Attack in Tessit, Mali: new toll of 42 soldiers killed

Attack on Tessit, Mali: new toll of 42 soldiers killed

The Tessit attack is the deadliest attributed to jihadists against Malian forces since 2019 (archives).

Forty-two Malian soldiers were killed Sunday in northeastern Mali, near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger, in the deadliest attack attributed to jihadists against Malian forces since 2019, according to a new report. report.

This new report comes from an official document listing the names of the deceased soldiers, authenticated on Wednesday by several senior military officials to AFP. The previous one indicated 17 soldiers and 4 civilians killed.

This is the heaviest official toll for the Malian army since the series of attacks at the end of 2019-early 2020 by the Islamic State group on military camps in this same region of the three borders.

This attack on Sunday comes as Mali, which pushed the old French ally out and ardently relaunched cooperation with Moscow, has for several weeks been facing a resurgence of attacks from the GSIM nebula.

Among the four civilians killed, some of them were local elected officials, relatives of the victims told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The statement also claimed that seven enemies died in the attack, attackers believed to be from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara [EIGS] and benefiting from drone and artillery support with the use of explosives and vehicle bomb.

The Tessit area, located on the Malian side of the so-called three-border zone, in a huge rural region not controlled by the state, is frequently the scene of clashes and attacks.

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Armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda, gathered under the leadership of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, JNIM in Arabic), have been fighting the EIGS group there since 2020 , affiliated with the EI organization.

Jihadists seek to take control of this strategic and gold-bearing area.

The Malian army, based in a military camp near the town of Tessit, has also often been attacked in this region. In March 2021, thirty-three soldiers from Tessit's relief had been killed in an ambush claimed by EIGS.

In this area, sometimes called the Malian Gourma, operate also peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali.

As for civilians, as elsewhere in Mali, they are caught in the crossfire of these actors in the conflict, and accused of being allies with one when they are not with the other. In February, about forty of them had been killed by the EIGS in Tessit, accused of complicity with Al-Qaeda.

The inhabitants of the area, regularly cut off from the telephone network for several years and all the more landlocked in the rainy season, have fled by the thousands, in particular to the large neighboring city of Gao, some 150 km to the north.

This area of ​​the three borders had been the scene at the end of 2019-beginning of 2020 of the series of deadliest attacks that the three countries concerned had known since the outbreak of the conflict in 2012, in northern Mali.< /p>

More than a dozen isolated camps in which the Sahelian soldiers were entrenched had been the targets of the EIGS according to a proven modus operandi: the lightning attack of fighters on motorcycles. Hundreds of soldiers had been killed.

These setbacks had prompted the Malian army, as well as the Nigerien and Burkinabè soldiers, to withdraw and regroup in stronger places .

A military burst was announced in January 2020 during a Franco-Sahelian summit in Pau (south-west of France). The EIGS had been designated enemy n°1 and numerous operations, French and Sahelian, had been carried out on the three borders.

Many leaders of the jihadist group were killed in 2020 and 2021, primarily its founder Abou Walid Al-Sahraoui, in August 2021. But, say several residents and experts, the group has never stopped recruiting and operating.< /p>

In late July, at least 11 coordinated and GSIM-branded attacks hit Malian territory. One of them took place in Kati, at the gates of Bamako and at the heart of the Malian military apparatus.

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