Three Mali gendarmes killed in armed raid in central Mali

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Gunmen killed three gendarmes in an overnight ambush near a town in central Mali, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, confirming the latest in a growing wave of attacks that risk spilling over into Mali’s West African neighbours.

“I can confirm the information (about the attack), but I cannot say more at the moment,” said defence ministry spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone.

The identities of the assailants were not immediately known. However a Malian army source, who asked not to be named, said that fighters from the Massina Liberation Front (FLM), an Islamist militant group based in the area, were believed to have been behind the attack near the town of Mopti.

He said three or four gendarmes were killed in the raid.

FLM were also one of the groups that claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel in the capital Bamako on Nov. 20 which killed 20 people.

The attack comes as violence spreads across West Africa into areas previously considered outside the sphere of operations of Islamist militants.

Last week, 30 people were killed and dozens of others were wounded in an attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, carried out by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Militants kidnapped a Swiss citizen from a house in Timbuktu on Jan. 8, while armed men attacked a food convoy in the north last week and four attackers and two soldiers were killed.

The Malian government is trying to implement a peace deal with a Tuareg-led coalition based in northern Mali, in talks being held in Algiers this week.

Mali’s army has frequently been attacked, with 82 soldiers killed in 2015.