Passenger bus hits improvised bomb in central Mali; 10 dead

BAMAKO, Mali – A passenger bus hit an improvised explosive device in central Mali, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens more, authorities said on Friday, accusing Islamic extremists of having links to Al-Qaeda.

The explosion took place Thursday afternoon in the village of Tile in the Bandiagara region, the Malian army said in a statement. Among the victims is a 5-year-old girl. Some 38 other passengers were taken to regional hospitals for treatment.

“The bus leaving for Koro hit an improvised explosive device which was planted by terrorists and deliberately aimed at innocent civilian targets,” military spokesman Col. Souleymane Dembele said in the statement.

The force of the blast destroyed the bus and sent it 30 meters off the road, Dembele added.

The attack has not been claimed but bears the mark of extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda, known for placing mines on the roads to target Malian army vehicles and United Nations peacekeepers.

The Malian army specifically blamed the explosion on the Katiba Macina group, also known as the Macina Liberation Front, active in central Mali. The militants are aligned with JNIM, an extremist organization linked to Al-Qaeda.

In December 2021, an attack by gunmen posing as jihadists on a public transport bus killed at least 30 people, most of whom were burned to death in the vehicle.

Bandiagara was once a tourist hub for Western travelers coming to trek through the Dogon country of Mali. However, Islamic extremists who were once contained in the north of the country have infiltrated the central part of Mali, making the region unsafe for tourism.

In 2012, extremists held key centers in northern Mali, but French troops drove rebels out of towns in 2013. But jihadists continued to operate in the vast desert areas of northern Mali, attacking government targets.

Security problems across the country have worsened since the French army withdrew its troops from Mali. France’s decision to move its forces to neighboring Niger came after the sharp deterioration in relations with Malian junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita, who seized power in a coup in August 2020. .

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