132 killed in multiple attacks on villages in Mali

Suspected Islamist extremists carried out multiple attacks on villages in Mali over the weekend, killing 132 people.

Mali's government said in a statement on Monday that the attacks took place at villages in the central region of the West African country on Saturday and Sunday.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But the government attributed the incident to a group with ties to the international terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

Islamist extremists have gained momentum in Mali since a coup in 2012. The following year, Mali's former colonial ruler France and other European countries intervened militarily.

But France announced in February that it would pull out troops from Mali along with its European partners.

This came after relations between France and Mali's transitional government worsened over a delayed shift to civilian rule in Mali.

French newspaper Le Monde and others reported that a private Russian military contractor company was apparently replacing withdrawing French troops. Some experts have voiced concern that Mali may become increasingly dependent on Russia to maintain security.