MALI: At Least 49 Civilians, 15 Soldiers Killed in Islamist Attacks

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During an attack on Thursday, Islamist militants targeted a river boat in Mali’s north-eastern region, killing at least 49 civilians and 15 soldiers, as well as around 50 militants.

In a statement read on national television, a provisional death toll had been reached, adding that many more had been wounded.

Insurgents attacked a boat carrying civilians across the flooded plains that separate the towns of Gao and Mopti during the rainy season. The vessel was travelling from Gao when it was hit.  The assailants also attacked a military camp in the Bourem Circle, an administrative subdivision of the Gao region in Mali’s northeast.

The northern city of Timbuktu has been under blockade since the end of last month, and there have been several other recent attacks on transport.

On social media, the Malian army claimed that “armed terrorist groups” had attacked the boat around 11 p.m.

The boat operator, Comanav, told AFP news agency that the vessel had been targeted by at least three rockets aimed at its engines which left it immobilised on the river, and the army went in to evacuate passengers, said a Comanav official.

Mali’s military authorities have ordered French troops and UN peacekeepers out of the country and invited Russian contractors to replace them.

An insurgency with links to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State took root in the north of Mali in 2012. Islamist militants have since gained ground, spreading across the Sahel region, especially to Burkina Faso and Niger.

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