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Gunmen have killed eight people in central Mali, a local official and security ministry staffer said Wednesday, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn Sahel state.
Militants attacked a minibus Tuesday, the officials said, which was travelling between the towns of Bandiagara and Bankass in central Mali’s volatile Mopti region, which is prone to frequent jihadist attacks and ethnic killings.
“Armed men opened fire on the minibus,” a local government official told AFP, adding that eight people died, four escaped and eight were seriously wounded, three of them children.
An official from Mali’s security ministry, who also requested anonymity, confirmed the details of the attack and the death toll.
The local government official, and a survivor interviewed by AFP, both blamed the attack on jihadists.
Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that emerged in the north in 2012 and prompted a military intervention by France.
The extremists were routed in the French operation but regrouped. Today large stretches of the landlocked African state remain outside of government control.
Fighting, which has sometimes taken on an ethnic dimension, has since spread to the centre of the country and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have had to flee their homes.
Tuesday’s attack occurred near the border with Burkina Faso, a region where militants also killed 12 Malian soldiers in a raid in mid-October.
Anger at the conflict fuelled protests against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, culminating in his ouster in a military coup on August 18.
Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in March 2012, and although these forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year, the Islamists have now spread further south.
Three Malian jihadist groups with previous Qaeda links recently joined forces to create the “Group to Support Islam and Muslims” (GSIM), led by Iyad Ag Ghaly of Ansar Dine, and have already killed soldiers further east near the Burkina Faso border.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK