Rights group says extremists exploit Mali ethnic tensions

Human Rights Watch is calling on authorities in Mali to investigate and prosecute those responsible for a wave of attacks since January that have killed at least 52 people and left more than 10,000 displaced.

The rights group in a report Wednesday says the increased presence of Islamic armed groups and their recruitment of local residents has inflamed and exploited ethnic tensions, leading to the development of self-defense militias.

The rights group says a Bambara militia killed at least 21 people in retaliation after Peul Islamic fighters killed a Bambara shopkeeper in the Segou region on Feb. 11. On Feb. 18, Islamic fighters killed nine Bozo and Bambara traders, alleging they supported the militia.

Human Rights Watch says at least 16 people have since been killed in central Mali.