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Militants Attack Mali Prison, Free Dozens of Convicts | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Militiaman from the Ansar Dine group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali, June 18, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

Nouakchott- Masked militants raided a prison located in the central Mali town of Niono early on Tuesday, officials said. The gunmen were able to free dozens of prisoners.

Mali army spokesman said that the attack was organized and had taken place on Monday evening—two prison guards were severely injured during the attack.

Army spokesman Diarran Kone said that the attack bore the hallmarks of followers of radical preacher Amadou Koufa, the leader of an ethnic Fulani extremist militant group, the Macina Liberation Front. The identities of freed prisoners were not mentioned.

Among the 100 freed convicts was a terror offender that was accused with fighting among the ranks of a militant extremist group.

Local media reported Defense and Veterans Affairs spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Sidibé saying that the army has been able to recapture some of the fugitive convicts and still is in pursuit of the rest. No further details were made.

Mali has witnessed escalated organized crime attacks staged by militant groups that formerly overrun the country in 2012.

Extremist groups hijacked a separatist rebellion in 2012 to seize towns in Mali’s vast desert north. French forces drove them back a year later, but they have since reorganized and launched dozens of attacks in recent months.

Local police said that the northeastern capital Bamako had experienced heavy attacks showcasing mortar shelling. Attacks have reportedly been carried out by gunmen both in a traditional army uniform and civilian outfits—as militant groups made advances into the city “Allah Akbar” (Allah the Almighty) cries were heard followed by firing of arms. The militants then advanced towards the prison.

Last month, militiamen broke into a prison in southern Mali, freeing 21 inmates. But the two prisoners they had aimed to release had already been moved away, authorities said.

At a security forum in Dakar on Tuesday, French and American officials expressed concern about the spreading violence.

Senegalese President Macky Sall said that Africa faces a dire need to upgrade and enhance its military and army potentials. Speaking at a Dakar conference Sall said that most African armies are not at the needed level of efficiency.