Attack on Mali military post kills 49 soldiers

Updated November 03, 2019

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In this file photo taken on November 13, 2018  Malian soldiers stand beside a destroyed building and burnt cars on  in Gao, after a suicide car bomb attack  overnight, which killed three people. — AFP
In this file photo taken on November 13, 2018 Malian soldiers stand beside a destroyed building and burnt cars on in Gao, after a suicide car bomb attack overnight, which killed three people. — AFP

BAMAKO: A “terrorist attack” on a military post in strife-torn northeastern Mali has left 49 soldiers dead, the army said on Saturday, revising downward an earlier death toll.

But the attack on Friday at Indelimane, in the Menaka region, close to the border with Niger, was still one of the deadliest strikes against Mali’s military in a region wracked by Islamist violence.

The Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) “have recorded 49 dead, three wounded and material damage, and some 20 survivors have been recovered”, it said on its Facebook page on Saturday.

The situation was now under control and soldiers were sweeping the area, it added.

The government on Friday had said 53 people died in what it described as a “terrorist attack”. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

An army officer said troops arrived at the outpost around 5pm on Friday and “took back control of our positions.

“The terrorists carried out a surprise attack at lunchtime. Army vehicles were destroyed, others taken away,” he said.

The army and the government announced on Friday that reinforcements had been sent to the area.

The attacks comes a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso. Several sources have said the real death toll was higher.

“This bloodshed that Mali has been living through cannot go on,” imam Mahamound Dicko, an influential religious leader in Mali, said on Saturday.

“Do you want us to resign ourselves to this suffering? We can resist,” he added.

Rights activist Alioune Tine, from Mali’s western neighbour Senegal, called for action across Africa to tackle the threat.

“If Africa does not mobilise for Mali and Burkina (Faso), it won’t be spared the bushfire that is quickly catching West Africa’s coastal countries, the next chosen targets” of the jihadists, he said.

It is not just Mali’s army that has been struggling in the face of the jihadist revolt.

The violence has also spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger where extremists have exploited existing inter-communal strife, leaving hundreds dead.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2019