Passenger bus hits improvised bomb in central Mali; 10 dead

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A passenger bus struck an improvised explosive device in central Mali, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens of others, authorities said Friday, blaming Islamic extremists with links to al-Qaida.

The explosion took place Thursday afternoon in the village of Tile in Bandiagara region, the Malian military said in a statement. Among the victims was 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 that was placed 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 hallmark of al-Qaida-linked extremist groups who are known for placing mines on roads to target Malian army vehicles and United Nations peacekeepers.

Mali’s military blamed the explosion specifically on the Katiba Macina group, also known as the Macina Liberation Front, which is active in central Mali. The militants are aligned with JNIM, an al-Qaida linked extremist organization.

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

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

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

Security concerns across the country have deepened since the French military withdrew its troops from Mali. France’s decision to move its forces to neighboring Niger came after relations sharply deteriorated with Mali’s junta leader Col. Assimi Goita, who seized power in an August 2020 coup.

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