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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BAMAKO — Five Malian soldiers were killed Monday in a roadside bomb attack, a government spokesperson said, in the latest violence to hit the West African country's volatile central region.
The troops were traveling in the region of Alatona, near the border with Mauritania, when their convoy hit a homemade bomb and then came under fire.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012, and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.
More than 140 Malian soldiers died in jihadist attacks between September and December.
A Malian army refueling truck that had left the town of Diabaly in the center of the country hit the bomb early on Monday morning, said a non-commissioned officer who was sent in to reinforce the area.
Militants, who were traveling on motorbikes and in cars, also fired on the soldiers.
"There were deaths on our side and on the side of the assailants," the officer, who requested to remain anonymous, said.
"The reinforcements came in time and we recovered our (dead) bodies and the wounded," the officer said, adding that he was unaware of the total number of victims.
Four vehicles were destroyed in the ambush, according to government spokesperson Yaya Sangare.
Despite some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, plus a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Hiding homemade bombs under well-traveled roads is a frequent means of attack used by militants. Otherwise known as improvised explosive devices, they kill and maim scores of victims every year in Mali.
The UN said in October that 110 civilians in Mali had died in roadside bomb attacks during the first six months of 2019. — AFP
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