Jihadists attacked Malian troops escorting trucks heading to neighboring Niger on Thursday, with the toll feared to be high, security sources and a local official told AFP.
Rebels affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been waging an insurgency in the Sahel state since 2012 and frequently target the security forces.
A Malian military source said Islamic State jihadists ambushed army units near the northeastern town of Menaka on Thursday.
“We are currently working out the toll… Our troops defended themselves fiercely,” the source said.
A police official confirmed the report, adding that the soldiers “were escorting trucks to Niger.”
“The toll is heavy,” a local official told AFP.
No details about the trucks were immediately available.
Neighboring Niger is also battling a jihadist insurgency and is in a standoff with regional neighbors following a coup last week.
Junta-ruled Mali and Burkina Faso have backed Niger’s new military leaders, saying an intervention by regional bloc ECOWAS to restore deposed President Mohamed Bazoum would be tantamount to a declaration of war on them.
The jihadist violence in Mali spilled over into Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015, fuelling anger at the civilian governments that ended in military takeovers in all three nations since 2020.
The unrest has killed thousands across the region and forced millions to flee their homes.
IS-affiliated rebels have intensified their operations in the Menaka region in recent months.
Human Rights Watch said they have caused “hundreds” of deaths and forced thousands of people to flee the area since the start of the year.