Jihadist Attackers in Mali. credit: Agenzia Fides
By AFP - Agence France Presse
December 14, 2023
An attack in central Mali this week, blamed on jihadists, left dozens of soldiers and civilians dead, local sources said Thursday.
However the Malian army reported only that it had repelled a "terrorist" attack on the Farabougou camp on Tuesday, without mentioning casualties.
Central Mali is a hotbed of the violence that is plaguing the Sahel region.
As elsewhere in the country, gathering and verifying information is complicated by the difficulty in accessing remote sites or independent sources.
The Mali authorities, dominated by the colonels who took power by force in 2020, are reluctant to talk about losses suffered and claim to have the upper hand over the armed groups.
A local politician, speaking on condition of anonymity for his own safety, told AFP that "the jihadist attack on Farabougou left around sixty soldiers and civilians dead".
He also reported that some people were missing since the attack.
The army camp fell into the hands of the jihadists who, following their usual modus operandi, then quickly left the scene, he added.
"If we count the military and civilian dead and the people we haven't heard from, that's at least 62 people," said another resident who also insisted on remaining anonymous.
He himself said he had no news of two of his brothers.
"I don't know if they have been killed or if they are on the run or in hiding."
A government employee also spoke of "dozens and dozens of victims" and reported that Farabougou, a town of a few thousand inhabitants, had been emptied.
The army acknowledged on Thursday that an attack had taken place, saying in a brief statement that it had delivered "a vigorous response that repelled a terrorist attack targeting the Farabougou camp".
Since 2012, Mali has been battling an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north of the vast West African state, claiming thousands of military and civilian lives.
Violence has subsequently swept the country while spilling over into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger -- inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.
After seizing power three years ago, Mali's junta ditched the country's alliance with former colonial power France, preferring rapprochement with Moscow.
The junta has also ordered out the UN's Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which had for the past decade maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in the country.
The withdrawal, which is due to be completed this month, has exacerbated tensions between the military and rebel groups.
Farabougou is in the Niono Cercle region, which has been hard hit for years by violence from the Al-Qaeda-linked coalition Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), as well as from self-defence groups based on traditional Dozo hunters.
In 2020, the town became a symbol of the unrest when it was besieged by jihadists. Mali's new strongman, Colonel Assimi Goïia, who had come to power in a putsch a few weeks earlier, visited the area to test the authorities' ability to restore security.
The army later returned to Farabougou.
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