A “terrorist attack” on a military post in strife-torn northeastern Mali has left 49 soldiers dead, the army said Saturday, revising downward an earlier death toll.
The assault on Friday at Indelimane, in the Menaka region, close to the border with Niger, was one of the deadliest strikes against Mali’s military in a region wracked by Islamist violence.
The Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) “have recorded 49 dead, three wounded and material damage, and some 20 survivors have been recovered,” it said on its Facebook page on Saturday.
“The situation is under FAMa control.”
The government on Friday had said 53 people died in what it described as a “terrorist attack.”
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
An army officer said troops arrived at the outpost around 5pm on Friday and “took back control of our positions.
“The terrorists carried out a surprise attack at lunchtime. Army vehicles were destroyed, others taken away,” he told AFP.
The army and the government announced Friday that reinforcements were sent to the area.
The attacks comes a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso. However several sources said the death toll had been underestimated.
Mali’s army has been struggling in the face of a jihadist revolt that has spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and volatile region.
The recent assaults are also a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force — a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries created a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force — and for France, which is committed to shoring up the fragile region.
Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012.
A French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back a year later.
But the jihadists have regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.
The violence has also spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger where extremists have exploited existing inter-communal strife, leaving hundreds dead.