Jihadists reportedly capture town in central Mali

Suspected jihadist forces have reportedly captured the central Malian town of Boni after attacking and setting fire to administrative buildings in town. Jihadists briefly held the town before retreating and the Malian military is now said to be back in control of Boni.

According to local officials, the Malian military retreated to nearby Douentza after the jihadists entered town. The number of gunmen targeting the town is unclear, however, some estimates put the number at around 40. A resident of Boni speaking to the AFP also reported that the jihadists had people already inside the town waiting for the larger group to arrive. “Some jihadists were on motorbikes and had accomplices inside the town. It was planned,” the resident reportedly said.

The Malian military is now said to be in control of Boni after the jihadists left the town. Local sources stated that after setting fire to the administrative buildings, capturing local officials, and releasing their prisoners, the jihadists quickly left Boni.  No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, however, both al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its Tuareg front group Ansar Dine are known to operate in the area. Both have also claimed attacks in Boni in the past.

Today’s attack in Boni follows an ambush on Malian troops near the town on Aug. 29. In that ambush, two Malian military vehicles were attacked and then subsequently captured and burned by suspected jihadists.

A spate of recent attacks occurred in central Mali before the assault in Boni. In Boulkessi, near the Malian town of Mondoro and the borders with Burkina Faso in the Mopti Region, a Malian army post was targeted. In Bandigara, also in the Mopti Region, a police station was also hit by jihadists. In the Segou Region, another police station was assaulted in the locality of Sy. Ansar Dine has claimed the latter attack in Sy, also claiming to have captured two assault rifles and two vehicles. The other assaults have yet to been claimed, but are likely the work of Ansar Dine’s two battalions in the southern half of the country.

Elsewhere in Mali, a UN vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Ansongo in the Gao Region. In Burkina Faso, near the borders with Mali and Niger, a Burkinabe gendarmerie station was attacked by suspected jihadists. One border agent and a civilian were killed in the assault.

With the plethora of attacks occurring in central Mali and elsewhere, today marks one of the most active days for jihadist groups operating in the country and in nearby states like Burkina Faso. According to data compiled by The Long War Journal, there has been at least 161 al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and neighboring countries so far this year. While most of these occur in Mali’s north, today’s assaults show that jihadist groups continue to retain the capabilities to penetrate in the southern half.

Article has been updated to reflect changes in the situation on the ground in Boni.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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