Armed group kills 17 soldiers at Mali base - ministry
20 July 2016, 13:22
Bamako – Seventeen soldiers were killed and 35
wounded in central Mali on Tuesday in an assault on their base that authorities
called a "coordinated terrorist attack".
"The toll has increased: we have lost 17 men
and 35 are wounded," Mali's defence minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly said.
Authorities had earlier announced that 12 soldiers were killed.
Coulibaly called the assault a "coordinated
terrorist attack on our positions," but did not say who was responsible.
In the hours after the assaults two groups – one
jihadist, the other ethnic – both claimed to have carried out the raid on the
military camp in Nampala.
Islamist group Ansar Dine said in a message that it
carried out a "huge attack" that had killed "dozens of soldiers
and wound(ed) large numbers," according to the US-based group SITE that
monitors jihadist communications.
Ansar Dine, which is one of several active jihadist
groups roaming Mali's north, also claimed to have taken control of the army
barracks and carried off a large quantity of "spoils".
Earlier on Tuesday, a group from the ethnic Peul
community, calling themselves the National Alliance for the Protection of Peul
Identity and Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ), said they had killed eight
troops in the attack.
'We are being careful'
"It was self-defence," Sidy Cisse, a
senior ANSIPRJ commander, told AFP, adding three of his men were hurt.
The group also claimed to have wounded 11 soldiers,
as well as making off with two trucks and five pick-up trucks.
Senior figures within ANSIPRJ are also members of a
Peul association that decried the murder of what it said were several Peuls
falsely accused of supporting jihadists active in the area.
Several security sources in the region told AFP
they doubted the veracity of the claim of responsibility from ANSIPRJ as the
group was only founded last month following inter-communal clashes in the area
and lacked the means to mount an attack.
Coulibaly said the government was aware "a
group had issued a claim. We are being careful."
"One thing is sure, this was a terrorist
action that targeted a military objective. So an appropriate military response
is forthcoming," he added.
The Malian government said the attackers would be
hunted down and punished, and that the military had control of Nampala.
Northern Mali has seen repeated violence since it
fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels who allied with jihadist groups
linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.
But attacks are now becoming more frequent in the
country's centre, close to its borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, both from
criminal and jihadist elements.
Although Islamists were largely ousted by an
ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, sporadic
attacks from desert hideouts are common.