Bamako — ETHNIC militias have killed more than 200 civilians during communal violence in central Mali this year.
Most murders are blamed on so-called self defense who have targeted mostly ethnic Peuhl villagers for their alleged support of Islamist armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented the violations perpetrated by armed groups against 42 villages in Mopti region, particularly near the Burkina Faso border, as well as the town of Djenne.
The violence has led to widespread displacement, hunger, and looting of livestock, affecting civilians from various communities.
"Abusive militias in central Mali are committing murder and mayhem and leaving scores of dead in their wake," said Corinne Dufka, regional director at HRW.
Dufka appealed to government to ensure that security forces impartially protected all civilians at risk from attacks by militias and Islamist armed groups.
Judicial authorities have also been urged to investigate and prosecute groups responsible for abuses.
"The pace and brutality of the violence is alarming, as is the government's failure to investigate and bring those responsible to justice."
Self-defense militia have justified the massacres arguing government had failed to adequately protect their villages and property from Islamist armed groups.
Islamist sects have increased their presence in central Mali, executing scores of civilians and government officials and committing other abuses since 2015.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government has inadequately followed through a commitment made in March to disarm militias.