Malian soldiers, part of the joint G5 Sahel military force, sit in a vehicle as they patrol in central Mali on November 2, 2017. By DaphnÃ© BENOIT (AFP/File)
Fourteen Malian soldiers were killed and 18 wounded on Saturday in an attack on their camp in Mali’s restive north, the army said, while military sources told AFP jihadists were responsible.
Mali’s deteriorating security situation is of growing concern as Al-Qaeda-linked groups mount increasingly deadly attacks on domestic and foreign forces, and the country’s president on Saturday cancelled his visit to an African summit.
“The Malian armed forces were attacked early this morning, around 4am, in Soumpi (Timbuktu region). We have recorded 14 dead, 18 wounded and material damage,” a statement from the military posted on social media said.
A military source based in Bamako had told AFP the men were killed “during a cowardly terrorist attack on the Soumpi camp”.
The local official confirmed the death toll, and said five wounded men were transferred to the town of Niafunke for medical treatment.
The Soumpi incident comes two days after 26 civilians including mothers and babies were killed when their vehicle ran over a landmine in Boni, central Mali, according to a UN death toll.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had cancelled planned travel to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to visit Boni on Saturday, he said in a tweet.
The UN Security Council said it “condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack”, referring to Thursday’s incident.
Armed groups under scrutiny
Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
In June 2015, Mali’s government signed a peace agreement with coalitions of non-jihadist armed groups. But Islamist insurgents remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.
The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a French-drafted statement giving parties to the 2015 peace deal until the end of March to show progress or face sanctions.
The council said there was a “pressing need to deliver tangible and visible peace dividends to the population in the North and other parts of Mali” ahead of elections scheduled for this year.
Mali is one of a string of poor, fragile nations in the Sahel region that have been battered by terror attacks.
The country has joined the so-called “G5 Sahel force” with Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, pooling military efforts to fight the jihadists.