Militants suspected to be jihadists launch assault on military camp in Mali with Russian soldiers
Suspected jihadists launched an attack on a military camp in central Mali on Saturday, targeting what was referred to as a “Russian camp” by two local officials and a diplomatic source speaking to AFP.
The Malian junta began working with Russian “instructors” in 2022, but opponents argue that they are mercenaries from the Wagner group.
A local elected official, who spoke to AFP anonymously, said “we have no toll for the moment” as “the situation is still confused”. He added that “it is jihadists who targeted the airport and the Russian camp next to it”.
Two Malian military officials also confirmed the attack took place in Sevare, in the Mopti region.
Several witnesses on the ground reported hearing four loud explosions at around 5:30 am (0530 GMT), followed by automatic weapons fire. Smoke was seen near the airport. According to another local official, “it is the Russian camp and their planes that have been targeted – the camp is near the airport”.
While part of the airport was surrounded by the jihadists, Senegalese soldiers from the United Nations’ mission in Mali, MINUSMA, managed to slow their advance, said the official.
MINUSMA’s camp covers four hectares of land next to the airport and the Malian army camp that houses the Russians. An official from MINUSMA declined to comment.
“A terrorist attack in Sevare – our men are on the ground,” said a Malian military official adding that “it was a complex attack that required a booby-trapped vehicle and guerrilla techniques”, according to another military source.
Mali has been grappling with a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies emerged in the north of the country in 2012. Since August 2020, Mali has been under military rule, which broke away from its long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the battle against jihadism and turned towards Russia both militarily and politically. AFP