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At least 11 Malian soldiers killed in suspected jihadist attack

Daphné Benoit, AFP | Soldiers from the Malian army patrol with soldiers from France’s Barkhane Force in a street of Menaka in the region of Liptako on March 21, 2019.

Suspected jihadists killed at least 11 soldiers in an attack Sunday in central Mali, the defence ministry said.

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The military outpost at Guire was attacked at around five in the morning, the ministry said, adding that there were also a number of injuries and damage.

Earlier reports had put the number of soldiers killed at 10 or 12.

"The terrorists came out of the forest. They were on motorcycles and pick-up trucks. They burnt vehicles and took away others," a security source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The Mali armed forces said on Twitter reinforcements were being sent to the Nara sector, about 370 kilometres (230 miles) north of the capital Bamako.

A local resident contacted by AFP said there had been heavy gunfire and the military "were taken by surprise" in the attack.

"I saw two terrorists put their motorcycles in an army vehicle and drive off with it," he said.

Malian and foreign troops are regularly targeted by jihadist militia.

Suspected jihadists killed 21 Malian soldiers last month in a raid on another army camp in Dioura, central Mali.

On Saturday a UN peacekeeper was killed and four others wounded when a mine exploded as their convoy passed through a central region..

The UN mission was established in Mali after radical Islamist militias seized the north of the country in 2012 before being pushed back by French troops in 2013.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability. But the accord has failed to stop the violence.

The latest attacks came as President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita pursued consultations to pick a new prime minister.

The last one, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, resigned with his entire cabinet two days ago, under fire from the ruling and opposition parties for failing to clamp down on the unrest.

Meanwhile, an influential Malian preacher and follower of the moderate Maliki school of Islam was on Sunday elected as head of the Islamic High Council of Mali (IHC). Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara succeeds imam Mahmoud Dicko.

Dicko is one of Mali's most prominent public figures who played a key role in the negotiations between the government and Islamist extremists ahead of the peace accord.

He was also a proponent of Wahhabism which he studied extensively in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of this strict Sunni doctrine.

(AFP)

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