54 killed in militant attack on Mali army post

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 02.11.2019 11:06
Updated 03.11.2019 13:21
In this file photo taken on November 13, 2018  Malian soldiers stand beside a destroyed building and burnt cars in Gao, after a suicide car bomb attack overnight, which killed three people. (Photo by STR / AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 13, 2018 Malian soldiers stand beside a destroyed building and burnt cars in Gao, after a suicide car bomb attack overnight, which killed three people. (Photo by STR / AFP)

At least 53 soldiers and one civilian were killed in a militant attack on a military post in northern Mali on Friday, the government said.

The attack is one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country's military in recent memory. It is still reeling from terrorist raids in late September that underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed groups operating in the region.

"The dispatched reinforcements found 54 bodies including one civilian, 10 survivors, and found considerable material damage. The situation is under control," government spokesman Yaya Sangare said on Twitter in the early hours of Saturday.

The authorities first reported the attack by armed men on the army post in Indelimane, Menaka region in the northern part of the country bordering Niger on Friday, but gave a lower provisional death toll.

From their stronghold in Mali, groups with Al-Qaida and Daesh links have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilizing parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.

Thirty-eight Malian soldiers were killed on Sept. 30 in coordinated attacks on two army bases in central Mali, which has slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.

The European Union stressed its support for the government and the people of Mali in the fight against violence, a spokeswoman of EU foreign policy representative Federica Mogherini said Saturday. The stability of Mali and the whole region were a priority for the bloc, she added.

France's Elysee Palace confirmed on Saturday that a French soldier was among the dead. France, the former colonial power in the region, has deployed around 4,500 troops in Operation Barkhane to fight terrorism in the region.

Daesh claimed the attacks, its mouthpiece Amaq said on social media.

Mali's center and north have experienced regular flare-ups of violence and attacks in the wake of a 2012 military coup that saw separatist rebel groups and later al-Qaeda associated militants take control of the region.

French and African military operations, combined with the Malian army's efforts, have scattered militants and restored government control over the area, but rebel activities and military operations continue despite the signing of various peace agreements.

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