June 28, 2015 / 7:35 PM / 4 years ago

Gunmen briefly take control of village in southern Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Armed men attacked and briefly took control on Sunday of a village in Mali’s southern region of Sikasso, close to the border with Ivory Coast, the defence ministry said.

“The operation is over now. Fakola is under the control of Mali’s armed forces, though we don’t know about casualties yet,” said defence ministry spokesman Colonel Diaran Kone. A military source said the attackers could be the same group who attacked Misseni village in Sikasso this month.

A senior military official blamed the attack on a group of ethnic Peuhls infiltrated by fighters believed to be linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The group, called the Massina Liberation Front, is suspected to have clashed with government troops in the central Mopti region this month, and has been blamed for several recent attacks.

On Saturday, suspected Islamist fighters also believed to be Peuhl attacked a town in western Mali near the border with Mauritania, leaving three soldiers and nine attackers dead.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita held a defence council meeting on Sunday over the recent attacks. Afterwards, Defence Minister Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly said the government would beef up security on its borders with Ivory Coast and Mauritania.

This month, a northern rebel alliance led by ethnic Tuaregs signed a peace deal with the government aimed at ending their uprising and allowing the authorities to focus on fighting Islamist militants.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by

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