Mali soldiers killed in overnight assault in Dioungani, Mopti region

At least seven soldiers were killed and several were wounded in an overnight attack in central Mali, the army said on Thursday, January 23.

The troops were attacked by “unidentified armed men” in Dioungani in Koro Cercle in central Mali’s volatile Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) tweeted.

The post is 52 km from Koro.

FAMa gave a provisional toll of six dead and others injured.

Mali government spokesperson Yaya Sangare said in a later statement that seven soldiers died in the attack and several were injured, but noted this was still a provisional assessment.

A security official who declined to be named told AFP that, in an assault lasting several hours, the attackers overwhelmed the soldiers’ position before reinforcements took it back. They said seven soldiers had been killed.

Journalist Housseyne Ag Issa tweeted that security sources spoke of a “heavy toll” following the attack on a National Guard post, later saying that 11 had been killed and nine injured.

Studio Tamimi reported that two FAMa posts in Dioungani were attacked. Citing security sources, Ag Issa said that an intervention unit traveling from Douentza to Dioungani was ambushed.

On Tuesday, two Malian soldiers were killed when their convoy was struck by a roadside bomb near Dallah, around 90 km north of Dioungani.

Militant groups in Mali

The complex insurgency in the Sahel began in Mali in 2012, when a Tuareg separatist uprising was exploited by al-Qaeda-linked extremists who took key cities in the desert north. Former colonial power France began its Operation Serval military intervention the following year, driving the jihadists from the towns.

But the militant groups morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, and the insurgency gradually spread to central and southern regions of Mali and across the borders into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

According to the U.N., around 4,000 people were killed in militant attacks in the three countries last year.

Many armed groups including Islamic State are active in the Sahel region, but the majority of attacks are attributed to JNIM, which formed in March 2017 from a merger of several smaller groups. JNIM’s leadership has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Since May 2019, ISIS has attributed insurgent activities in the Sahel area to ISWAP, its West Africa Province affiliate that split from Boko Haram in 2016, rather than to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. ISWAP’s main area of operations is the Lake Chad area of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Serval evolved in August 2014 into Operation Barkhane, with a mandate for counter-terrorism operations across the Sahel. Roughly 4,500 French troops are deployed, focusing activity in insurgent-hit MaliNiger and Burkina Faso. Troops deployed to Barkhane work alongside local forces and other international operations in the Sahel, including the G5 Sahel Joint Force (FCG5S), which comprises troops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, and MINUSMA, the United Nations stabilization mission in Mali.

On January 13, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel states announced a new Coalition for the Sahel which will see increased coordination between French and local forces focused on the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border zone and targeting Islamic State as a priority. The new Sahel Coalition will see Barkhane and the FCG5S forces operating under joint command.

Sahel: France to further strengthen Barkhane, Takuba ‘fully operational by autumn’

With reporting from AFP

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