundreds of civilians were killed last year alone.
In a report late last month, the U.N. secretary-general said that Mali's government must address the arming of ethnic self-defense groups and the proliferation of arms in central Mali or "there is a high risk of further escalation."
The unrest in central Mali has displaced some 60,000 people, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote, adding that he was "appalled" by the surge in violence and its effect on civilians.
United Nations, Jun 8 (AP/UNB) — Estonia and the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were elected to the U.N. Security Council on Friday, marking the first time the countries will hold seats on the U.N.'s most powerful body.
Niger, Tunisia and Vietnam also won two-year terms, and the five countries will take their new spots next year on the 15-member council.
"An historic occasion," St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said after his country became one of the smallest ever elected to the council. Vincentians hope to work on addressing "the security consequences of adverse climate change," among other concerns, Gonsalves said.
The council has five permanent members with veto power: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Other members are elected by the assembly's 193 states for staggered, two-year terms. Five are chosen each year.
Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kuwait, Peru and Poland are finishing their terms this year. Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa will remain on the council through the end of 2020.
The coveted seats are allocated by global regions. Countries often plan for years to campaign for a spot, which can raise a nation's profile in international affairs and afford it a strong voice on the world's most pressing peace and security issues.
The council also provides a platform for bringing up international topics of particular concern to those who hold seats at the horseshoe-shaped table.
"It was an effort of 14 years to arrive here, and we are extremely grateful," Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said after her country vied with Romania through two rounds of voting for an Eastern European seat. A 2/3 majority is necessary to win.
Estonia's priorities include cybersecurity, promoting principles of international law and making the council more transparent and efficient, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said.
Tunisia has served on the council three times, most recently in 2000-2001. Niger had a term in the 1980s, and Vietnam in 2008-2009.
Singapore, Jun 1 (AP/UNB) — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that countries including the United States need to be willing to change international rules in response to a stronger China.
Speaking at an annual security conference in Singapore, Lee said Friday that China must in turn play a greater role in supporting trade frameworks and upholding peace and stability in the region and beyond.
"Countries have to accept that China will continue to grow and strengthen, and that it is neither possible nor wise for them to prevent this from happening," he said.
"China will have its own legitimate interests and ambitions, including to develop indigenously advanced technologies like infocomms and artificial intelligence. New international rules need to be made in many areas, including trade and intellectual property, cybersecurity and social media."
Lee was the keynote speaker at the Shangri-La Dialogue, attended by U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and other defense officials and academics.
He noted that the U.S. "has the most difficult adjustment to make" as the "pre-eminent power."
Earlier this month, the U.S. and China concluded their 11th round of trade talks with no agreement and raised import taxes on each other's goods. The Commerce Department has also placed Chinese tech giant Huawei on its "Entity List," effectively barring U.S. companies from selling it technology without government approval.
Lee expects China to want a say in any new rules, because it did not participate in the creation of current ones. "And this is an entirely reasonable expectation," he said.
In return, China should take on more responsibilities and not expect to be treated in the same way as it was in the past, he said. This extends to trade arrangements and concessions that the country negotiated when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
At that time, China's merchandise trade accounted for 4% of the world's total. Lee said its share has since almost tripled to 11.8%, making the terms "no longer politically wearable for other countries."
"It is in China's own interest to prevent the international framework of trade from breaking down, and to implement timely changes that bring about greater reciprocity and parity with its trading partners," he added.
He also urged China to use its strength "with restraint and legitimacy" and settle disputes peacefully in areas like the South China Sea.
"It should do so through diplomacy and compromise rather than force or the threat of force, while giving weight to the core interests and rights of other countries," Lee said.
"Then over time it will build its reputation as a responsible and benevolent power that need not be feared."
China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in the crucial waters. On Thursday, its defense ministry dismissed a report that Australian navy pilots were hit by lasers earlier in May while exercising in South China Sea waters claimed by China.
Lee said the hardening of attitudes in both the U.S. and China was worrying.
"The fundamental problem between the U.S. and China is a mutual lack of strategic trust. This bodes ill for any compromise or peaceful accommodation. But to go down the present path would be a serious mistake on both sides. There is no strategic inevitability about a U.S.-China faceoff," he added.
Shanahan and Wei met on the sidelines of the conference Friday and agreed to improve communication and deepen exchanges and cooperation between their militaries.
Congo, May 27 (AP/UNB) — Authorities in western Congo say at least 30 people are dead and another 200 are missing after a boat sank on a lake.
Simon Mboo Wemba, the mayor of Inongo, told The Associated Press on Sunday night that many of those aboard the boat that sank on Lake Mai-Ndombe were teachers.
The mayor says they had traveled to collect their salaries by boat because roads in the region are so poor.
It was not immediately known how many people were aboard the boat when it hit bad weather late Saturday.
But officials estimate several hundred were on board. More than 80 people survived.
Boats in the vast nation of Congo are usually overloaded with passengers and cargo, and official manifests don't include all those aboard.
Nairobi, May 23 (AP/UNB) — Islamic extremists exploded a suicide car bomb near the presidential palace in Somalia's capital Wednesday, killing at least nine people, including former Foreign Minister Hussein Elabe Fahiye, who was an adviser to the current president.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press that an additional 13 people were wounded and most of the casualties were soldiers.
The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast in Mogadishu, saying it targeted vehicles carrying government officials.
The car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint near the presidential palace as soldiers were conducting security checks on vehicles on the main road. A white column of smoke rose over the seaside city as gunfire rang out and people scattered.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab frequently carries out such blasts in the capital near the presidential compound and at hotels frequented by government officials and foreigners.
"In the past I was wounded in this area, and again today my daughter has been killed in this attack which also destroyed my home. This is terrible," witness Madey Ahmed told the AP.
Amid the crumpled vehicles and tangled metal roofing, a small corps of yellow-vested workers carried bodies and began sweeping the dusty street.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, Somali Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman paid tribute to Fahiye, saying: "We are more determined to fight the menace of faceless, borderless international terrorism."
He told a U.N. Security Council meeting on Somalia that "al-Shabab continues to be a threat undermining our efforts to deliver security."
"We have made significant gains against al-Shabab in the past eight weeks," retaking two strategic towns in Lower Shabelle, Osman said. But he said the extremist group enjoys "a comparative advantage" because the government is still under a U.N. arms embargo.