By BABA AHMED, Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Recent attacks by jihadist rebels in central Mali have killed 132 civilians, the government said Monday.

The killings took place when several villages in the Bankass area were attacked on Saturday and Sunday, the government said in a statement on Monday.

The government said the attacks were carried out by jihadist rebels from the Katiba group.

The attacks had already been reported by Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, the largest city near the attacked villages.

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The attacks show that extremist Islamist violence is spreading from northern Mali to more central areas like Bankass.

For several weeks, extremist rebels in central Mali have been blocking the road between the city of Gao, in the north, and Mopti, in central Mali.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali issued a statement on the attacks on Twitter saying it was concerned about “attacks on civilians in the Bandiagara region (the central region of Mali) perpetrated by extremist groups. These attacks reportedly caused casualties and caused the displacement of populations. »

In a separate incident, a UN peacekeeper died on Sunday from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device, the UN mission in Mali said in a statement.

The head of the UN mission in Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, said that since the beginning of 2022, several attacks have killed peacekeepers in UN uniform.

He said attacks on peacekeepers can constitute war crimes under international law and reaffirmed the mission’s commitment to supporting peace and security in Mali.

Since the beginning of the year, several hundred civilians have died in attacks in central and northern Mali. The attacks are blamed on jihadist rebels as well as the Malian army, according to a report by the human rights division of the UN mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali began in 2013, after France led a military intervention to oust extremist rebels who had taken over towns and major cities in northern Mali the year former. The mission now has around 12,000 soldiers in Mali and an additional 2,000 police and other officers. More than 270 peacekeepers have died in Mali, making it the UN’s deadliest peacekeeping mission, officials say.

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