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At least 30 killed in suspected jihadist attack in central Mali

Gunmen spray passenger vehicle with bullets, then set it alight; women, children among dead, authorities say

An MI-8 helicopter of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), lands at the UN base in Menaka, Mali, on October 22, 2021. (Florent Vergnes/AFP)
An MI-8 helicopter of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), lands at the UN base in Menaka, Mali, on October 22, 2021. (Florent Vergnes/AFP)

BAMAKO, Mali — Suspected jihadists in central Mali killed at least 30 civilians in an attack on a passenger vehicle in the volatile central town of Mopti, local officials said Saturday.

“The passengers were sprayed with bullets and the vehicle was torched,” during an attack by “terrorists” near the town of Bandiagara on Friday, the officials told AFP.

“The state has sent security forces to the scene,” they said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The mayor of Bandiagara, Housseini Saye, said the truck was carrying about 50 civilians when the gunmen attacked the vehicle Friday about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) outside the town.

“The shooting caused the truck to catch fire, and 31 people died, most of them burned to death,” said the mayor, who is also a member of Mali’s transitional parliament. “There were several injured and two missing.”

The attack has not been claimed by any of the numerous armed groups active in the West African country.

Mali’s transitional government said in a statement broadcast on state TV that 31 people were killed and 17 injured, and vowed to do everything necessary to “arrest and punish” the perpetrators.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and United Nations troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Central Mali has become one of the most violent hotspots of the Sahel-wide conflict, where ethnic killings and attacks on government forces are frequent.

A military junta overthrew the government last year after mass protests against the violence, but the new rules have not managed to stem the bloodshed.

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