Six farmers killed near besieged central Mali village, says town mayor

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Six rice farmers were killed on Thursday near the central Mali village of Farabougou, the mayor of a nearby town said, taking the death toll to 23 since the siege of the village by suspected jihadists began in October.

Central Mali has emerged over the past few years as an epicentre of Islamist and inter-ethnic violence, part of a wider deterioration of security across West Africa's semi-arid Sahel region.

The Malian army said on Oct. 22 that it had regained control of the village after parachuting in troops and air-dropping supplies. But the fighters surrounding the village have not been dislodged, two mayors of nearby towns said.

In recent weeks, militants have carried out attacks and burned crops.

"The farmers who went to their fields to harvest rice were attacked by jihadists. Six were killed, another was wounded, and one is missing," Dramane Sympara, mayor of the nearby town of Sokolo, said on Friday.

A spokesman for the Malian army declined to comment.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Nick Macfie)