Dozens of troops were either killed or are missing after jihadists ambushed their convoy in central Mali, military sources said on Monday.
About a dozen vehicles came under attack on Sunday at Bouka Were, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Mauritanian border, a senior military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some of the vehicles were able to extricate themselves from the ambush, but of the 64 troops who had been in the convoy, only about 20 were present at a roll call, the source said, adding that the precise number of dead was unknown.
“A search is under way to determine the fate of soldiers who have been listed missing,” he said. Another military officer and an official in the nearby town of Diabaly, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed his account.
The attack is the latest in a string of bloody assaults by jihadists, who unleashed a revolt in northern Mali in 2012 that has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in Mali despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, and jihadist atrocities have led to deadly tit-for-tat attacks among ethnic groups in the country’s fragile center.
On Saturday, two Egyptian soldiers with the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA were killed when their convoy came under attack in northwestern Mali, the United Nations said.