Mine explosion kills five civilians, wounds 18 in Mali

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Five civilians were killed and another 18 wounded in central Mali when their passenger vehicle struck a landmine, the local governor said on Saturday, two weeks after 26 travelers died in a similar incident in the area.

The explosion occurred on Friday afternoon on the road between the towns of Dera and Konna in the Mopti region, where Islamist militants have recently stepped up attacks on civilian and military targets, said Governor Sidi Alassane Toure, who blamed the attack on “terrorists”.

“We must no longer accept living under the same roof as terrorists, we must no longer accept sharing a meal with a terrorist, (or) living in the same village with a terrorist,” Toure said on state radio.

Although militants in Mali’s restive center and north have pledged loyalty to international groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State, the jihadists draw chiefly on local grievances against the central government and ethnic rivalries.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, thousands of French troops across the Sahel region and a new regional security taskforce have all been unable to stem the attacks, raising concerns for the security of Mali’s presidential election this year.

An intervention by French troops in 2013 drove back al Qaeda-linked militants who had seized control of Mali’s desert north. But in recent years jihadists have extended their reach into wetter, more populated central regions.

They have also used Mali as a launchpad for raids into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, including one last October that killed four U.S. Special Forces soldiers.

Late last month, a landmine explosion in Mopti region killed 26 people and wounded several others, many of them from Burkina Faso. Two days later, unidentified gunmen killed at least 14 soldiers in a pre-dawn assault on a military camp in central Mali.

Reporting By Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Richard Balmforth