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Mali extends emergency by 8 months

The emergency, which will last until March 29, 2017, will give?the security services greater powers and puts restrictions on public gatherings. Photograph: (Reuters)

AFP Mali, Africa Jul 30, 2016, 10.24 PM (IST)
Lawmakers in Mali agreed on Saturday to extend a 10-day state of emergency in the violence-wracked country by another eight months, officials said. 

In an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in Bamako, the 99 MPs present unanimously voted to maintain the state of emergency, a parliamentary source said. The extension will last until March 29, 2017, public broadcaster ORTM said.

The government had declared a state of emergency on July 21, a day after an attack at an army base in central Nampala left 17 soldiers dead and 35 wounded. The state of emergency gives the security services greater powers and puts restrictions on public gatherings.

Two groups -- the Islamist organisation Ansar Dine and a newly formed ethnic group -- both claimed to have carried out the raid on the military camp in Nampala, which the government described as a "coordinated terrorist attack". Several security sources in the region said they doubted the veracity of the claim of responsibility from the National Alliance for the Protection of Peul Identity and Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ).

The ethnic group was only founded last month following inter-communal clashes in the area and lacked the means to mount an attack, they said. Last week's attack was the latest in a series of assaults on security forces in Mali. A previous state of emergency in place since April had only been lifted the week before.

Ansar Dine is a mainly Tuareg group that controlled areas of Mali's northern desert together with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and a third local group in early 2012. Although the Islamists were largely ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, sporadic assaults from desert hideouts are common. Attacks have notably become more frequent in the country's centre, close to its borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, both from criminal and jihadist elements.

In one high-profile attack last November, claimed by AQIM, jihadists stormed the capital's Radisson Blu hotel, killing 20 civilians, including 14 foreigners.

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