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Mali’s army says more than 200 militants killed during military operation in Sahel

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows Malian soldiers.

Mali’s army says it has killed 203 militants during a military operation in the central parts of Sahel state, in a flare-up of violence in the conflict-torn West African nation.

The strikes, carried out in late March by land and air troops, targeted the area of Moura.

According to the army, Moura is a stronghold of Takfiri groups that have waged a decade-long fight for territory in central and northern Mali.

“This operation follows very precise information that made it possible to locate the holding of a meeting between various (militants) in Moura,” a military statement said on Friday.

It added that the operation was carried out in cooperation with the United Nation Peace Keeping mission in Mali, saying that it had also received reports of civilian deaths, which raise human rights concerns.

The statement further said that the counter-terrorism operation took place from March 23 to 31. It also led to the arrest of 51 suspected militants and the seizure of large quantities of weapons, it added.

Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are struggling to contain armed militants linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh Takfiri terrorist groups that control swathes of territory in the porous border area of the West African Sahel, a region larger than the size of Germany.

A surge of violence by Daesh in the Greater Sahara in March killed hundreds of civilians. Mali’s military responded with airstrikes, and the UN peacekeeping force in the African country deployed two units to the zone.

Rights groups have voiced concern about the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire or wrongly accused of being militants.

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