Dozens of Malian soldiers killed in dual attacks

At least 25 Malian soldiers are dead and more than 60 others are missing after two assaults on Malian bases in central Mali near the borders with Burkina Faso.

On Monday, jihadist forces simultaneously targeted the G5 Sahel force camp in Boulikessi and the Malian army base in Mondoro. The G5 Sahel includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania and maintains a force in Mali in an attempt to combat the rising jihadist threat.

Malian officials have reported that the insurgents utilized “heavy weapons” in the assaults and that at least 15 militants had been killed.

However, jihadist forces were able to briefly hold the bases and capture large amounts of equipment according to other sources.

While the Malian government has confirmed that 25 soldiers were killed, it has been reported elsewhere that as many as 40 soldiers might have died while 60 others are missing.

The Malian military has not confirmed the number of reported soldiers missing after the attacks, but it has stated that 11 soldiers have since been accounted for and are unharmed.

No group has yet to claim the raids. However, Malian authorities have blamed the al Qaeda-linked Burkinabe jihadist group Ansaroul Islam for the assaults.

Ansaroul Islam (AI), which is partly responsible for the rise in violence in Burkina Faso, was founded in Mali in 2016 with assistance from al Qaeda’s men in the country.

AI has since maintained close ties with al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) including operational, financial, and ideological assistance. The US State Department designated AI as an al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization last year.

It is also possible that JNIM and/or men within the so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) conducted or assisted in the assaults.

Despite being part of the Islamic State – and indeed its claims are sporadically distributed worldwide vis a vis the Islamic State’s West Africa ProvinceISGS is thought to still cooperate with JNIM.

Monday’s attacks are another reminder of the deteriorating security situation across the Sahel. Communal violence, which jihadist groups have exploited, has plagued the region while jihadist groups continue to target state forces.

Jihadist violence has shifted from northern Mali to the country’s central regions and into neighboring Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso has struggled to combat the rising militancy and has not been able to contain the spread of violence into different areas of the country. JNIM, Ansaroul Islam, and Islamic State-loyal militants all operate in the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee, while state responses have been heavy-handed further exacerbating the situation.

As Sahelien states and the international community continue to struggle in mitigating both communal violence and violence stemming from jihadist groups, these attacks will continue to occur.

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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