Clashes between army and jihadists in northern Mali leave 65 dead | mali
Eight soldiers and 57 “terrorists” were killed in clashes at a rebel base in northern Mali where rival jihadist groups, including the Islamic State, are active, the Malian army announced on Saturday.
Friday’s fighting followed an airstrike and erupted a day after France and its allies announced their military withdrawal from the African country.
The Malian army said it carried out the attack on the rebel base after its troops were attacked by unidentified gunmen in the region of Archam in the conflict-torn north near the border with Burkina Faso and Niger restless.
Eight soldiers died and 57 armed rebels were “neutralized” in the “violent clashes” that followed, the army said.
Mali, a landlocked country of 21 million people, has struggled to contain a brutal jihadist insurgency that emerged in 2012, before spreading to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and 2 million people have been displaced by the conflict across the Sahel, of which Mali remains the center.
About 40 civilians – believed to be loyal to rival jihadist groups, according to local sources – were killed this week in the same area where Friday’s incident took place.
It took place in the so-called “three borders” area, a hotbed of jihadist violence where the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the largest jihadist alliance in the Sahel, the Al-Qaeda-aligned GSIM group, are particularly active. .
The Malian army said it was looking for “terrorist sanctuaries” in the region. Forces deployed in the tri-border area include Mali’s own army, as well as French and European troops and UN peacekeepers.
The day before, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of French troops from Mali.
France first intervened in 2013 and has around 4,600 troops stationed across the Sahel, including 2,400 in Mali. Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply after Malian army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goïta overthrew elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020. The army then overthrew civilian leaders of a government transition last year in a second coup.
Mali’s international partners – including France and the Economic Community of West African States – have insisted that the junta fulfill its promise to hold elections in February 2022 and restore civilian rule. But the junta then launched plans to stay in power for up to five years.
On Friday, Mali’s military-led government asked France to withdraw its forces from the Sahel state “without delay”. Mali has also asked Europe’s smallest special forces group Takuba, created in 2020, to leave quickly.
But Macron responded with a statement saying he would not compromise the safety of French soldiers and that the withdrawal would take place “in an orderly fashion”.