An Al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the center of Mali saying dozens of soldiers and Russian “mercenaries” were killed or wounded.
The Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) made the claim in a statement authenticated on Tuesday by the US Site Intelligence Group, acknowledging the death of 15 of its fighters in the raid at Sevare on Saturday.
The Mali government had announced Sunday that 10 civilians and three soldiers died and dozens of jihadists were “neutralized,” meaning killed, in a wave of bloodshed the previous day that it described as a resurgence of “terrorist incidents.”
Two elected officials and a diplomatic source said the target of the attack was a camp housing Russian combatants.
The Mali junta began working with what it calls Russian instructors from the Wagner group in 2022.
The GSIM said it set off two car bombs that destroyed part of the airport at Sevare, followed by two hours of fighting.
The GSIM also said several civilians had died when the army attacked one of their vehicles.
Neither the Malian army nor the Wagner organization had responded to AFP calls by Tuesday evening.
In a separate authenticated statement, the GSIM said its forces had killed 10 more Malian soldiers in an ambush on Saturday between Marja and Nara, in the Koulikoro region.
Nara officials had confirmed an attack, with the army saying a “terrorist sanctuary” had been destroyed, but no casualty toll was given.
Last week, an official Malian delegation was ambushed near Nara, and junta leader Assimi Goita‘s chief of staff was killed along with at least three other people. The GSIM also claimed that attack.
Mali has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north of the country in 2012.
It has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism and turned to Russia for assistance.