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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Five Malian soldiers have been found drowned in central Mali, days after they went missing during clashes with militants, army officials said on Wednesday.
Four of the soldiers were found near Tenenkou on Tuesday and a fifth near the town of Mopti, about 75 km (50 miles) away on Wednesday, army spokesman Souleymane Maiga said.
The soldiers were reported missing after an attack claimed by Islamist group Ansar Dine near the village of Tenenkou on Sunday, Maiga said.
"Yesterday evening, residents alerted us to the presence of bodies at the river's edge," Hama Thokary, a nurse in Tenenkou, said. He did not know how many bodies had been found by the river, and was waiting for the army to collect them.
Sunday's attack was the latest in a string of assaults claimed by Ansar Dine. The group said in a statement that it had ambushed the army, killing and wounding soldiers, according to SITE Intelligence Group. Fighting continued into Monday.
Islamist militant groups took advantage of an ethnic Tuareg uprising in 2012 to seize northern Mali before a French-led intervention drove them back a year later. They have since reorganized and launch frequent attacks across the region.
Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; additional reporting by Cheick Dioura; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Janet Lawrence