Terrorists kill 20 Malian soldiers in Sokolo, government sends reinforcement

“Reinforcements have been dispatched to the scene and an aerial reconnaissance is underway in the area to track down the attackers,” the government said.
A Malian soldier taking part in the ‘Hawbi’ tactical coordination operation patrols on November 2, 2017 in central Mali, in the border zone with Burkina Faso and Niger as a joint anti-jihadist force linking countries in the Sahel began operations on November 1. – The world’s newest joint international force, the five-nation G5 Sahel plans to number up to 5,000 military, police and civilian troops by March 2018. The 5,000 will comprise two battalions each from Mali and Niger and one each from Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania. (Photo by Daphné BENOIT / AFP)

The Malian government says about 20 soldiers have been killed in a pre-dawn attack on an army camp in central Mali on Sunday.

The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear.

In a statement, the government said “terrorists” entered the camp near the village of Sokolo, killed the soldiers and caused “significant material damage”.

The Malian government announced that “reinforcements have been dispatched to the scene and an aerial reconnaissance is underway in the area to track down the attackers,” a Reuters report quoted the government statement.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate in arid central and northern Mali and have used the area as a base to attack soldiers and civilians in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Niger and beyond.

Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized northern Mali in 2012, and the U.N. Security Council deployed a peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA. The militants were pushed back initially but have since regrouped and strengthened. In a sign of their success, MINUSMA has become the U.N.’s deadliest mission.

Large areas of the Sahel, the band of scrubland south of the Sahara, are no longer controlled by soldiers and police, to the dismay of local governments and their international partners, including the United States, which have struggled to contain the spread of jihadist groups across West Africa.

Twenty-four Malian soldiers were killed and 29 wounded when militants attacked a patrol in northern Mali in November. Twenty people were wounded earlier this month in the north, including 18 U.N. peacekeepers from Chad, in a rocket attack on a military base used by U.N., French and Malian forces.

France’s armed forces minister Florence Parly will travel to Washington this week amid fears that U.S. forces could pull out of the region. France has 4,500 troops in Mali and the wider Sahel, but the United States provides much-needed intelligence, logistical and drone support.

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