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UN sounds alarm over violence in Sahel militant flashpoint

BAMAKO (AFP) – Militant attacks at a notorious flashpoint in eastern-central Mali have claimed dozens of lives, the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in Mali said.

“The security situation in the tri-border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, particularly in the localities of Tessit, Talataye, Ansongo and the Menaka region, has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks,” the MINUSMA force said in a statement issued late Thursday.

“Attacks by armed terrorist groups have had a devastating impact on the already distressed civilian population, resulting in dozens of deaths and significant displacement of populations to Gao and Ansongo,” it said.

MINUSMA said it had “deployed a unit to the area for over a week and is in the process of deploying another today.”

The tri-border region is a lawless, arid area where the frontiers of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali converge. It has been gripped by violence since 2015, when militants in northern Mali regrouped after being scattered by French military intervention and extended their campaign into neighbouring countries.

Groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) organisation are frequently accused of attacking civilians suspected of being informants or collaborators.