Thousands of people demonstrate in Mali's capital to demand a halt to escalating ethnic violence in the centre of the country.

Iran Press/Africa: Friday's demonstration was organized by a youth association demanding the disarming of militia and for people to "say no to hate" whatever their ethnicity.

Organizers said at least 5,000 attended the rally on Friday in Bamako, Al Jazeera  reported.

Ethnic tensions in central Mali have surged since an armed group led by Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.

The group recruits mainly from among the Fulani who primarily are cattle breeders and traders and it has clashed with the Dogon and Bambara who are traditionally sedentary farmers which have formed their own self-defense militias.

There has been a swathe of mass killings in recent months. At least 488 Fulani civilians died in attacks carried out in the central regions of Mopti and Segou between January 1, 2018, and May 16, 2019, according to the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA). In the same period, armed Fulanis had "caused 63 deaths" among civilians in the Mopti region.

In late March, 160 Fulanis were slaughtered, in one the bloodiest attacks in Mali's history, while fresh ethnic violence erupted this week leading to 41 further deaths in the ethnic Dogon villages of Gangafani and Yoro - the latest in a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between the warring communities despite the army sending in troops.

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who rejects the idea of an "inter-ethnic conflict", on Thursday named the former interim president Dioncounda Traore as high representative for the region to report back to him.

The Red Cross said on Friday that some 2,800 people fleeing the violence had taken refuge in the town of Bandiagara in the east of Mopti region where aid including utensils and bedding had been distributed.

UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix, visiting the country on Friday, said in a statement that "the situation has reached an alarming level.  101/211/205

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