Sixteen soldiers killed in central Mali attack

Malian army soldiers get ready ahead of the National Day military parade on September 22, 2018 in Bamako, Mali. Getty Images

Sixteen soldiers were killed and 10 wounded in an attack in central Mali on Wednesday, security and health officials in the war-torn Sahel state said.

In a statement, Mali’s army said the troops had been the target of a “complex IED attack”, referring to an improvised explosive device, and then came under heavy gunfire shortly before 11:30 am.

The army blamed the attack on suspected militants and said that after pursuit, 15 of the assailants were killed and 20 motorcycles seized.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Central Mali has become one of the most violent hotspots of the Sahel-wide conflict, where ethnic killings and attacks on government forces are frequent.

Laying roadside bombs, or IEDs is a common tactic of militant groups in the region.

Four Malian soldiers were killed by an IED blast in the region on September 20. A jihadist ambush also killed five soldiers in central Mali on September 12.

Both those attacks were claimed by the al-Qaeda-aligned Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

GSIM also said that it was responsible for an attack on a mining convoy in western Mali on September 28, which killed five gendarmes.