BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Two attacks by Islamic insurgents in the restive north of Mali on Thursday killed 49 civilians and 15 government soldiers, according to a provisional death toll given by the country’s military junta.
A passenger boat near the city of Timbuktu on the Niger River and a Malian military position in Bamba further downstream in the Gao region were targeted, according to a statement from the military junta read on state television. It said the attacks have been claimed by Islamic extremist insurgent group JNIM, an umbrella coalition of armed groups aligned with al-Qaida.
The Malian government announcement said its forces, in responding to the attacks, killed some 50 assailants.
Three days of national mourning to honor the civilians and troops killed begin Friday.
Timbuktu has been blockaded by armed groups since late August, when the Malian army deployed reinforcements to the region. The insurgents are preventing the desert city from being supplied with basic goods.
Over 30,000 residents have fled the city and a nearby region, according to an August report by the United Nations’ humanitarian agency.
The deadly attacks come as the U.N. prepares to withdraw its 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission MINUSMA from Mali at the government’s request. The pullout is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities the following year with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies.
The growing insecurity in Mali has increased instability in West Africa’s volatile Sahel region. Mali has had two coups since 2020 in which the military vowed to stop the jihadi violence.
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