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Death toll in attack on Malian soldiers rises to 42: army

#Death #toll #attack #Malian #soldiers #rises #army

42 Malian soldiers died in an attack by suspected jihadists over the weekend, the army said in a document naming the fatalities on Wednesday, revising an earlier figure of 21 dead.

The toll is one of the bloodiest in Mali’s decades-long insurgency, which has spread from the north of the country to the center and south and into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The document was authenticated to AFP by several senior military officials.

The attack came on Sunday in the town of Tessit, in the troubled “Three Borders Region” where the borders of the three nations converge.

On Monday, the army said 17 soldiers and four civilians had died. Relatives of the victims said, on condition of anonymity, that some of the civilians had been elected officials.

Monday’s statement also said that seven attackers died, “probably members of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), who benefited from drone and artillery support and used explosives and an explosives-laden vehicle.”

Malian forces last suffered such casualties in a series of attacks in the same region in late 2019 and early 2020.

Hundreds of soldiers were killed in attacks on nearly a dozen bases, usually carried out by highly mobile fighters on motorcycles.

The raids caused the Malian, Nigerian and Burkinabe forces to withdraw from forward bases and settle in better defended locations.

In January 2020, France and its Sahel allies agreed on a push against the ISGS at a summit in Pau, south-west France.

Several of its leaders have been attacked and killed, including its founder Abu Walid Al-Sahraoui, but locals say the group continues to recruit and conduct its operations.


Tessit is one of the hotspots in the border triangle.

The ISGS is fighting an al-Qaeda-linked alliance, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), for control of the strategic, gold-rich area.

In March 2021, 33 soldiers were killed in an ISGS-claimed ambush as units rotated, and in February this year around 40 civilians – suspected by ISGS of being associated with al-Qaeda – were massacred.

Cell phone connections to the area have been severely disrupted in recent years and physical access is difficult, particularly during the mid-year rainy season.

Thousands have fled Tessit to the nearest major city of Gao, some 150 kilometers to the north.

Across the Sahel, the jihadist campaign has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than two million to flee.

Sporadic cross-border attacks also took place in Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin in the south, fueling fears of a jihadist push towards the Gulf of Guinea.

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