27 soldiers were killed and 47 “terrorists” were “neutralized” in a jihadist attack on a military barracks in central Mali on Friday, according to the country’s army. The army said in a statement that 33 soldiers were hurt, 21 of whom were critically injured, and seven were missing, while 23 other suspects were “neutralized” later in the day. For nearly a decade, the West African state has fought jihadist movements linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, with around two-thirds of its territory outside of state control.
A French military source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that hundreds of jihadists stormed the camp of roughly 150 soldiers at 0600 GMT. The death toll is estimated to be between 40 and 50. The strike took place at about 0530 GMT, according to Mali’s army. According to the source, the jihadists seized 21 vehicles, including tanks, and injured more than 20 soldiers. According to the source, Mali’s army did not seek assistance from France’s Barkhane military operation because the camp was “where Barkhane was asked not to operate, perhaps because of the presence of Wagner mercenaries,” referring to the Russian paramilitary group.
The army and air force “reacted vigorously,” a military official told AFP. The Mondoro base, located near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, has been targeted by jihadists fighting the Malian government and international forces in the past. In September 2019, an attack on Mondoro and the adjoining Boulkessi camp claimed the lives of around 50 soldiers. Around 100 attackers were “routed” by Barkhane and the Mali army during a mission in January 2021, the French military said.
In 2012, jihadist and separatist forces, including those linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, launched operations in Mali, and the violence has since expanded to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, murdering and displacing thousands of civilians. The military environment in the Sahel is shifting following France’s decision to withdraw from Mali and the entrance of Russian instructors, whom the West claims are Wagner mercenaries. Diplomatic ties between Bamako’s military junta and Paris have worsened in recent months as the West African regional grouping placed tough penalties on the Malian government for delaying the transition to civilian administration.