At least 10 Malian soldiers killed in latest attack in hard-hit northern region

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — At least 10 government soldiers were killed Tuesday during an attack by armed groups in northern Mali, the nation’s armed forces said, amid ongoing deadly violence in the hard-hit region and as United Nations peacekeepers continue their withdrawal.

A coalition of former rebels known as the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development claimed responsibility for the attack in the city of Bourem in Gao region and said they have captured parts of the city. The development signaled a failure of a 2015 agreement which the former rebels signed with Malian authorities to stop their rebellion.

Malian security forces repelled “the attack with booby-trapped vehicles by several terrorists aboard several vehicles and motorcycles in the locality of Bourem,” according to a statement issued by Col. Souleymane Dembelé, a spokesman for the Malian Armed Forces. He said 13 soldiers were wounded in the incident while 46 of the attackers were killed.

Claiming responsibility for the attack in an earlier statement on Tuesday the former rebels also said they have “begun operations by taking several positions” in Bourem, a small city where jihadi groups have also been fighting the security forces.

Tuesday’s attack comes days after jihadi fighters killed 49 civilians and 15 government soldiers when they targeted a passenger boat near the city of Timbuktu on the Niger River and a military position in Bamba further downstream in Gao.

The violence by the jihadi groups is worsened by recent attacks by the former rebels, who are Tuareg independence fighters that drove security forces out of northern Mali in 2012 as they sought to create the state of Azawad in northern Mali before the 2015 agreement with the government to cease fighting.

In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. He developed ties to Russia’s military and Russia’s Wagner mercenary group but authorities have struggled to end the violence in parts of the country.