Mali: 31 killed in attack on northern town

Attacks on towns are latest sign that peace talks in Burkina Faso are under strain

Attackers have killed at least 31 people in central Mali, according to local authorities, as the country’s peace talks in Burkina Faso came under further strain.

Officials in the town of Timbuktu and headquarters of the local authority said the attack appeared to have been carried out by Islamist militants.

Malian radio reported that a hospital in the town of Diabaly, at the foot of the mountains of the country’s western region, had received 16 bodies. It said another three people were still missing.

Another member of the police said two neighbourhoods of Diabaly were being patrolled after a series of attacks overnight. One attack has been blamed on al-Qaida’s north African arm, AQIM, and the group claiming responsibility included a claim of responsibility on social media.

“The armed group wrote this message after the attack: ‘We know that one of the reasons for your animosity to us is the presence of our sisters in Muslim countries. It is in this regard we warn women not to make a mess of their paradise when they leave home,’” said a post on AQIM’s Twitter account.

The claim said the attacks took place in the towns of Tessalit and Kidal.

Jihadist groups are waging a campaign of attacks on Malian security forces, which remain poorly armed even after a French military intervention helped to oust al-Qaida and other Islamist groups from power a year ago. France and its African allies have since launched a major offensive to drive the militants from Mali’s north.

Timbuktu is located in the north, on the border with Niger, and has been repeatedly targeted by terrorists seeking to overthrow the government and install an Islamic state.

The area was originally part of the fabled world city of Timbuktu, which is widely believed to have been the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad.

In 2015 a group of 15 Tuareg men emerged from the desert in what many people considered to be a rebellion against the central government, with fighters occupying the city before being forced out.

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