Militants have killed at least 31 people in central Mali when they fired upon a bus ferrying people to a local market and attacked a UN convoy in the north of the country in a region racked by a violent insurgency.
The bus was attacked on Friday by unidentified gunmen as it travelled its twice-weekly route from the village of Songho to a market in Bandiagara six miles (10km) away, said Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of the nearby town of Bankass.
“Armed men … shot at the vehicle, slashed the tires, and shot at the people,” Guindo said.
He and another local official said at least 31 were confirmed dead, with many more wounded or missing.
The villages sit in the heart of the Mopti region, an epicentre of violence in Mali fuelled by insurgents linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State.
An internal security memo said first responders to the scene of the latest attack discovered 25 burned bodies in the truck.
Images circulated on social media showed the smouldering frame of a passenger bus filled with bodies, still slumped over in their seats. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the images.
The convoy was travelling from the northern city of Kidal to Gao and came under fire about 62 miles north-east of the town of Bourem, the mission said.
Also on Friday, unidentified armed men attacked a convoy belonging to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, killing one civilian worker and wounding another, the mission said.
Jihadist attacks have surged across Africa’s Sahel region, killing thousands and displacing millions across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
On Wednesday two soldiers were killed and several more wounded in northern Benin when Islamist militants attacked a border security post. The raid in Porga region was the second in Benin this week. Islamist militants attacked an army patrol in the department of Alibori on Tuesday morning, the army chief, Col Fructueux Gbaguidi said in an internal statement on Thursday.
The army killed one jihadist in Tuesday’s attack and another on Wednesday night, he said.
Militant attacks are rare in Benin, but groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State that are active in its northern neighbors have made increasing incursions south.