Five Malian soldiers missing after attack claimed by Islamists

August 9, 2016 8:13 AM EDT

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Five soldiers are missing after clashes with militants in central Mali at the weekend, military officials said on Tuesday, in the latest in a string of attacks on army and U.N. forces claimed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine.

Fighting broke out near the village of Tenenkou in the Mopti region on Sunday afternoon and continued into Monday, army spokesman Souleymane Maiga said.

Defense ministry spokesman Diarran Kone said five soldiers had disappeared, one other was injured, and vehicles were lost in the clashes.

In a statement posted online, Ansar Dine said it had ambushed the Malian army, killing and wounding soldiers and looting weapons and vehicles, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

Ansar Dine claimed an attack in July on an army base that left 17 soldiers dead and six missing. It later released a video of five Malian soldiers it said it had taken prisoner in the raid, according to SITE.

The group also claimed responsibility for several attacks on vehicles that killed a U.N. peacekeeper and injured five others on Friday and Sunday.

Islamist militant groups took advantage of an ethnic Tuareg uprising in 2012 to seize northern Mali before a French-led intervention drove them back a year later.

The United Nations has deployed an 11,000-strong peacekeeping force, but the militants have reorganized and launched frequent attacks across Mali and its neighbors.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)



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