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Mali extends state of emergency for eight months

Mali lawmakers have voted to extend a state of emergency until March 2017 due to ongoing violence. The measure allows police to search homes without a warrant, and bans protests.

Lawmakers in Mali voted Saturday to extend the nation's

state of emergency

by another eight months, as violence continues to plague the West African country.

The 99 MPs present at an extraordinary session of the National Assembly in Bamako voted to maintain the state of emergency until March 29, 2017.

The state of emergency was originally implemented in November 2015 after extremists attacked a luxury hotel in the capital, killing 20 people. It has since been extended several times on account of violence.

The measure allows police in Mali to search homes without a warrant, and bans protests.

"I want to reassure that the state of emergency contributes to the stability of the country," Interior Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga told lawmakers on Saturday.

Ongoing bloodshed

The extension comes amid persistent violence in the West African country. On Saturday, fighting broke out near Kidal in the northeast between a coalition of Tuareg rebels and a Tuareg group allied with the Malian government. At least six people were killed in the fighting.

Mali Kämpfer der islamistischen Gruppe Ansar Dine

The Islamist group Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for a July 21 attack in Nampala that killed 17 soldiers

French forces were out on the streets in Kidal to protect civilians, local residents said. Fighting last week between the groups in Kidal killed at least 16 people.

On July 21, attackers

stormed an army base

in central Nampala, leaving 17 soldiers dead and 35 wounded. At least two groups claimed responsibility for the attack, the Islamist group Macina Liberation Front, which is linked to the jihadist organization Ansar Dine. The second is a recently formed group from the ethnic Peul community, calling itself the National Alliance for the Protection of Peul Identity and Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ).

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. The Islamists were largely ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, but sporadic assaults from desert hideouts are common.

Meanwhile, attacks from Islamist, criminal and ethnic elements are now becoming more frequent in the country's center, close to its borders with Niger and Burkina Faso.

Karte Mali Nampala

Attacks are becoming more frequent in Mali's center, close to its borders with Niger and Burkina Faso

bw/jlw (AFP, AP)