Mali detains 20 suspected Islamists, including two French: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2015 5:31 PM

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Police in Mali have detained around 20 suspected Islamist militants in the southern town of Zegoua, including at least two French citizens, security sources said on Tuesday.

The men, who were detained on Monday after crossing over from neighboring Ivory Coast, have been transported to the capital Bamako for questioning, the sources said.

One of the security sources said that most of the men were from Mauritania, with the remainder Malians and French.

"They are 20 presumed jihadists, including two French," said a second source. "They are all Islamists, all bearded."

They were arrested in connection with two members of Islamist group Ansar Dine who were captured by the army in central Mali last week, along with evidence linking them to planned attacks.

No further details were immediately available. A French Embassy spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Ansar Dine was part of an alliance of Islamist fighters that seized Mali's desert north after a Tuareg uprising in 2012, but was ousted by a French military operation a year later.

The group claimed responsibility last week for a series of recent attacks across Mali's south and west, including in Bamako, which was previously deemed safe from such violence.

Armed separatist groups and the Malian government signed a peace agreement in June designed to stop uprisings in the north, but Ansar Dine was not a signatory.

(Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou and Adama Diarra, Writing by Daniel Flynn, editing by G Crosse)