27 people are dead after a series of brutal attacks in Mali last week. Islamic radicals laid siege to three Christian-majority villages on Wednesday and Thursday last week, according to reports.
The attacks in the villages of Bankass, Koro and Tillé were perpetrated by a group of armed men on motorcycles who were thought to be Islamic fighters deployed to protect the community of Fulani herders from their rival farmers of the Dogon tribe. Fulani herdsmen have been responsible for scores of attacks against the Christian community, predominantly in Nigeria.
Doucombo Deputy Mayor Yacouba Kassogue said: "We were surprised by the attack on the village of Tillé. Seven were killed, all Dogons, some of them burned alive."
At least 20 more people were reported to have been murdered in the neighboring villages of Bankass and Koro.
According to international Christian aid agency the Barnabas Fund, 2019 saw Mali suffer its "worst year of extremist violence in seven years."
The group added: "Jihadi militants carried out murderous attacks in the north and central area, laying waste to Christian villages and causing hundreds to flee with only the clothes on their backs. In one of the worst attacks, in June 2019, at least 100 men, women and children were slaughtered in Sobame Da, a mainly-Christian village in the Mopti region of central Mali."
Open Doors ranked Mali at 29 on its most recent World Watch List - a ranking of the countries in which Christians suffer the most highest levels of persecution.
The charity notes that just under half a million Christians currently reside in the West African nation, out of a population of approximately 19.7 million. The majority of people in Mali are from an Islamic background.
In a dossier on the nation, Open Doors provides some more background on the issues facing Christians who live there: "Radical Islamic groups took control of the northern part of the country in 2012, and this saw Mali leap to number 7 on the World Watch List in 2013, having not previously appeared on it. The situation is no longer as dangerous, and Christians have returned to the region under police protection, but they live under the constant threat of attack by Islamic militants."