Three Malian soldiers were killed in a restive central region overnight when their vehicle hit a landmine, sources said on Thursday, October 11.
“There were three fatalities and four other soldiers were wounded,” the source said, adding that reinforcements had been sent to the area.
A local official confirmed the toll and described the blast as “the work of terrorists,” a term typically used to refer to Islamist militants.
In a September report, the United Nations said it had recorded 42 attacks by improvised explosive devices over the previous three months. More than a third of these occurred in central Mali.
In the most recent central Mali incident on September 26, seven Malian soldiers and a civilian driver were killed in roadside bomb blast.
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.
France launched Operation Serval to counter the jihadists, and that evolved into the current Operation Barkhane deployment with a mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Around 4,500 French personnel are deployed to Operation Barkhane, and they work alongside the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force, as well as peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations Minusma stabilization mission in Mali.
The insurgency has 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.
But despite a 2015 peace agreement between the government, pro-government groups and former rebels, large stretches of Mali remain out of control.
France’s Minister for the Armed Forces said on October 8 while on a visit to Chad that the G5 Sahel joint force has scheduled three operations in coming weeks. The commander of the force, Maritanian general Hanena Ould Sidi will move the G5 Sahel Joint Force headquarters to Mali’s capital Bamako after a suicide bomb and gun attack destroyed the previous HQ in Sevare.
With reporting from AFP