The murder of a Fulani Christian politician in Mali by suspected Islamic extremists has sparked fear and uncertainty among the country's persecuted Christian minority.
According to World Watch Monitor, just days before municipal elections, Moussa Issah Bary, the 47-year-old deputy mayor of Kerana (near the Burkina Faso border), was shot dead by six unidentified men on motorbikes in November, leaving behind a wife and eight children.
WWM notes that Bary was a rare example of a Christian member of the Fulani tribe, some of whose militant extremists have become infamous in Nigeria for committing atrocities which have seen them named as one of the top five deadliest militias in the world.
"This tragedy has sent sadness, fears and concerns among the Fulani Christians in several countries, most of whom knew Moussa or just heard of this brutal death," a local source told the persecution watchdog. "Until now, there has been no official claim from the actors of this disaster.
"We do not know whether it is because of his faith that he was brutally attacked or because of his political position."
According to WWM, the peace agreement signed by the Malian government and the predominantly Tuareg rebel groups in 2015 has had little impact, as jihadist groups have regained ground and intensified attacks, targeting Mali security forces and UN peacekeepers.
Christian charity Open Doors USA reports that Mali has seen a severe decrease in civil liberties and religious freedom after Islamist militants seized control of the northern part of the country in mid-2012. Soon after taking control, the Islamists imposed Sharia law on the northern city of Timbuktu as well as other areas of the north, leading to the rapid rise of radical Islam and forcing many Christians to flee their homes.
In November, Islamic extremists bombed two airports in the north of the country, and are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly, whose whereabouts is still unknown.
Earlier this year, jihadists released an eight-minute video showing Stockly dressed in a black hijab, while a masked speaker reads off the charges against her.
"Beatrice Stockly is a Swiss nun who declared war against Islam in her attempt to Christianize Muslims," the speaker said
The country is ranked 44th on the World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. Christians make up just 2.4% of the population in Mali, with Muslims making up a staggering 94.8%, according to the CIA World Factbook.