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Mali says troops regain control of village besieged by jihadists


By Tiemoko Diallo

DAKAR (Reuters) - Malian troops have regained control of a village in the centre of the country where more than 2,000 residents have been besieged by Islamist militants for two weeks, the military said in a statement on Thursday.

The air force dropped special forces troops into the village on Thursday, the military said. It said the operation was directed by Assimi Goïta, a special forces colonel who led a junta that overthrew the government two months ago and now holds the post of vice president.

The operation broke a siege of the village of Farabougou that began when militants kidnapped several residents, most of whom are of the farming Bambara ethnic group. Malian troops had been unable to reach the village by land because heavy rains made the roads impassable.

The air force had evacuated wounded civilians to Ségou, a nearby town, the military said in an update on Friday.

"(The army) are inside and control the village," said Dramane Symbara, mayor of Sokolo, a nearby town. "But the access roads to Farabougou are still blocked, the jihadists are still around, in the forests or hidden on either side of the roads."

Central Mali has emerged over the past few years as the epicentre of Islamist and inter-ethnic violence in the country, part of a wider deterioration of security across West Africa's semi-arid Sahel region.

The insecurity was one of the driving factors that led Goïta's junta to depose then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Aug. 18.

(Reporting By Tiemoko Diallo and Bate Felix; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Peter Graff)

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