Ten Malian soldiers were killed Wednesday in a jihadist attack in the centre of the country. It was the deadliest attack on the Malian army since the beginning of the year.
An attack blamed on jihadists against their post in the centre of the country left ten Malian soldiers dead on Wednesday 3 February. The attack came two weeks before a Franco-Sahelian summit on security in the region.
Tadayt, a propaganda organ close to Al Qaeda, attributed the attack to the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or Jnim in Arabic), a jihadist alliance affiliated to Al Qaeda.
It was the deadliest in 2021 against Malian forces, which have lost hundreds of men in recent years. Rarely have the attackers used an armoured vehicle, according to a security official and a spokesman for the French army.
Heavily armed assailants
Ten bodies were flown by a helicopter of the UN mission (Minusma) to the airport of Sévaré, near Mopti, and eight wounded evacuated to a hospital, local officials said on condition of anonymity, following a common practice for such information.
The attack caused extensive damage in the camp, according to one of the security officials.
The Malian army reported on social networks that it had received air support from Barkhane, the French anti-Jihadist force in the Sahel. An information confirmed to AFP by the spokesman of the French army: Colonel Frédéric Barbry reported the intervention of a drone, as well as Mirages 2000 and two Tiger helicopters that carried out several strikes.
« The Malian armed forces proceeded to a tactical withdrawal and regrouped outside the camp to contain the assailants and call for reinforcements, » he explained, noting that « about 20 jihadists were neutralised » and specifying that the armoured vehicle and 16 motorbikes had been destroyed.
« This morning, fighters from the Support Group for Islam and Muslims took control of the renegade army’s military base in the village of Boni. Praise be to God, and glory, » wrote Tadayt, who is close to al-Qaeda, via the Telegram messenger.
Theft of vehicles
The origin of the armoured vehicle is unknown. But as they did again in Boni, the jihadists, who travel by motorbike and pick-up truck, commonly take equipment to the scene of their attacks.
« The jihadists have taken at least a dozen armoured vehicles from Malian, Burkinabe and Nigerien forces in recent years, » explains Héni Nsaibia, a researcher at the Acled project, which specialises in conflict data collection. These tanks can then be found from one country to another.
The sector has recently been the scene of intense operations, such as the operation called Eclipse, which was jointly carried out by the Malian and French armies. The Malian army had reported on 26 January that Eclipse had « neutralised » a hundred or so jihadists.
In this sector, three French soldiers were killed by an artisanal mine at the end of December, and six Malian soldiers were killed in two attacks at the end of January.
G5 Sahel Summit
The area is an area of open forest and scrub overhung by a rocky massif where elements of the GSIM are implanted. Other groups, linked for their part to the organisation Islamic State, are also present in the region.
Since 2012 and the outbreak of independence and then jihadist rebellions in the north, Mali has been plunged into a multifaceted crisis which has left thousands of dead, both civilians and combatants, and hundreds of thousands displaced, despite the support of the international community and the intervention of UN, African and French forces.
The violence has spread to the centre of the country, which has become one of its main centres, and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. The armed groups that appeared in 2015 in central Mali have thrived on the old antagonisms linked to land, between herders and farmers and between the Peul, Bambara and Dogon ethnic groups.
They are attacking everything that remains of state representation and fomenting or fuelling these tensions. Community « self-defence groups » are also accused of abuses.
A summit is due to bring together the G5 Sahel countries (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad) on 15 and 16 February in N’Djamena to take stock of the security situation in the sub-region, with a possible resizing of Barkhane on the horizon.