Seven killed in Mali, Burkina attacks blamed on jihadists

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A Malian soldier holds a machine gun in a jeep on the road back from Mopti, on January 19, 2013 in Kongena

A Malian soldier holds a machine gun in a jeep on the road back from Mopti, on January 19, 2013 in Kongena (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

Bamako (AFP) - Seven people, including one fighter, were killed Friday in two separate border region attacks blamed on jihadists in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso, security and government sources said.

Three civilians died in Mali at Dounapen, a village in the Mopti region close to the Burkinabe border, where local officials said the assailants had descended by motorbike on the area brandishing black flags.

Earlier, three police officers and one attacker died in Samorogouan district not far from the border with Mali.

It was unclear whether the attacks, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) apart, were directly linked.

"Three civilians, including a mayoral assistant, were killed Friday," in the Mopti attack, a Malian security source told AFP, adding an unspecified number of people were injured. A town hall official confirmed this account.

In the other attack across Burkina Faso's western border, three police were killed in a raid on their barracks carried out by "about 50" assailants, the defence ministry said in the capital Ouagadougou.

A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said jihadists were responsible for the attack.

The police brigade in the district of Samorogouan, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Malian border, came under pre-dawn attack, it said in a statement, adding that one assailant was killed.

A statement by chief of staff General Pingrenoma Zagre said the attacks came around 4:00 am (0400 GMT) "when about 50 armed... unidentified men from Burkina's western borders attacked" the police facility.

"This attack killed one assailant and sadly three of our police officers," the statement said.

Concurring sources said a civilian had his throat cut while a policeman had been abducted.

General Zarge said he wished "to reassure people that measures will be taken to reinforce their protection and their security," urging them to inform authorities should they come across any behaviour prompting suspicion.

The attack comes on the heels of an abortive coup in Burkina Faso on September 17, when an elite army force loyal to the old regime of deposed leader Blaise Compaore tried to snatch power from the transitional authority.

Friday's incident at Samorogouan followed an August 23 attack by unidentified assailants on police on the northern town of Oursi near the borders of both Mali and Niger in which a police officer and his daughter were injured.

Sources in the region say Western powers were concerned in the aftermath of the attempted coup that army tensions and an absence of strong government could encourage jihadist groups to launch cross-border strikes.

- Black flags -

In Mali on Friday "numerous jihadists attacked ... on motorbikes, brandishing black flags," according to an official who asked not to be named.

"They killed the mayor's assistant and two other civilians," he said.

One local official said police had given chase to the attackers and impounded seven motorbikes.

Having initially concentrated their attacks on northern Mali the jihadists have in recent months spread their activities first towards the centre of the country, then, from June, into southern areas towards the Burkinabe and Ivory Coast borders.

On September 19, Malian security sources said another attack left two policemen and two civilians dead after a raid at Bih, another Mopti region village near the Burkinabe border.

Northern Mali fell in March-April 2012 to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups long concentrated in the area before being ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Despite the signing in June of a peace deal between Tureg-led rebels and the government, large swathes of Mali remain beyond the control of government and foreign forces.