Militants kill 31 civilians in west Mali

Seven civilians shot in western central Mali by extremists opposed to government and were helping restore stability, officials say

Militants have killed at least 31 people in central Mali and in neighbouring Burkina Faso, local government and military officials say.

Officials identified the gunmen as Islamic extremists opposed to the government. Those killed were shot in the town of Ziguinchor, in the northern Kidal region.

The officials said seven civilians were shot at in another part of Mali’s west, while six were killed in clashes on Saturday in the town of Nampala in western Burkina Faso.

Boko Haram has been active in northern Mali since 2012, but increased its presence in Burkina Faso this year. Violence in the region has risen since France stepped up its military presence in Mali last year, saying the extremist group was using the country as a launchpad for attacks in the Sahel region.

Gilles Kouame, a national assembly member in the north of Mali, told the Associated Press that the extremists killed were part of a group attacking health clinics.

“We heard shooting all around last night, early in the morning, including from communities around the area of Ziguinchor and then people went to the hospital and found their neighbours shot and killed,” Kouame said. “We are not sure why, but we know this group wants to destroy health clinics in Mali.”

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