Seven Malian soldiers and a civilian driver were killed in roadside bomb blast in central Mali, the ministry of defense said.
The “cowardly terrorist attack” occurred on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 26 between Douentza in the Mopti region and Bambara-Maoudé in the Timbuktu region, the ministry said in a statement, adding that the soldiers were on an escort mission.
Two vehicles were hit by the bomb, it said.
Douentza is about 340 km (210 miles) west of Gao.
According to earlier reports, at around 4 p.m. a Malian Armed Forces convoy was hit in a complex attack. A VRLA light truck was hit by an IED and this was followed by gunfire. The Defense Post cannot confirm this version of events.
It was unclear which group was behind the attack.
The recent unrest in Mali began with a 2012 Tuareg separatist uprising against the state, which was exploited by jihadists linked to al-Qaeda who took key cities in the north.
The insurgency gradually spread to the country’s center, where local grievances are sometimes exploited by radical Islamists in a region awash with guns. The groups have morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, sometimes winning over local populations by providing basic services and protection from bandits.
The United Nations’ Mali mission Minusma said in July it had documented an escalation of attacks in the center of Mali, allegedly carried out by armed Dozos hunters and militias, who are linked to the Dogon ethnic group, against Fulani herders.
“These attacks are said to be motivated by a desire to root out individuals linked to the violent extremist group Jama’at nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM),” a U.N. report said. JNIM is a fusion of three groups linked to al-Qaeda. Also known as the Group to Support Islam and Muslims.
In August, four Malian soldiers were killed when gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying election materials.
JNIM claimed responsibility for a bomb and gun attack on the headquarters of the G5 Sahel Joint Force in Sevare in the Mopti region of Mali in June.
With reporting from AFP