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BAMAKO: Mali Prime Minister Boubou Cisse on Sunday ended a five-day tour of the restive central region where he has vowed to beef up security, days after the UN humanitarian coordinator decried the "drastic toll" from violence there.

Despite military help from France and the United Nations, Mali's government is struggling to calm violence that began in the north of the country in 2012, sparked by radical Islamist and Tuareg militias.

Ethnic violence in central Mali surged after a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.

"We will create a bigger security net," Cisse had said at the start of his central region tour.

"Our forces will be deployed on the ground. A total of 3,500 men will be put in place," 1,500 of whom have already arrived in the region, he added.

On Sunday Cisse ended his tour with a visit to the village of Hombori whose chief was recently killed by suspected jihadist attackers.

Central Mali has seen a spate of massacres this year between ethnic Dogon and Fulani communities.

The Fulani are primarily nomadic cattle breeders and traders, while the Dogon ethic group are traditionally sedentary farmers.

Between May 2018 and May 2019, the number of people fleeing violent attacks almost quadrupled in the central Mopti and Segou regions, rising from 18,000 to 70,000, UN Humanitarian Coordinator (OCHA) Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe said in a report this week.

"Many villages have almost been emptied of their population. Civilians in violence-hit areas live in constant danger," Gasarabwe said.

Food insecurity is also severe, with Mopti accounting for a quarter of the 3.8 million people grappling with high food insecurity or at risk across Mali during the lean season from June to August, .the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its report.

On Saturday in Bandiaga, a Dogons stronghold , Cisse spoke of his "firm determination" to ease the intercommunal tensions.

The previous day in Bankass, near the border with Burkina Faso, the Malian prime minister called on all sides to "overcome their resentment and their bruises" .

Following Cisse's tour of the troubled region "at least there is hope," Bocari Sagara, parliamentary deputy in the town of Bandiagara in the east of Mopti region, told AFP.

On Thursday Cisse launched an operation to distribute 8,000 tonnes of cereals to the local communities to help battle the levels of food insecurity which it is believed will ease the tensions between communities, said local heads of communities who were involved in meetings organised during his visit.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019