BAMAKO – Jihadis attacked the Malian military near the border with Niger, leaving at least 53 soldiers and one civilian dead in the second major assault against the country’s armed forces in a month, the government said Saturday.
The latest violence to target Mali’s armed forces took place Friday in Indelimane, located in the country’s volatile Menaka region.
“Reinforcements have been sent to the scene and the situation is under control with the support of the French military, which is helping to evacuate the wounded,” government spokesman Yaya Sangare said.
In a separate incident, a French Army officer was killed when his armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device, according to an announcement Saturday morning by President Emmanuel Macron. More than two dozen French troops have been killed in Mali.
The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the raid as well as the blast that killed the French soldier.
“Soldiers of the caliphate attacked a military base where elements of the apostate Malian army were stationed in the village of Indelimane,” the IS said in a statement on its social media channels.
The assailants were believed to have fled toward the border with Niger, said Sangare.
French Cpl. Ronan Pointeau, 24, died after an armored vehicle in which he was traveling hit an improvised explosive device near the city of Menaka, a French defense ministry statement said. Pointeau and his colleagues were escorting a convoy between the cities of Gao and Menaka.
The French defense ministry said, “This insidious attack shows the importance and bitterness of the fight against armed terrorist groups” in the border region straddling Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
The new violence is likely to further raise tensions in the capital, Bamako, where military families have already protested in the streets. They say that soldiers are not being given the resources on the ground that they need to confront an array of jihadi groups.
Friday’s violence occurred a month after 41 soldiers were killed and 20 others went missing during two attacks on Malian soldiers taking part in a regional counterterrorism force.
The two latest attacks are among the most deadly against the Malian Army since a 2013 French-led military intervention to oust the jihadis from power in the major towns of northern Mali.
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