The country’s army announced that a jihadist attack on an army camp in central Mali on Friday killed 27 soldiers and “neutralised” 47 “terrorists”.
The army added in a statement that the fighting resulted in the injury of 33 soldiers, 21 of whom were seriously injured, and seven missing, while 23 suspects were “neutralised” later today.
The West African country has been fighting jihadist movements linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State for nearly a decade, with about two-thirds of its territory outside state control.
A French military source, who asked not to be named, said hundreds of jihadists attacked the camp, which houses about 150 soldiers, around 0600 GMT, putting the death toll between 40 and 50.
The Malian army said the attack occurred around 0530 GMT.
The source added that the jihadists seized 21 vehicles, including tanks, and wounded more than 20 soldiers.
The source said that the Malian army did not request support from the French military operation Barkhane because the camp was “where Barkhane was asked not to work, possibly due to the presence of Wagner mercenaries,” referring to a Russian paramilitary group.
A military official told AFP that the army and air force “responded strongly”.
The Mondoro base is located near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and has previously been targeted by jihadists fighting the Malian state and foreign forces.
About 50 soldiers were killed after an attack on Mondoro and the nearby Camp Polkisi in September 2019.
The French military said about 100 attackers were “defeated” following a mission between Barkhane and the Malian army against jihadists trying to take over the base in January 2021.
Jihadist and separatist fighters – some affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State – began operations in Mali in 2012 and the conflict has since spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, killing and displacing thousands of civilians.
Friday’s attack comes with a change in the military landscape in the Sahel region after France’s decision to withdraw from Mali and the arrival of Russian trainers, whom the West says are Wagner mercenaries.
Diplomatic relations between the junta in Bamako and Paris have deteriorated in recent months as the West African regional bloc imposed harsh sanctions over the Malian government’s delay in returning to civilian rule.