Four Malian soldiers killed by suspected rebel landmine

BAMAKO Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:16am EST

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - At least four Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine suspected to have been planted by fleeing Islamist insurgents in northern Mali, a Malian military officer said Thursday.

"The explosion of the patrol vehicle killed four soldiers and wounded five. It happened between Gossi and Gao on Wednesday," the officer said, requesting not to be named.

Gao, the largest town in northern Mali, was occupied by Islamist insurgents until the weekend, when they fled a three-week air and ground offensive by French and Malian forces.

After being pounded by French air strikes, the Islamist militants have abandoned towns and melted away into the deserts and caves of northern Mali.

A French military commander warned last week of the risk of mines and booby traps in the insurgents' wake.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)

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