By Jemal Oumar .
The Dawa religious sect was set to meet in Bamako on Friday (September 14th). Instead, members from across the region will mourn the sixteen Dawa preachers slain last week in central Mali.
“We are going to dedicate this Friday to burying our brothers from Dawa, who died alongside our Mauritanian Muslim brothers,” Mohamed Kimbiri, the spokesman of Mali’s High Islamic Council, told AFP.
Eight Mauritanian and eight Malian imams were shot dead in Diabali last Saturday night on their way to the Bamako event.
Malian soldiers opened fire at the preachers’ vehicle at a checkpoint. Army officials said that the vehicle failed to stop.
According to Malian journalist and analyst Moussa Mega, security fears “haunt all residents of Malian villages and towns”. Still, he said, the incident must not be allowed to damage relations between the two neighbouring states.
It should instead serve as “an incentive for consolidating security co-ordination between the two countries, to avoid similar cases and to differentiate between peaceful Muslims and criminal terrorists”, Mega told Magharebia.
Malian Interim President Dioncounda Traore ordered an immediate and transparent investigation into the shootings. The government will provide a copy of its final report to Mauritanian officials.
“On behalf of the people of Mali, the government deeply regrets this painful event and presents its sincere condolences to the bereaved families and the government and people of Mauritania,” the Malian government said. Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Wednesday stressed that there was no diplomatic rift between the neighbouring countries.
“Mauritania’s relations with the Republic of Mali are good and we do not want to blame Mali. Unfortunately, this crime would not have happened were it not for the deterioration of the security situation in the country,” Ould Abdel Aziz told reporters.
Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly met with Ould Abdel Aziz in Nouakchott on Tuesday to express “the compassion and regrets of the Malian people” over the shootings.
The apology, however, failed to blunt popular anger over the killings. Citizens rallied in Nouakchott and some border cities, especially Bassiknou and Fessala.
“Most victims are from those two cities,” explained journalist Rajel Oumar. “In addition, people are afraid that such an incident might affect the security situation which is now threatening the future of economic exchange and smooth movement across checkpoints which were secured by the two countries’ security forces.”
The incident unified Mauritanians, he said, and showed their adherence to moderate Islam.
Meanwhile, Islamist extremists in northern Mali have tried to exploit the situation to mobilise supporters under the pretext that the Malian government is fighting Islam.
Ansar al-Din painted the incident as a declaration of war on Islam and vowed to march southwards to capital Bamako.
Such threats will fall on deaf ears, analyst Mokhtar al-Salem predicted, because citizens realise that “an accidental shooting cannot destroy military and security co-operation against their common enemy, which is terrorism”.