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At least 18 killed in attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali

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OUAGADOUGOU / BAMAKO (Reuters) – Suspected Islamists killed at least 18 people in attacks in northern Burkina Faso and central Mali on Wednesday and Thursday, government and security sources said.

Attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants and the Islamic State are common in the two West African countries, where Islamists have expanded their reach in recent years despite the presence of 15,000 UN peacekeepers and 5,100 French troops.

This week Chad announced it would deploy 1,200 troops to the area to complement Frances Barkhane’s counter-terrorism force as leaders of the five Sahel countries and their allies met to assess the security situation.

The attack in Burkina Faso took place Thursday morning between the towns of Markoye and Tokabangou, where residents were ambushed on the way to a market across the border near Dolbel, Niger, government spokesman Ousseni Tamboura said in a statement.

Eight people died and nine were injured, he said. A security source said one person later died from his injuries.

In Mali, at least nine people were killed and others disappeared or injured in a wave of attacks near Bandiagara in the central Mopti region, local government sources said.

Gunmen opened fire on two villages Wednesday night and ambushed several public transport vehicles on the road between Sevare and Bankass on Thursday, two mayors said.

Chad will send its troops to the three-border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the epicenter of the Sahel attacks.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 150 civilians have been killed by militants in all three countries, including 100 in an attack on two villages in Niger in early January.

Reporting by Thiam Niaga and Tiemoko Diallo, additional reporting by Boureima Balima in Niamey; Written by Bate Felix and Nellie Peyton; Edited by Steve Orlofsky and Grant McCool

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