Seven soldiers killed in ambush in central Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Seven government soldiers were killed in an ambush in central Mali in an area where at least 32 villagers were slain the previous day by suspected jihadists, local authorities said on Friday.

The ambush took place on Thursday on the outskirts of Gouari village in Mopti region, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Diarran Koneman said.

He declined to give any further details on casualties but a Malian military source told Reuters that seven soldiers were killed.

Suspected Islamist militants raided the villages of Gouari, Djindo and Fangadougou on Wednesday, killing 32 people.

The mayor of a town close to Gouari told Reuters the jihadists returned on Thursday afternoon and attacked troops that had arrived after their raid.

“There was violent fighting. Army vehicles were set on fire,” the mayor said, asking to remain anonymous.

Another local official said four military vehicles were destroyed and the corpses of seven soldiers were recovered. Some were still missing, he added.

A summit of European Union and leaders of Sahel nations agreed on Tuesday to intensify a military campaign against Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State in the region, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying victory over the jihadists was within grasp.

The United Nation’s envoy in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, condemned the attacks, which he said were aggravating the security and humanitarian crisis.

He expressed deep concern about allegations of killings and summary executions of civilians, including children, in central Mali in recent weeks.

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