31 dead in Mali town attacked by Islamist rebels

GAO, Mali — Gunmen attacked a market in a central Malian town Wednesday, killing at least 31 people including at least five children, according to local officials. Ali Yamba Amadou, mayor of the town…

31 dead in Mali town attacked by Islamist rebels

GAO, Mali — Gunmen attacked a market in a central Malian town Wednesday, killing at least 31 people including at least five children, according to local officials.

Ali Yamba Amadou, mayor of the town of Bacho, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the Malian capital of Bamako, told Agence France-Presse the attackers were from Islamist group Ansar Dine, which is opposed to the secular Tuareg separatist group, MNLA.

“The militants came in four 4×4s in which they went to the market, surrounding the marketplace,” Amadou said. “There they met civilians, who were accompanying their children to the market, and attacked them mercilessly. The rebels killed 31 people, many of them children.”

He said police were working to obtain the list of the dead and wounded and that five security forces were killed.

Ansar Dine appears to have shifted its focus away from Tuareg separatists toward jihadis. Its leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly, is close to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, a former U.S. and French counterterrorism ally that draws its fighters largely from Africa’s Sahara and the Sahel nations surrounding it. It is not clear if AQIM had any role in the attack.

Residents of Bacho, in the area known as the Mopti region, had a similar account to Agence France-Presse.

“I woke up this morning to the sound of gunfire. I could see smoke rising from the market,” Musbaxba Fidele, 30, told AFP. “When I arrived there, I saw that some shops had been burned and that the bodies of some people were lying on the ground outside. I went to help one of the girls and we found her dead. It’s very sad.”

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