Mali president declares three days mourning for dozens killed
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita declared three days of mourning on Monday for the dozens of people killed over the last week in jihadist attacks and bombings.
Keita cancelled travel plans to an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the weekend to visit central Mali, a once calm region whose security situation has rapidly deteriorated in the last few years.
The president declared a mourning period beginning on Monday "in tribute to all those who have lost their lives in the last few days in terrorist attacks," a statement published on his official Twitter account said.
Twenty-six civilians including mothers and infants were killed when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Boni, central Mali, last Thursday, while 18 soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing and a separate attack in the north over the weekend.
Keita said jihadists were increasingly aware of the "ferocious determination to stop them in their tracks" embodied by the recent deployment of a force drawn from the G5 group of Sahel countries.
"It's driving them mad," he added in a statement released on Saturday after the attacks at Boni and a military camp in Soumpi, Timbuktu.
Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of the former French colony in early 2012, but were largely driven out in an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
In June 2015, Mali's government signed a peace agreement with coalitions of non-jihadist armed groups. But Islamist insurgents remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.
Mali is one of a string of poor, fragile nations in the Sahel region that have been battered by terror attacks.
The country joined with Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso to fight the jihadist groups, most of whom have Al-Qaeda links, forming the G5 Sahel force.
France's foreign ministry said it "continues to support efforts in Mali in the fight against terrorism and enemies of peace, supporting the Malian armed forces and the G5 Sahel force," in a statement sent to AFP on Monday.