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Gunmen launch deadly attack on villagers in northern Mali

Philippe Desmazes, AFP file picture | Malian and French soldiers patrol in Goundam, in the Timbuktu region, during an anti-terrorist operation in the Sahel, on June 3, 2015

Gunmen killed 10 civilians in an attack on the village of Gaberi in northern Mali, army spokesman Souleymane Maiga said on Sunday, a day after a deadly siege by suspected Islamist gunmen at a hotel northeast of the capital.

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The attacks are the latest sign of insecurity in the West African country where the United Nations has brokered a tenuous peace deal between Tuareg separatists and the government.

At the same time, remnants of an Islamist insurgency linked to al Qaeda and new Islamist militant groups are apparently mounting a growing campaign against the United Nations mission (MINUSMA) and Malian military targets.

The village attack began on Saturday evening when three men arrived on motorbikes and infiltrated Gaberi in Timbuktu region but were repulsed by residents who opened fire, killing one attacker, said residents contacted by telephone.

“The attackers came back this morning firing everywhere. There are nine or ten dead.

People have deserted the village and set up camp around 4 km away,” said a resident reached by telephone. He said he doubted that the attackers were Islamist militants.

Another resident said the initial attack appeared to have been an attempted robbery and the attackers then returned with reinforcements.

Nine civilians including five workers for the U.N. mission died in the 24-hour siege at a hotel in Sevare, the government said in a statement.

The dead included two Ukrainians, a Malian chauffeur, a South African and a Nepalese were killed in the attack and two Ukrainians, a Russian and a South African were freed, the statement said.

Four militants were killed and seven were arrested in the pre-dawn raid, the government said, adding that four of its own soldiers were killed and eight were wounded.

Maiga said it was too soon to know if the siege was connected to the village attack in which one gunman also died.

A 2013 French-led military operation drove back Islamist fighters, who had taken advantage of an ethnic Tuareg rebellion and a military coup to seize territory in the north a year earlier.

Islamist fighters were left out of the negotiations between the separatists and the government and have mounted an insurgency.

(REUTERS)

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