One day after jihadists stormed Kani-Bonzon village, in central Mali, military and administrative authorities were still establishing the human toll of the attack.
If at least 13 people were confirmed dead, a local politician fears the toll could be as high as 20.
Bereaved families gathered Friday (Feb. 24) for funeral prayers.
A witness recalls the moment the insurgents arrived
"There are many of them. The first group wasn't numerous. another group came over the hill and thenthere were loads of them."
Assailants reportedly attacked the village on Thursday (Feb. 23) and burned homes. Reports have circulated that three people were abducted.
A local government official said cattle had been stolen. Sidi Mohamed El Bechi, the Bandiagara region governor called for restraint: "I ask everyone not to give in to provocation. Not to give in to these individuals who only seek to destroy what we are building (peace) for the people of the Bandiagara region. This is extremely important."
Central Mali has been one of the hotspots for jihadist violence in the Sahel region since 2015 and the arrival of the Katiba Macina group, which has ties to Al-Qaeda.
Following Thursday's attack, people came out to protest in the nearby town of Bandiagara on Friday to demand more security, a local government official said.
A UN report published in January said armed groups in the centre of the country were continuing to exploit tensions between communities, extend their influence and gain new recruits.
Mali is ruled by a military junta since 2020. The authorie launched a major operation in the centre in late 2021 as it started to loosen ties with France -- its historic ally and the former colonial power – as it looked for other partners.