Ten civilians and three soldiers were killed and 88 jihadists “neutralised” in multiple incidents across Mali Saturday, the government said, in a wave of bloodshed it described as a resurgence of “terrorist incidents”.
Early Saturday morning, suspected jihadists attacked the Sevare airport area in the central Mopti region, detonating car bombs, which killed 10 civilians and injured 61 others, the government said in a statement.
The blasts destroyed some houses in the airport’s surrounding area, which is home to a Malian military camp.
“Thanks to the legendary determination of our valiant Armed Forces, operating exclusively with their own resources, the attackers were routed and 28 terrorists were neutralised”, it said.
A local elected official earlier told AFP that Senegalese soldiers from the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, were involved in the fighting.
MINUSMA’s camp covers four hectares (nearly 10 acres) next to the airport and the Malian army camp.
“MINUSMA strongly condemns the 22 April attacks on the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) camp in Sevare and the nearby car bombings that killed and injured civilians… Shots were also fired toward the MINUSMA camp,” the mission said in a statement Saturday.
“MINUSMA declares its readiness to provide all necessary support to the Malian authorities to conduct the required investigations.”
Two local elected officials and a diplomatic source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, referred to the base as a “Russian” camp.
Mali’s junta in 2022 began working with what it calls Russian military “instructors”. Opponents say these are mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group.
“It is the Russian camp and their planes that have been targeted — the camp is near the airport,” an elected official told AFP.
In separate incidents on Saturday, the Malian army “destroyed a terrorist sanctuary in Mourdiah and neutralised some 60 terrorists in Boni,” the government statement said.
Boni is also in Mopti, while Mourdiah is in the Koulikoro region near the border with Mauritania.
“A supply mission of the Malian Armed Forces was ambushed just 10 kilometres from Mourdiah on the road to Nara,” the governorate of Nara said in a statement earlier on Saturday.
The area around Nara was also the site of an ambush on an official delegation on Tuesday.
The chief of staff of Mali’s transitional president and at least two others died in that attack, which was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM).
Also on Saturday, an air force helicopter crashed in a residential neighbourhood of the capital Bamako, killing three military crew members and injuring six civilians, the government statement said.
It said the crash occurred “following a typical aerial surveillance operation of Bamako”.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a military source told AFP earlier on Saturday that the helicopter had been returning “from the Mauritanian border where it had intervened against jihadists”.
Saturday’s bloodshed took place a day after Mali celebrated the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
“For several days now, there has been a resurgence of perfidious terrorist incidents,” the government said in the statement.
“These recent synchronised terrorist incidents are part of the same diabolical plan, with a view to annihilating the will of the Transitional Authorities to pursue the Refoundation and the securing of Mali”, it added.
Mali has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north of the country in 2012.
It has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism and turned militarily and politically toward Russia.