24 killed in twin central Mali attack

Twenty-four people were killed in central Mali in a twin attack that began overnight and ended Tuesday morning, officials said, in the deadliest ambush since military officers seized power in August.

Overnight, militants raided a military outpost in the central town of Sokoura, near the border with neighbouring Burkina Faso, killing nine soldiers, the army said in a statement.

Reinforcements sent to the outpost were ambushed and hit a roadside bomb on Tuesday morning, the statement added, giving a provisional tally of three soldiers killed and 10 wounded.

A police and humanitarian official said that 12 civilians travelling in a minibus to a weekly market in the central town of Bankass were also caught up in this attack.

“Twelve civilians including two women and a baby were killed,” the police official said, in an account confirmed by a humanitarian official.

The twin attack comes just days after the release of French aid worker Sophie Petronin, who had been held captive in northern Mali by the al-Qaeda-affiliated GSIM group.

The interim government in Bamako released some 200 prisoners to secure her release, as well as the freeing of two Italian hostages and Malian opposition politician Soumaila Cisse.

Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the north of the country in 2012, and has since spread to the centre of the country and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the fighting to date, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes.

On Tuesday, Mali’s military said that “nine terrorists” were killed and that it deployed two warplanes to the site of the second attack that destroyed two vehicles. (AFP | Serge Daniel)