March 20 (UPI) -- Twenty-nine people were killed, including two Malian soldiers, in a terrorist attack in Mali's Gao region, military officials said.
The Armed Forces of Mali said the attack occurred Thursday in the village of Takrint, located about 100 miles north of the regional capital and 300 miles east of Timbuktu.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamic extremists who have been active in northern Africa's Sahel region in recent years are suspected.
Thursday's attack follows a string of others carried out by militants associated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State, which have staged an insurgency in the former French colony and the surrounding countries of Niger and Burkina Faso.
Earlier this month, six other Malian soldiers were killed in a rocket attack and last month three troops died at an army camp south of Timbuktu. Fifty soldiers were killed in another attack last November.
The U.S. military said last month a coalition loyal to al-Qaida has about 2,000 fighters in the Sahel, while the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara is thought to have hundreds and is recruiting more in northeastern Mali.
The region remains highly unstable despite a French-led United Nations intervention in 2013.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said last month he was willing to open talks with militant groups after seven years of refusing to do so. The al-Qaida-affiliated jihadist group GSIM, or Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, responded that it would negotiate only if French troops and the U.N. mission left Mali.