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Two Malian soldiers killed in highway blast

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Malian soldiers on parade in Bamako last year. At least 53 soldiers and one civilian have been killed in a jihadist attack which was one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country’s military in recent memory. PHOTO: Michele Cattani/ AFP/ Getty Images

Two Malian soldiers were killed on Sunday in the violence-torn centre of the country when their vehicle hit a bomb placed by jihadists, Malian officials said.

The deaths bring the number of Malian, UN and French troop losses to 29 since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally.

“On Sunday, a mission escort vehicle hit a mine laid by terrorists. Two Malian soldiers were killed,” a military source said on Monday, in an account confirmed by a senior local official.

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The incident happened in Dioura, in the Mopti region.

Two other soldiers have been hospitalised with injuries, the sources said.

The troops were escorting a team of water drillers, another security source said.

Mali was plunged into conflict in 2012 when local Tuareg radicals, supported by jihadists, revolted in the north of the country.

France intervened militarily to crush the rebellion, but the jihadists scattered and regrouped, taking their campaign into central Mali in 2015 and then into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

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In Mali alone, thousands of civilians and troops have died and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes. In remote parts of the country, the government exists only in name.

Twenty-nine soldiers — 21 Malians, six UN peacekeepers and two troops with France’s Barkhane mission — have died since January 1, many of them killed by roadside bombs.

News of the latest fatalities came as leaders of five Sahel nations were to meet in Chad for a two-day summit with France about the way forward.

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