The United Nations is deploying crime-scene investigators, human rights officers, and a child protection expert to central Mali to investigate intercommunal violence over the weekend that killed more than 150 people, one-third of them children. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani of the UN human rights office says the massacre in Ogossagou, in Mali's Mopti region, mostly targeted people from the ethnic Fulani, or Peuhl, community, the AP reports. At least 154 people were killed and dozens more injured.
Shamdasani says the "horrific attacks" signal a "spike in killings" in a cycle of violence in the region that has caused 600 deaths and displaced thousands since last March. She says the attacks appeared to be motivated by an effort to eliminate violent Islamic extremist groups active in Mali, but that "millions of people are being painted as violent extremists simply because they are Muslim." The head of an ethnic Dogon militia blamed for the massacre denies that his fighters were involved in the gruesome attack. Human Rights Watch has said that Youssouf Toloba's ethnic militia, known as Dan Na Ambassagou, has been implicated in scores of deadly attacks over the past year. (Read more Mali stories.)