Mali: Jihadist attack in Tessit killed 42 soldiers, deadliest attack on army since 2019

Mali: Jihadist attack in Tessit killed 42 soldiers, deadliest attack on army since 2019

Published on: 08/10/2022 – 19:18

At least 42 Malian soldiers were killed in north-eastern Mali on Sunday, according to a new report. It is the deadliest attack attributed to jihadists on Malian forces since 2019.

The report, issued on Wednesday, August 10, makes it the deadliest jihadist attack on soldiers in Mali since the late 2019/early 2020 series of attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS) group. On Sunday, August 7th, at least 42 members of the Malian armed forces were killed in the Tessit area near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger.

The new assessment, which has been confirmed by the Malian government, comes from an official document listing the soldiers who have died, authenticated by several senior military officials to AFP on Wednesday. The previous report counted 17 soldiers killed and 4 civilians.

The transitional government in Mali, which has declared three days of national mourning, also reports “37 neutralized terrorists”.

Sunday’s attack comes as Mali, which has expelled its French ally and restarted cooperation with Moscow, has faced a resurgence of attacks from the smokescreen of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, linked to al-Qaeda ) is faced.

Among the four civilians killed were some elected local officials, relatives of the victims told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official statement also claimed that seven “enemies” died in the attack – attackers “believed to have benefited from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and drone and artillery support through the use of explosives and vehicle bombs.”

“Three Borders”

Frequently the scene of clashes and attacks, the Tessit area lies on the Malian side of the so-called “three borders area,” in a vast rural region not controlled by the state.

The al-Qaeda-related armed groups assembled under the leadership of GSIM have been fighting the EIGS group, which is affiliated with the EI organization, there since 2020.

The jihadists are trying to take control of this strategic and gold-bearing area.

The Malian army, stationed in a military camp near the town of Tessit, has often been attacked in this region. In March 2021, 33 Tessit auxiliaries were killed in an ambush claimed by EIGS.

Peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali also operate in this area, sometimes referred to as “Malian Gourma”.

As elsewhere in Mali, civilians are caught in the crossfire of the conflicting parties and are often accused of being allied with one when they are not with the other. In February, around forty of them were killed by the EIGS in Tessit, accused of complicity with al-Qaeda.

The residents of the area, regularly cut off from the telephone network for several years and surrounded all the more by land in the rainy season, have fled in their thousands, mainly to the large neighboring city of Gao, 150 km to the north.

Attack wave 2019-2020

This area of ​​the “three borders” had previously been the scene of the series of deadliest attacks the three affected countries had experienced since the conflict broke out in northern Mali in late 2019/early 2020.

More than a dozen isolated camps in which the Sahelian soldiers were holed up had been the target of the EIGS, using a tried and tested modus operandi: blitz attacks by fighters on motorcycles. Hundreds of soldiers had been killed.

These setbacks had caused the Malian army, Nigerian and Burkinabe soldiers to retreat and regroup in stronger locations.

At least 11 coordinated attacks branded by GSIM hit Malian territory in late July. One of them took place in Kati, just outside Bamako and at the heart of the Malian military apparatus.

With AFP