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14 bus passengers killed by road mine in Mali

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Malian soldiers. / AFP PHOTO / Daphné BENOIT

Fourteen bus passengers were killed Tuesday by a road mine in central Mali, the bus company said, in an attack bearing the hallmarks of jihadists who plague the region.

The vehicle was en route from the central town of Douentza to the northern town of Gao, Oumar Ould Mamoud of the Sonef bus company told AFP.

“The new toll is 14 dead and eight injured,” he said, adding that there had been about 50 people on the bus.

Police earlier had given a toll of eight dead and 13 injured, and said the blast occurred 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Douentza.

Another police official said “terrorists” had set down the mine.

A Malian military unit by coincidence had been travelling on the same road and was able to provide assistance to the passengers, the source said, and Sonef said it had sent a second bus to pick up them up.

The UN stabilization force in Mali, MINUSMA, condemned the attack which it said had caused “many deaths and 30 injuries,” adding that some of the injured were helicoptered out.

MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado said on Twitter that two women and two children were among the injured.

Northern Mali fell into the hands of jihadists in 2012 before the militants were forced out by a French-led military intervention.

But much of the region remains chronically unstable and since 2015 violence has spread to the centre of the country, an ethnic mosaic.

Jihadists have carried out dozens of hit-and-run raids and mine attacks, striking troops as well as civilians.

In January 2018, 24 Malian and Burkinabe citizens, including women and children, were killed in a blast in central Mali as they headed to a weekly fair.

The insurgents have also inflamed tensions between rival communities, particularly nomadic Fulani herders and sedentary farmers. Hundreds of lives have been lost in tit-for-tat assaults.

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