BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — At least three civilians and 15 soldiers have been killed in separate attacks in central Mali, the army said, the latest round of attacks as insecurity worsens in the West African nation.
Two attacks Wednesday targeted Mali army positions in the center of the country, and the army fought back killing at least 48 assailants, said army spokesman Col. Souleymane Dembele.
“Malian Armed Forces repelled terrorist attacks targeting positions in Sévaré, Sokolo and Kalumba early this Wednesday,” he said in a statement. The soldiers killed include “six dead in Sokolo” and “12 dead, including 3 civilians, in Kalumba, in the Nara region,” the statement said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bear the mark of jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida which are present in those areas and whose local leader, Amadou Koufa, sent a message a few weeks ago urging his fighters to intensify attacks against the Malian army.
The attacks in central Mali come days after the attack on Mali’s largest military base, Kati, just 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside the capital, Bamako, in which at least one person was killed.
Since a coup in 2020 in which democratically-elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was overthrown, Mali has been ruled by a military junta, led by Lt. Col. Assimi Goita, who has had himself appointed president. The military regime has said it will govern in the transitional period until elections are held in 2024.
In recent weeks the junta has reduced the presence of foreign troops assisting its fight against extremist rebels. The government withdrew Mali from the G5 Sahel alliance, composed of five neighboring countries working together to battle jihadi violence, and asked a French and European military force fighting extremists to leave the country.
Attacks have circled the capital as the French military, in Mali since 2013, withdraws. Mali has enlisted support from the Russian mercenary outfit, the Wagner Group.