Dozens of civilians among 64 killed in attacks in Mali

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(CNN) — Two separate attacks by suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants in restive northeastern Mali Thursday killed 64 people including dozens of civilians, the country’s transitional government said.

The attacks targeted a passenger boat on the Niger River near Timbuktu and an army base in Bamba, in the northern Gao region, killing 49 civilians and 15 soldiers, according to the interim government’s statement.

It was not immediately clear how many people died in each attack.

According to an earlier statement from the Malian Army, an “armed terrorist group” attacked the passenger boat at 11 a.m. local time near Rharous Cercle in the Timbuktu region.

The attacks were claimed by Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), a militant group associated with al Qaeda, the government said.

The Sahara-Sahel region, of which Mali is a part, has seen an escalation of violence in recent years as an Islamic insurgency brews near the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

The United Nations in June said “endless” violence was being unleashed on civilians in northeastern Mali by the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group and its affiliates.

Almost 9 million people need humanitarian assistance in the country. Earlier this month, UN agencies said 200,000 children were at risk of starvation.

“A nexus of protracted armed conflict, internal displacement and limited humanitarian access threatens to plunge nearly one million children under the age of five into acute malnutrition by the end of this year … if life-saving aid fails to reach them,” the UN said.

This is a developing story. More to come.

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