Suspected jihadists kill dozens in attack on vehicle in central Mali

 In a statement, Mali's interim government announced that "an armed attack was perpetrated against a truck heading to Bandiagara fair on Friday (morning)".

"Unidentified armed bandits attacked and set fire to a truck carrying fairground workers halfway between the village of Songho and the paved road. The toll is 31 dead, 17 wounded and the truck burned to ashes," the statement read. "Reinforcements are currently being deployed to the area and are leading a thorough sweep of the area to track down the assailants."

Presenting its condolences to the families of the victims, the transitional government added that "all measures will be taken to stop and punish the perpetrators of this ignoble and tragic act". It added praise for Mali's armed forces for their efforts "in the battle against terrorism in all its forms".

Transitional president Assimi Goita declared three days of mourning with flags to be lowered to half-staff on public buildings from Sunday.

'Sprayed with bullets'

"The passengers were sprayed with bullets and the vehicle was torched," during an attack by "terrorists" near the town of Bandiagara on Friday, local officials told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An elected official in Bandiagara said the victims included women and children.

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

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 UN troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighbouring 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 coup last year, brought about after mass protest against the ongoing violence, has failed to stem the bloodshed.



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