April 29, 2017 / 10:34 PM / 5 months ago

Mali extends state of emergency in bid to quell Islamist attacks

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali’s National Assembly has voted to extend a state of emergency by six months in a bid to quell an upsurge in attacks by Islamist militants based in the desert north of the West African country.

On Saturday, Zoumana N‘dji Doumbia, president of the National Assembly’s legal commission, announced Friday’s vote that gives security forces extra powers of arrest and detention. It is the latest extension of an emergency first imposed in November 2015.

Deteriorating security threatens to return Mali to the chaos that nearly tore it to pieces in 2012 when Islamists hijacked an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north, before French forces pushed them back the following year.

Some 11,000 U.N. peacekeepers and French troops are deployed in Mali but militants still launch attacks, including a suicide assault on an army base in January that killed at least 77 people.

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

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