Six civilians, including a pregnant woman, were killed in southern Mali when the ambulance they were travelling in struck a landmine, the country’s health ministry has said.
It was not clear who was responsible for laying the mine, but the incident represented a first for the southern Sikasso region, said Mama Coumaré, the ministry’s secretary general.
Coumaré said: “The ambulance had left Yorosso to bring a pregnant woman to Boura.” Dr Coumaré added: “All the passengers were killed – six deaths, mostly women.”
Militants linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State routinely attack soldiers and civilians in northern and central Mali, but the country’s south has been largely spared.
Military officers overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta last month, decrying, his failure among other things, to address worsening insecurity caused by the jihadists and ethnic militias.
President Keita was evacuated to the United Arab Emirates for medical treatment late on Saturday, a diplomat said. His health has been in question since he was hospitalised after his detention for ten days by the military junta now in power.
The violence in Mali has destabilised neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, too, despite the presence of thousands of French troops and United Nations peacekeepers in the semi-arid Sahel region.
Eight civilians from the Dogon ethnic group were killed last week by suspected jihadist fighters in central Mali’s Mopti region, local officials said.
The attack followed a lull of several weeks in tit-for-tat killings between rival ethnic groups in central Mali that coincided with peace talks brokered by al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Negotiations about a transition back to civilian rule after the 18 August coup were due to wrap up on Saturday after consideration of a proposal calling for the junta to appoint an interim president to govern for the next two years.