23 killed in central Mali attacks

BAMAKO (AFP) – Twenty-three people were killed in central Mali in a series of attacks early on Tuesday, 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 later on Tuesday morning, the statement added, giving a provisional tally of two soldiers killed and 10 wounded.

An earlier army statement said that three soldiers had been killed in that attack.

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.

He added that they had “followed the army reinforcement”, believing themselves to be protected, but were then targetted along with the soldiers.

Details of the attack remain hazy.

A government official based in the region, who declined to be named, said that the civilians happened to be travelling ahead of the military convoy when they were caught in the crossfire.

The attacks come 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.