World News

Ambush on Mali Army Camp Leaves 14 Soldiers and 17 Attackers Dead

Posted January 27, 2018 2:13 p.m. EST

Islamic militants stormed an army camp in northern Mali on Saturday, killing at least 14 soldiers in the worst attack on security forces in the West African country in more than a year, an army spokesman said.

The spokesman, Col. Diarran Kone, said that after the attack in the Timbuktu region, the bodies of 17 assailants were left at the scene and the base was once again under the control of the Malian military.

Mali recently commemorated the fifth anniversary of a French military mission to oust Islamic extremists from power in the major towns to the country’s north. The operation, however, merely dispersed the jihadis into the surrounding desert.

In the years since, they have staged frequent attacks on the military as well as on United Nations peacekeeping forces that are trying to stabilize the country.

Last January, at least 54 people were killed in the eastern city of Gao after a camp, which housed hundreds of former fighters from armed groups, was bombed. The former fighters, who were signatories to Mali’s 2015 peace agreement, had agreed to join forces with the military to battle extremist groups.

Despite the presence of a peacekeeping mission and troops operating under a regional French anti-militant mission, violence is again on the rise and attacks are spreading farther south toward the capital, Bamako.

A land mine explosion blew up a civilian passenger vehicle near the central Mali village of Boni on Thursday, killing 26 people and injuring several others. In a separate incident on the same day in the nearby town of Youwarou, the Malian military said its forces had repelled an attack by fighters suspected of being Islamist insurgents.

Mali and its western neighbor of Senegal plan to deploy 1,000 troops soon in an operation to pacify central Mali and contain jihadis who had been confined to its Saharan expanses in the north.

But analysts doubt they will be able to do so purely through military means. The Islamists exploit the grievances of local cattle herders from the Fulani tribe and their disputes with local farmers over access to grazing lands.

The government’s periodic crackdowns on jihadis have therefore tended to target the Fulani, driving some of them into the arms of the armed groups.