Malians began voting on Sunday in the second round of parliamentary elections intended to cap the nation’s return to democracy, but overshadowed by the deaths of two UN peacekeepers in an Islamist attack. The polls mark the troubled west African nation’s first steps to recovery after it was upended by a military coup in March last year, finalising a process begun with the election of its first post-conflict president in August. Turnout looked low as polling stations opened in the capital Bamako, sparking fears that voters would be scared away by an upsurge in violence by Al Qaeda-linked rebels against African troops tasked with election security alongside the Malian army.
Two Senegalese UN peacekeepers were killed and seven wounded on Saturday when a suicide bomber ploughed his explosives-laden car into a bank they were guarding in the northeastern rebel bastion of Kidal.
Sultan Ould Badi, a Malian jihadist linked to several armed groups, said the attack was in retaliation for African countries’ support of a French-led military operation launched in January against Islamist rebels in northern Mali, which ethnic Tuareg’s call “Azawad”.
“We are going to respond all across Azawad and in other lands… with other operations against France’s crusades,” he told AFP by telephone.
Full Article: Mali elections overshadowed by suicide bombing.