Twenty-four people were killed on Thursday when their vehicle was blown up by a landmine near the town of Boni in central Mali, local residents said.
“The final toll is 24, including four babies with their mothers. There are no survivors,” said Boni resident Abdoulaye Cheick, who described himself as a relative of one of the dead.
Earlier, local officials had given a provisional toll of 13 dead, comprising civilians from Mali and Burkina Faso.
The vehicle from Burkina Faso to Mali was crossing the border area, where militants loyal to Daesh are known to operate, when it ran into the mine, said Malian army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone.
In the past three years, Takfiri forces, which had long been destabilizing the thinly populated desert north of Mali, have swept south into its wetter, more populated central regions, exploiting local conflicts.
That has shifted the battlefield closer to the more prosperous south and capital Bamako, raising concerns for the security of a presidential election expected between July and November.
Mali and its western neighbor Senegal plan to deploy 1,000 troops soon in an operation to pacify central Mali and contain Takfiri militants who had previously been confined to the north. But analysts doubt they will be able to do so purely via military means alone.
The Takfiri militant forces exploit the grievances of Fulani cattle herders, and their disputes with local farmers over access to grazing lands.
Periodic crackdowns on suspected militants have therefore tended to target the Fulani, further raising tensions and driving some of them into the militants’ arms.
By Africafrique and agencies