Twin attacks blamed on jihadists during weekend municipal elections in Mali left six people dead, security sources said on Monday. The violence came as the country held its first election since 2013. Turnout was low however due to continuing fears over security despite the presence of international peacekeepers. In the first incident, security sources told AFP that five Malian soldiers died after being ambushed while transporting ballot boxes in the restive north. “After the voting yesterday, an army convoy taking the ballot boxes for counting was attacked in the north by jihadists. Five Malian soldiers were killed,” a security source said.
Another Malian security source said the assailants “wanted to sabotage the elections” and were unable to make off with the ballots. In the second attack, in the town of Dilli in southwestern Mali overnight Sunday to Monday, a group of alleged jihadists nabbed several vehicles and killed a civilian. “They arrived early today in Dilli. They attacked a council building. The jihadists then took off with two ambulances and a vehicle, after which they killed a civilian and made off for the Mauritanian border,” a local official said, requesting anonymity.
A security source said the assailants were probably hoping to find ballot boxes in the building where counting was under way. Voters are electing 12,000 councillors across Mali as the government wrestles with implementing a 2015 peace deal and warding off the stubborn jihadist threat in the north. French troops were deployed in 2013 to repel Al-Qaeda aligned jihadists who had overrun several northern towns, joining forces with Tuareg-led rebels.
Some 11,000 UN military and police have followed, attempting to maintain security, but the jihadists remain active in the north while also spreading to the west African country’s central regions. Sunday’s election, held two years later than scheduled and coincided with the first anniversary of a jihadist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital Bamako that left 20 people dead, many of them foreigners.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called Saturday for a peaceful vote in areas “where political and security conditions allow” in a nation still under a state of emergency. The twin attacks were among a string of disruptions to voting in northern and central Mali. In Timbuktu on Sunday, unknown attackers seized and burned electoral papers in multiple raids.