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Mali Votes Under Threat of Violence

A woman casts her vote during the parliamentary election in Lafiabougou, Bamako, Mali, Nov. 24, 2013.
Mali is holding parliamentary elections amid fears of possible violence by Islamist militants.

Polling stations nationwide opened as scheduled Sunday, but initial reports said voter turnout was light.

Malians elected Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president in a peaceful election in August. But recent weeks have seen a new surge of violence by militants, including the November 2 killing of two French journalists in the northern city of Kidal.

The polls are meant to advance Mali's return to democracy, after soldiers toppled the president last year and al-Qaida-linked militants took control of the north.

The militants were driven from power by French and Malian troops, who guarded polling stations Sunday along with United Nations peacekeepers.

About 6.5 million Malians are eligible to vote, with more than 1,000 candidates vying for 147 seats in the new national assembly.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.