Eight bus passengers were killed Tuesday by a road mine in central Mali, police and the bus company said, in an attack bearing the hallmark of militants who plague the region.

The vehicle, which was en route from the central town of Douentza to the northern town of Gao, ‘struck a mine, (and) eight passengers were killed,’ Oumar Ould Mamoud of the Sonef bus company told AFP.

Police confirmed his account and said the blast occurred 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Douentza, also leaving 13 people injured.

Another police official said ‘terrorists’ had set down the mine.

A Malian military unit by coincidence had been travelling on the same road and was able to provide assistance to the passengers, the source said, and Sonef said it had sent a second bus to pick up them up.

The number of people in the vehicle at the time of the blast was not immediately known.

Northern Mali fell into the hands of jihadists in 2012 before the rebels were forced out by a French-led military intervention.

But much of the region remains chronically unstable and since 2015 violence has spread to the centre of the country, an ethnic mosaic.

Jihadists have carried out dozens of hit-and-run raids and mine attacks, striking troops as well as civilians.

In January 2018, 24 Malian and Burkinabe citizens, including women and children, lost their lives in a blast in central Mali as they headed to a weekly fair.

The insurgents have also inflamed tensions between rival communities, particularly nomadic Fulani herders and sedentary farmers. Hundreds of lives have been lost in tit-for-tat assaults.

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