Mali’s army says 50 extremists ‘neutralized’

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Mali’s army said it had “neutralized” 50 extremists in an area in the center of the country where more than 130 civilians were killed a week ago.

The government blamed al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists for the massacre of civilians in Diallassagou and two neighboring villages last weekend, the latest mass killings in the Sahel region.

“Fifty (extremists were) neutralized” in the Diallassougou area where “the operational priorities were directed following the terrorist attack against the populations on the night of June 18 to 19,” the army said in a press release late Friday.

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The army also reported “two terrorist watchmen neutralized” in the central Mondoro area, in addition to “eight terrorist suspects arrested” in the south of the country during a separate operation.

The government has blamed al-Qaeda-affiliated Macina Katiba extremists for the killings of 132 civilians in the Diallassagou area in central Mali, one of the hotbeds of the violence that has plagued the Sahel for years.

The group denied carrying out the massacre in a statement, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said Friday.

The Diallassagou bloodshed is one of the worst civilian killings Mali has seen in recent years.

The Sahel country has since 2012 been rocked by extremist insurgencies.

Violence began in the north and then spread to the center and to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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