Six people have been killed in Mali, including two gendarmes and a police officer, in a rare attack near its capital Bamako, the security ministry has said.
The landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel is facing an continuing political and security crisis, particularly in its volatile northern and central regions, where an armed uprising has raged since 2012.
But the violence rarely reaches Bamako, in Mali’s southwest.
On Thursday night, about 70km (43 miles) from the capital, an attack took place “at the checkpoint of Zantiguila, on the road to the central city of Segou”, the security ministry said on Friday evening.
The attack was carried out “by as yet unidentified armed individuals”, leaving three civilians and three law enforcement officers dead, and wounding two others, it said.
A police station on the same road was ambushed by “unidentified armed individuals” on June 24, killing one officer, authorities had said.
Mali has struggled to stem violence that took root after a 2012 coup and has since spread from the West African country’s arid north into neighbouring countries. Thousands have died and millions have been displaced across the Sahel region.
Some of the groups have links to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.
The impoverished country – one of the most politically unstable in Africa – has seen two military coups since 2020.
Colonels, angry at the government’s handling of the long-running violence, seized power in August 2020, and then carried out another coup in May the following year.
The military government in Bamako has turned towards Russia – away from France and its partners – in an attempt to prevent fighters from spreading in the centre of the country and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The friction caused by Bamako’s new ties with Russia, as well as the military’s continued delays in restoring civilian rule, has caused a falling out between Mali and France.
The French are expected to complete the pullout of their forces from Mali in the coming weeks, shifting the spotlight to Niger as a front-line state in the campaign against armed fighters.
The violence has left thousands of civilians and soldiers dead and hundreds of thousands displaced across the region.