Africa’s Sahel region, which has an influx of military forces including the United Nations, European Union and French troops, has seen a huge surge in civilian deaths in the past five months because of attacks by Islamist militants and ethnic militias, researchers said last week.

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Mali's government on Sunday announced the sacking of senior military officers and the dissolution of a militia, following the massacre of more than 130 Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group.

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As the sun rises over Mali’s vast desert, a group of 20 peacekeepers prepare their equipment and line up to receive instructions before heading out for their first patrol of the day on one of the most dangerous roads in the region.

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