At least two soldiers have been killed and several others wounded in an attack by unidentified fighters on the headquarters of an African military taskforce in central Mali.
The assault on Friday on the G5 Sahel taskforce – a security mission composed of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania – in the town of Sevare was perpetrated by an unknown number of assailants who used rockets and a vehicle rigged with explosives to attack the compound, a spokesperson for the Malian defence ministry said.
Diaran Kone, a spokesman for the Malian army, said two members of the army and two “terrorists” had been killed, according to DPA news agency. He added that four army members had also been injured and some arrests had been made.
In comments to the Associated Press, G5 Sahel spokesman Abdoul Salam Diagana also said that two soldiers were killed but warned that the death toll “will evolve” as there were several injuries.
He also said two attackers were killed, with two others captured.
But the mayor of nearby Mopti town told the Reuters news agency that six soldiers were killed in the attack.
Violence by armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in the arid, sparsely populated Sahel region have risen in recent years with armed factions exploiting the security vacuum in northern Mali to launch attacks across the region.
A hollow state presence has left millions at the mercy of the inhospitable climate and non-state armed groups.
Lawlessness, insecurity and impoverishment have long plagued the Sahel, an area traversing Central and West Africa where many are living in a permanent state of neglect.
Despite the presence of peacekeepers and French troops, armed groups have taken advantage of porous borders and ungoverned areas to spread into other parts of the Sahel.
Western powers, including France and the United States, have provided significant funding to the G5 in a bid to beat back the armed groups and take the pressure off their thousands of troops deployed to the zone.
But the force has been slow to get off the ground, hobbled by delays disbursing the money and coordinating among the different countries.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies