Mali politicians have agreed to extend the country’s state of emergency by an additional eight months in response to renewed violence in the restive northeast.
Members of parliament unanimously backed the extension in a session of the National Assembly on Saturday, a parliamentary source said.
“I want to reassure that the state of emergency contributes to the stability of the country” and preserves security, Interior Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga told politicians.
The new state of emergency, which gives security services additional authority and restricts public gatherings, will last until March 29, 2017, public broadcaster ORTM said.
The vote came as renewed violence broke out near Kidal in the northeast.
Local sources said former Tuareg fighters stormed an army base in central Nampala, leaving 17 soldiers dead and 35 wounded.
It was the first time the two groups have broken a ceasefire since last September.
Following the attack, the government had imposed a ten-day state of emergency.
Hundreds of government supporters marched through central Bamako on Saturday afternoon to support Mali’s security forces and the peace process, according to an AFP photographer.
Two groups – the Ansar Dine and a newly formed ethnic group known as the National Alliance for the Protection of Peul Identity and Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ) – claimed to have been responsible for what the government described as a “coordinated terrorist attack”.
Several security sources told AFP they doubted whether ANSIPRJ had the means to carry out an attack as such.
Special forces this week said they had caught a senior figure from Ansar Dine’s central combat unit, who they believe helped to coordinate the assault.
Ansar Dine is a mainly Tuareg group that controlled areas of Mali’s northern desert together with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and a third local group in early 2012.
Mali declared a state of emergency in November 2015 after fighters stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, killing 20 people in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda’s regional branch.
Attacks have recently become more frequent in the country’s centre, close to its borders with Burkina Faso and Niger.