In a shocking development, at least 49 civilians and 15 government soldiers have been killed in two attacks by Islamist insurgents in the conflict-torn African nation of Mali, according to a provisional death tol by the country’s military junta on Wednesday.
As per the junta statement, the terrorists targeted a passenger boat near the Timbuktu city on Niger river and a Malian military position in Bamba in the Gao region. The Islamist extremist group Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which is said to be a coalition of armed groups linked with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack.
On the other hand, the Malian forces killed 50 attackers in response to the deadly attacks by the terrorist group, said the government. Three days of national mourning will be observed in Mali in wake of the deaths of civilians and soldiers.
Since late August, armed groups have blockaded the city of Timbuktu when the Malian Army deployed reinforcements, in an apparent bid to prevent the area from being supplied with basic goods. The situation has caused oiver 30,000 residents to flee the city, according to a UN report.
It is worth mentioning that the conflict-torn Mali came under military junta rule in 2020. Initially, the military enjoyed huge popular support after ousting then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, but now people are frustrated due to economic uncertainty, chronic insecurity and continued attacks by Islamist miliants.
According to BBC, Mali has made little progress in combating Islamist attacks in the country. As many as 790 civilians were killed in March last year – one of the deadliest months in Mali. The country has been the epicentre of Islamist violence for over a decade.
Islamist militants have since gained ground, spreading across the Sahel region to coastal West African nations like Burkina Faso and Niger – which recently witnessed another military coup ousting President Mohamed Bazoum.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is preparing to withdraw its 17,000-member peacekeeping mission – Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) – at the government’s request. The pullout will be completed by the end of the year. It is unknown whether this decision would deepen the crisis in Mali.
(with AP inputs)