BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists have carried out a series of attacks in central Mali killing at least 22 people, a spokesman for Mali’s defense minister said Wednesday.
The attacks were the deadliest in Mali since an Aug. 18 military coup overthrew the country’s democratically elected president.
Ten civilians died when a car near a military convoy was ambushed between Bandiagara and Bankass, Boubacar Diallo, a spokesman for the Malian defense minister, told The Associated Press.
The ambush Tuesday was the same day that at least 12 soldiers died in two separate attacks elsewhere in central Mali, the army said on its Facebook page. Nine people were killed in a nighttime attack on a post in Sokoura, while three other soldiers died in a separate incident, the army said.
Islamic extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern towns after a 2013 French-led military operation. However, they quickly regrouped in the desert and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies fighting the insurgency.
The extremists also expanded their reach well into central Mali, where their presence has inflamed tensions between ethnic groups in the area.
There have been widespread fears that the political upheaval in Mali following the military coup could further embolden Islamic extremists to take advantage of a perceived power vacuum.