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Death toll from landmine blast of civilian bus in Mali rises to 24

Death toll from landmine blast of civilian bus in Mali rises to 24

Mali

The number of people killed after a vehicle drove over a landmine in central Mali has increased to 24, local residents have told the news agency AFP.

The army had earlier put the figure at 13, according to Reuters news agency.

The vehicle had crossed the volatile border with neighbouring Burkina Faso, where militants loyal to Islamic State are known to operate, when it ran over the mine, Malian army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone said by telephone.

We just buried the dead. There are finally 24 of them, including four babies with their mothers,"Abdoulaye Cheick, Boni's inhabitant and parent of one of the killed, among whom "seven people from the same family.

But Abdoulaye Cheick, who lost a child in the blast, said up to 24 people had been buried.

“We just buried the dead. There are finally 24 of them, including four babies with their mothers,“Abdoulaye Cheick, Boni’s inhabitant and parent of one of the killed, among whom “seven people from the same family,“told AFP.

Malian security sources blamed the attack near the town of Boni on “terrorists”.

In the past three years, Islamist groups that had long been destabilising the thinly populated desert north of Mali have swept south into its wetter, more populated central regions, exploiting local conflicts to spread jihad.

That has shifted the battlefield closer to the more prosperous south and capital Bamako, raising concerns for the security of a presidential election expected between July and November.

According to local official Mahmoud Traore those killed included Malian and Burkinabe residents.

This is not the first time a civilian bus has hit a mine.

In November, five civilians were killed when the bus they were travelling in hit a mine. No group has said it was responsible, though Islamist and Tuareg insurgents remain active in the region.

Mali and its western neighbour Senegal plan to deploy 1,000 troops soon in an operation to pacify central Mali and contain jihadists who had previously been confined to its Saharan expanses in the north.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday called on the signatories of the 2015 peace agreement, the Malian government and armed groups, to revive the implementation of the agreement or face sanctions.

The north of Mali had fallen in March-April 2012 under the control of jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida. These groups were largely driven out by an international military intervention, launched in January 2013 at the initiative of France, which is still ongoing.

But entire areas of the country are still beyond the control of Malian and foreign forces, regularly targeted by attacks, despite the signing of the agreement, which is supposed to isolate the jihadists for good, but whose application is running out of time.

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