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At least 40 people have been killed and 60 more are missing following an attack by extremists on two military camps in Mali, the country's government said. An al-Qaida-linked group is accused of being behind it.
The Mali government said on Tuesday that al-Qaida-affiliated groups attacked military bases in central Mali. At least 40 people have been killed in the attacks, with another 60 people missing. The government reported that 25 soldiers and 15 extremists were killed in the fighting.
The attacks took place at similar times at the military bases in Boulikessi and Mondoro on Monday.
At the Boulikessi camp, insurgents with links to al-Qaida attacked the regional G5 Sahel Force. The group used heavy weaponry in the attack and caused "heavy equipment losses and major damage," Malian government spokesman Yaya Sangare said in a statement.
After exchange of gunfire the Mali military managed to retake control of the camp. It claims to have killed 15 insurgents and five of their vehicles.
In the near-simultaneous attack at the Mondoro camp a local resident reported that two civilians were among the casualties. It is not known how many people were injured and killed in each separate attack.
G5 Sahel Force commander Gen. Oumarou Namatou Gazama blamed a group called Ansarul Islam for the attack at the Boulikessi camp, calling them a "terrorist group."
A joint force with soldiers from neighboring Burkina Faso was pursuing the extremists behind the attacks, the government said in a statement. The soldiers will be supported by French troops stationed in the region.
Violence spreading to Burkina Faso
The G5 Sahel Force is made up of soldiers from Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. It was established in 2017 to combat extremist fighters in the Sahel region.
But the scale facing the G5 group is huge. In July, the UN said Islamist attacks were spreading so fast in West Africa that the region should consider bolstering its response beyond current military efforts. Fighting between armed groups has spilled over the border into Burkina Faso to the south of Mali.
Nearly 30 people have been killed in Burkina Faso's Bam province the past two weeks, including 17 over the weekend, according
to the provincial high commissioner, Ambrose Ouedraogo.
The violence in the municipalities of Zimtenga and Bourzanga in Burkina Faso has displaced nearly 19,000 people in the past three days, he said.
There is also an ongoing international effort and Germany, as of July 2019, has 372 troops contributing to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, named MINUSMA.
At a recent September summit in Burkina Faso West African leaders pledged $1 billion to combat the violence.
kmm, ed/ng (AP, Reuters, dpa)