Gunmen Kill Five in Rare Attack Near Mali’s Capital

Mali’s security ministry says armed men attacked a civil defense post in a rare attack near the capital Monday, killing five people

Mali’s security ministry said unidentified armed individuals attacked the defense post Monday night in the small southwest town of Markacoungo, about 80 kilometers from the capital, Bamako. 

In a statement Tuesday, the ministry said two members of the civil defense force and three civilians were killed in the attack. 

It said Mali’s security forces were taking all measures to identify and arrest the attackers and called on the public to collaborate with security forces. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the Monday attack. 

Markacoungo lies on the main road northeast of Bamako, an area that rarely sees such attacks. 

Violence in Mali’s decade-long conflict with Islamist militants has been mostly in the north and center of the country, though attacks in the south are increasing.

Six people were killed in a July attack on a checkpoint 70 kilometers from Bamako followed by an attack one week later on Mali’s main military camp, just 15 kilometers from the capital. 

One soldier was killed in the attack, which Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Mali called a response to the military government’s working with Russian mercenaries and claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Mali has been under military rule since a coup in August 2020. 

Mali’s military government has denied working with the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company with links to the Kremlin, saying it works only with official Russian instructors.

French troops, which were helping fight Islamist militants in northern Mali since 2013, withdrew last year over concerns about Mali’s work with the Wagner Group.

U.N. experts have accused the mercenaries of gross rights abuses in countries where they operate, such as the Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. 

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, has also been in the country since 2013 but has faced difficulties since the military government came to power.

Several participating countries have suspended their involvement in the mission, including Britain and Ivory Coast.

Mali in July detained 46 Ivorian troops and accused them of being mercenaries. Ivory Coast says they were working under the peacekeeping mission.  

A Malian court on Friday sentenced the soldiers to 20 years in prison over an alleged coup attempt. Three women Ivorian peacekeepers initially arrested along with the rest of the troops when they arrived at Bamako airport on July 10, were later released.  

West African leaders set a January 1 deadline for Mali to release the Ivorian troops or face sanctions. 

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