The Malian army said Monday it had carried out an operation against jihadists in the troubled northeast of the country, where militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have widened their control.
A dozen “terrorists,” as well as equipment, were captured in the operation on Sunday in the Menaka region, the military said in a statement.
The fighting took place in a desert area where the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) has recently gained ground against a disparate constellation of rivals — the al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), government troops and local Tuareg-dominated armed groups.
The military urged local armed groups to “coordinate their movements with the Malian armed forces.” It referenced a 2015 cooperation pact that has been suspended because of tensions between these groups and Mali’s ruling junta.
Northern Mali was the starting point of unrest in 2012 that flared into a jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives, forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and fuelled two coups.
On Saturday, 10 civilians and three soldiers were killed and 88 jihadists “neutralised” in incidents across Mali, according to the government.
In the biggest incident, suspected jihadists attacked the Sevare airport area in the central region of Mopti, detonating car bombs and killing 10 civilians and injuring 61 others, it said.
The blasts destroyed some houses in the airport’s surrounding area, which is home to a Malian military camp.
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 2022 began working with what it calls Russian military “instructors”. Opponents say these are mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group.