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Nourredine Adamine, mayor of Gao, says 14 of the deaths are civilians while a prominent Mauritanian jihadist said to be among the dead
Militants kill at least 31 in central Mali, say local authorities
At least 31 people have been killed in an attack by Islamist militants in the town of Menaka in central Mali, according to local authorities.
The mayor of Gao, Nourredine Adamine, said 14 of the deaths were civilians while a prominent Mauritanian jihadist named as Abou Zeid was also among the dead.
“The body of Abou Zeid, a Mauritanian member of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, was recovered from Menaka where the militants attacked at around 7am this morning,” he said.
“Other bodies were found in the woods and these included Tuareg and Tuareg women. The militants had taken women hostage and proceeded to rape them before killing them.”
An army spokesman, Colonel Pape Souare, said six armed men carried out the attack in the Gouliman area in Menaka, just outside Gao, the largest town in northern Mali.
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“The attack was on government installations with the aim of seizing the buildings and expelling the Malian army from the area,” Souare said.
A local resident, Hamma Diarra, said the attackers had entered the town through Gouliman neighbourhood, which is the main gateway from Timbuktu to the town.
He said the soldiers killed the five jihadists that were first sent to knock down one of the buildings, a building in the outskirts of Menaka, and were engaged by four more before finally defeating them.
Diarra added that the attackers had found four landmines in the wooded area.
But soldiers had tried to rescue civilians who had been trapped in the complex of buildings, he said.
“Troops were able to remove several people but the bodies of a group of men, women and children were still under the debris. The Malian army is clearing the area of bombs.”
The attack came as armed militants have stepped up their activities in central Mali, the centre of an insurgency launched by Tuareg separatists in 2012 and later hijacked by the Islamist forces.
The Islamists then seized the strategic Malian cities of Kidal and Gao in January 2013, and the nomadic Tuareg separatists fled to northern Algeria.