Six school teachers were kidnapped Friday by suspected jihadists in central Mali because they spoke French in the classroom, local and security forces said.
More than 900 schools have closed in the country, one of the poorest in the world, with more than two-thirds of them in central regions that since 2012 have witnessed insurrections by separatists, Salafists and jihadists, interlaced with inter-ethnic violence.
“Terrorists kidnapped six teachers from a school in Korientze because they were teaching in French,” a security source told AFP.
Malian officials use the word “terrorist” to describe jihadists.
A municipal council member added that the attackers were “numerous, armed and on motorcycles”.
Korientze lies around 150 kilometres (95 miles) north of the regional capital Mopti.
The council member, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, added that the gunmen “pulled out several students, school manuals and notebooks before setting fire to the material in the schoolyard.”
One teacher told AFP that the attackers threatened to return if teaching “according to the principles of Islam” did not replace classes taught in French.
Sidy Diallo, father of two students said: “My children saw the jihadists arrive. They are afraid. I am afraid.”
He planned to move his family away from Korientze.
Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a Tuareg rebellion in 2012.
The following year, a French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back.
But the jihadists regrouped and widened their trademark hit-and-run raids and road mine attacks to central and southern Mali and from there into Burkina Faso and Niger where they often fan existing inter-communal strife which has left hundreds dead.
Source: The Guardian Online