Four civilians and a police officer were killed Sunday by suspected jihadists in southern Mali, a region that has previously been mostly spared from the country’s Islamist unrest, a security official said.
The unidentified men attacked a checkpoint near the town of Bougouni, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Mali’s borders with Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea between 3:30 am (0330 GMT) and 4:00 am, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A local lawmaker, also requesting anonymity, confirmed the attack, saying it had targeted an outpost that is used by both police and forest rangers.
The checkpoint sits on a key route between Mali and Cote d’Ivoire.
The attack came as West African leaders from the ECOWAS regional bloc were preparing to meet in Ghana on Sunday to discuss a response to the political turmoil in Mali, which this week witnessed its second military coup in nine months.
New president Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the coup last August and was installed after transitional president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane were stripped of the powers this week, is attending the ECOWAS talks in Accra.
Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was forced out by young army officers led by Goita last August over perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist insurgency.
The jihadist conflict first emerged in northern Mali in 2012 and has since spread to Burkina Faso and Niger, leaving swathes of the vast nation of 19 million people outside government control.