BAMAKO (Reuters) - Gunmen killed 10 civilians in an attack on the village of Gaberi in northern Mali, army spokesman said on Sunday, a day after a deadly siege by suspected Islamist gunmen at a hotel northeast of the capital.
The attacks are the latest violence in the West African country, where the United Nations has brokered a tenuous peace between Tuareg separatists and the government. Islamists linked to al Qaeda and new militant groups now appear to be mounting a campaign against the U.N. mission and Malia’s military.
The village attack began on Saturday evening when three men arrived on motorbikes and infiltrated Gaberi in the Timbuktu region but were repulsed by residents who opened fire, killing one attacker, said residents contacted by telephone.
“The attackers came back this morning firing everywhere. There are nine or ten dead. People have deserted the village and set up camp around 4 km away,” said a resident reached by telephone. He said he doubted the attackers were Islamist militants.
Another resident said the initial attack appeared to have been an attempted robbery and the attackers then returned with reinforcements.
The attack is indicative of worsening security, especially around Timbuktu, with more attacks on villagers and people on the road to market, said Guillaume N’Gefa, human rights director for the U.N. Mission.
“These are serious crimes by armed groups we cannot identify. The modus operandi is always the same. They attack a village and steal and then disappear. They are well-organized. These are not mere bandits,” N’Gefa told Reuters.
Nine civilians, including five workers for the U.N. mission, died in the 24-hour siege at a hotel in Sevare, the government said in a statement.
The dead included two Ukrainians, a Malian chauffeur, a South African and a Nepalese. Two Ukrainians, a Russian and a South African were freed, the statement said.
Four militants were killed and seven were arrested in the pre-dawn raid, the government said. Four of its own soldiers were killed and eight were wounded, it said.
The army spokesman, Souleymane Maiga, said it was too soon to know if the siege was connected to the village attack.
In 2013, a French-led military operation drove back Islamist fighters, who had taken advantage of an ethnic Tuareg rebellion and a military coup to seize territory in the north a year earlier.
But Islamist fighters were left out of the negotiations between the separatists and the government and since then have mounted an insurgency.
Additional reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Emma Farge in Bamako and Souleymane Ag Anara in Kidal; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Larry King