Islamist extremists in Mali are attacking small villages in the southern part of the country in a fresh effort to hold ground. Jihadists linked to al Qaeda on Sunday attacked and briefly held the small Malian village of Fakola near Ivory Coast, the Associated Press reported. A government statement posted Monday on Facebook said the army deployed troops to the area to hunt down the jihadists, but they have yet to be captured.

Despite an active French counterterrorism force in the country, extremists in the last two months have carried out at least five verified raids on government buildings and military outposts, adding to an already well-established offensive in the center of the country.

Sunday’s attack on Fakola, which is about 190 miles south of Mali’s capital of Bamako, marked the second time in one month that jihadists targeted villages close to Ivory Coast.

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