Mali says soldier death toll in Tessit attack has risen to 42

Mali blamed the attack on restive Madhya Pradesh, which involved drones and ‘explosive-laden vehicles’.

A “sophisticated and coordinated” weekend attack in Mali’s restive central region killed 42 soldiers, the country’s military government said, sharply increasing the death toll of 17 soldiers earlier.

Sunday’s attack in the town of Tesit in the Gao region was the deadliest for Mali’s security forces battling armed groups in recent years.

On Monday, officials said at least four civilians were also killed in the attack, which stood for its sophistication. In its latest update on Wednesday, the government said 22 soldiers were also injured, while 37 soldiers were killed.

“Malian army units from Tasit … reacted strongly to a complex and coordinated attack by the armed terrorist groups of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. [ISGS]characterized by the use of drones, explosives, car bombs and artillery,” said a statement read by national broadcaster, ORTM.

The statement said “reports of covert, overflight operations clearly indicate that terrorists have received considerable support, including outside expertise”.

On Wednesday, authorities announced three days of national mourning.

Mali has been in a decade of violence since ethnic Tuareg separatists took control of the country’s north in 2012. That rebellion was hijacked by armed groups that in recent years have taken advantage of the security vacuum in the country’s vast central region, bordering Burkina Faso and Niger, with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda offshoots fueling ethnic tensions over dwindling resources. strength

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 2 million civilians have been forced to flee their homes.

Mali’s military-led government, which effectively seized power in a coup in 2020, is believed to control just 15 percent of the country’s total territory.

French troops, active in Mali since 2013, are in the final stages of withdrawing from the country, raising questions about the region’s security future. Mali’s military, meanwhile, has denied reports that it has turned to Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group to fill the void.

Central Mali is also home to the United Nations’ most dangerous peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA.

Prior to Tacit, Mali’s armed forces had suffered serious losses during attacks in Madhya Pradesh in late 2019 and early 2020 when hundreds of soldiers were killed in attacks on nearly a dozen bases, usually by highly mobile fighters on motorcycles.

France and several allied countries in the Sahel region launched counterattacks that killed several high-ranking members of the armed groups, including ISGS founder Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi.

More recent incidents include an attack in the central rural area of ​​Mondoro in March 2021 that killed 33 soldiers. ISGS later claimed the attack. In February this year, nearly 40 civilians – suspected by ISGS of being in a league affiliated with rival al-Qaeda – were killed near Tasit.

Thousands of people have fled to the nearest large city, Gao, located about 150 km (90 mi) to the north.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch accused the Malian army and “associated foreign fighters” of summarily executing an estimated 300 civilian men, some of whom were suspected of belonging to armed groups, in the central town of Moura in March. The killings have been called the worst atrocities in Mali in decades.

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