By Frank Kamuntu
At least 53 soldiers and one civilian have been killed in a jihadist attack on a military post in northern Mali, the government said on Saturday.
But despite the army describing it as a “terrorist attack,” no group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault
The attack was one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country’s military in recent history. The violence is expected to further raise tensions in the capital, Bamako, where military families have already protested in the streets.
Relatives say that soldiers have not been adequately protected on the ground as they face an array of jihadist groups. Mali has suffered sporadic violence since 2012, when Islamist militants took over the north of the country.
The country is still reeling from deadly jihadist raids in late September that underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed groups operating in the region.
A government spokesman, Yaya Sangare, said on Twitter on Saturday that; “54 bodies including one civilian, were found, along with 10 survivors, in the latest assault. The attack unleashed considerable material damage.” He however added that “The situation is under control.”
But when the authorities first reported the attack by armed men on the army post, they gave a lower provisional death toll.
From their stronghold in Mali, groups with ties to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been able to fan out violence across the Sahel, destabilizing parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
The violence on Friday took place a month after 41 soldiers were killed and 20 others went missing on September 30 during two coordinated assaults on two army bases in central Mali, which have since slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.