Ten Mali soldiers missing after ambush by suspected Islamists

BAMAKO (Reuters) - About 10 Malian soldiers were missing following an ambush by suspected Islamist militants in the West African nation’s desert north, the army said on Monday.

An army convoy was attacked on the road between the towns of Gao and Menako on Sunday, said army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone, in a region increasingly under threat from a resurgence of militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda.

“We were ambushed, we have about 10 missing soldiers and we lost four vehicles. We are taking stock of the situation,” Kone said without providing further details.

Militant groups took control of Mali’s north in 2012 though French-led forces pushed them back a year later. But maintaining peace in the remote desert region has proved difficult and jihadists continue to launch attacks on Malian soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers.

African powers launched a multinational military force to tackle Islamist militants in the Sahel this month, as violence spreads beyond north Mali to neighboring states.

Militant groups linked to al Qaeda last month killed at least five people at a luxury resort popular with Westerners just outside the capital Bamako, in the southern part of the country generally considered more secure.

Meanwhile, fighting flared up last week between rival Tuareg clans, unsettling the Kidal region in the far north.

Clashes on Friday pitting the pro-government Platform coalition, led by the GATIA militia, against the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) caused some casualties, though the government was unable to specify how many.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Joe Bavier and Catherine Evans