Five Malian soldiers on mission were killed in central Mali on Monday in an explosive ambush, followed by an exchange of « heavy fire », government and military sources learned.
“A FAMa mission (Malian Armed Forces) was ambushed by the IED (improvised explosive device) this morning (…) Provisional assessment: 5 dead soldiers and 4 destroyed vehicles”, declared the Minister for Communication on Twitter and government spokesperson, Yaya Sangare.
« Reinforcements are already there for the sweep to neutralize the enemies, » he added. The events occurred in Alatona, a town located between Ségou and the Mauritanian border, according to the minister.
« Early this morning, a supply vehicle that was going to Diabaly with fuel jumped on a mine », during an attack « accompanied by heavy fires », confirmed to AFP a non-commissioned officer among the reinforcements dispatched on the spot ».
« There have been deaths on our side and on the side of the attackers », who were traveling « on motorcycles and with vehicles, » added the non-commissioned officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. « But the reinforcement came in time and we recovered our bodies and the wounded, » said the soldier, saying « do not know the exact number » of victims.
The entire Sahel – in particular Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso – is now the target of increasingly deadly attacks by several Islamist groups, despite the strengthening of local armies, the presence of 4,500 French soldiers of the force anti -hadist Barkhane and a United Nations force in Mali.
Islamist insurgents killed more than 140 Malian soldiers between September and December, in an insurgency that has spread since 2013.
The laying of artisanal mines (IED, according to the English acronym commonly used), which are easy to manufacture and effective against vehicles, has become a preferred mode of action for jihadists in Mali.
Civilians are not spared from these devices, which are often placed on communication routes. A UN report in October reported 110 civilians killed by IEDs in Mali in the first half of 2019.