Mali: At least 31 civilians killed after militants attack bus

Thirty-one people were killed in central Mali after militants attacked civilians in a bus going towards the market, officials said.

Gunmen opened fire and killed the driver, before setting the bus on fire, according to authorities.

Most of the victims were women, according to the EFE news agency.

The deadly attack is the latest in Mali’s rapidly escalating jihadist insurgency.

Armed men “shot at the vehicle, slashed the tires, and shot at the people”, Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, told Reuters.

He said more people were either missing or wounded.

The bus was targeted as it made its twice-weekly journey from the village of Songo to a market in Bandiagara, 10km away.

The attack took place at the heart of the West African nation’s Mopti region, which has seen escalating violence in recent months fuelled by fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The latest assault comes just a day after insurgents attacked a UN convoy in the north of the country, killing one civilian worker and wounding another.

Jihadist attacks have surged in Mali after two military coups in 16 months contributed to a weak central government and saw France halt joint military operations between the military and the 5,100 troops it had in the country.