BAMAKO, Mali - 134 civilians, including women and children, are now confirmed dead in Saturday morning's deadly attack in the village of Ogossou-Peulh in the central Mopti region of Mali.
Described by an African diplomat as "unspeakable barbarity," the brazen attack which saw masses of people shot or hacked to death by machetes, also resulted in fifty five people being wounded.
"We condemn in the strongest terms this unspeakable attack," François Delattre, France's UN Ambassador speaking as President of the UN Security Council at a press conference Saturday evening in the Malian capital, Bamako.
A Council delegation has been in the country since late last week as part of a mission to Africa's troubled Sahel region. The trip will wrap up tomorrow in Burkina Faso.
The attack on Saturday was carried out by armed men dressed as traditional hunters.
The government responded by removing a number of top miliutary officials from their posts and the dissolving of a militia.
Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga confirmed on Sunday that the Dan Nan Ambassagou association, comprising Dogon hunters, largely credited with Saturday's attack, had been dissolved.
"The protection of the population will remain the monopoly of the state," Maiga told a press conference on Sunday.
Later on Sunday, Reuters news agency said army chief of staff General M'Bemba Moussa Keita was sackedand replaced by General Abdoulaye Coulibaly, while chief of land forces General Abdrahamane Baby was similarly removed, and replaced by Brigadier-General Keba Sangare.
Calling the attack an act of "unspeakable barbarity," Kakou Houadja Leon Adom, the Ambassador of Côte d'Ivoire to the UN and co-organizer with France and Germany of the Council's Mali visit, expressed condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and the government.
"The Secretary-General condemns this act and calls on the Malian authorities to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice," according to a statement.
The Secretary-General called on the Malian authorities to "redouble their efforts to bring back peace and stability to central Mali."
In a separate statement condemning the attack, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Head of UN integrated mission, MINUSMA, called for an end to the spiral of violence in Mali and reported that as part of the mission's civilian protection mandate, a rapid response force had been deployed to the scene. The mission was also working to ensure the wounded were evacuated to the nearby town of Sévaré, he added.
"This unspeakable tragedy…unfortunately reminds us that the challenges [in central Mali] are many," he said, calling on the Malian authorities to launch an investigation "so that justice is done and the perpetrators of this atrocity answer for their actions."
The Mopti region has been the scene of deadly violence since the beginning of the year.
Last Sunday, the camp of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMAs) in the village of Dioura suffered an attack in which several of its soldiers were killed. On 26 February, ten people from the Dogon community were killed in an attack on the village of Gondogourou. Further, on 1 January, thirty-seven people were executed in the Fulani village of Kulogon by unidentified armed elements.
At the press conference, Ambassador Delattre recalled, in the context of a recent Security Council resolution extending MINUSMA until the end of June, that the question of central Mali was an integral part of the mandate of the UN peace operation.
"MINUSMA is to support the Malian State through the protection of civilians," he said in response to a question from a journalist.
The situation in central Mali was at the heart of the various meetings that members of the Security Council had in Bamako. "The unanimous message [we received] is that it is essential to break this negative dynamic between the different communities, and to do everything to try and recreate a virtuous circle," said Ambassador Delattre.