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Senior Malian Official Among 4 Dead in Ambush in Jihadi Area


A senior Malian official and three other people have been killed in an ambush in an area of the country's southwest, the government said Thursday. The attack occurred in an area where Islamic extremists are active.

The president's chief of staff, Oumar Traore, was killed while traveling near the area of Nara in the Kayes region, the presidency's financial and administrative director Lieutenant Colonel Cheick Mamadou Cherif Tounkara said in a statement.

Traore's bodyguard, a driver and the owner of a drilling company were also killed and one of the drivers is still missing, he said. A funeral was held for the victims Thursday afternoon.

The government didn't say when they died, how many cars they were traveling in or who it believed to be behind the attack, which occurred in an area where jihadis are active.

The West African country has for a decade been battling a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, which has killed thousands.

The attack on such a high-ranking official is rare and significant, conflict analysts said.

"While still unclear if this was a targeted assassination, it is definitely is a distraction and a concern for (the government)," said Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based think tank.

"Authorities would have to dedicate more resources to avoid high profile attacks, including possible ones on the capital," Lyammouri added.