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Mali military camp is attacked a day after 49 civilians and 15 soldiers were killed in assaults

The Columbian
Published: September 8, 2023, 10:31am

BAMAKO, Mali — A military camp in Mali’s restive north was attacked Friday, a day after two separate assaults by al-Qaida-linked insurgents killed 49 civilians and 15 government soldiers, the military said.

“Response and evaluation in progress,” the armed forces said in a statement about Friday’s attack on a Malian military camp in the Gao region.

Thursday’s attacks targeted a passenger boat near the city of Timbuktu on the Niger River and a military position in Bamba farther downstream in Gao, the military junta said in a statement. It said responsibility for the attacks was claimed by JNIM, an umbrella coalition of armed groups aligned with al-Qaida. The group issued a statement Friday saying it also attacked the military camp.

The Niger River serves as an important transportation route in Mali, where roads are inadequate.

Mali is ranked the sixth least developed nation in the world, according to the United Nations human development index. Nearly half of the West African country’s 22 million people live below the national poverty line. The situation is worse in rural areas where deadly jihadi attacks have threatened subsistence farming — many peoples’ only real option for making money.

Thursday’s attack targeted a triple-decker passenger boat near the village of Zarho, about 55 miles east of Timbuktu. The statement said the government killed about 50 assailants while responding to the attacks. It declared three days of national mourning to honor the civilians and soldiers killed in the attacks.

Malian army spokesman Souleymane Dembélé attributed the high death toll to the inability of some of the boat’s passengers to swim, suggesting some might have drowned.

“When the boat was attacked, the soldiers on board exchanged fire with the terrorists. Unfortunately, many civilians who couldn’t swim jumped into the water,” Dembélé told the AP.