Twin attacks in Mali this week have killed 16 soldiers and wounded 18, the army said late on March 22, in the latest violence sweeping the Sahel state.
The statement lifted the casualty toll of four soldiers dead and 17 injured in separate attacks on March 21 in the northeast and centre of the conflict-torn country.
Thirty-seven “terrorists” were also killed during the attacks, and weapons and munitions captured, the army said.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for one of the attacks on March 21 on a military outpost in northeastern Mali.
An impoverished nation of 21 million people, Mali has struggled to contain a jihadist insurgency that emerged in 2012, before spreading to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the brutal conflict and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes.
Mali’s ruling military junta, which seized power in 2020, stated on March 22 that jihadists were being “routed”.
However, its latest claimed military successes have come at a high human cost.
An ambush on a army camp in the centre of country on March 4 killed 27 soldiers, for example, in the deadliest reported attack against the army in several months. The military said it killed 70 militants in the fighting.
Poor access to Mali’s conflict areas and a relative lack of independent information sources means that figures provided by either the government or jihadist groups are difficult to verify.
Islamic State (IS) claimed an attack on a military outpost in Tessit in northeastern Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso and Niger, on March 21.
“The mujahideen took full control over the military base and torched it,” the group said in a statement, verified by SITE Intelligence which monitors jihadist activities worldwide.
IS added that it had also captured seven vehicles and taken a “quantity of ammunition and weapons as spoils”.
The same day, unidentified militants ambushed a patrol in Boni in central Mali.
Mali’s army vowed on March 22 to maintain their “dynamic offensive to seek out and destroy terrorists and their sanctuaries”.
The latest flare-up of violence comes amid changes to the army’s modus operandi.
Mali’s government has said that Russian advisers are in the country to help the military. However, the US and France say they are paramilitaries from Russia’s controversial Wagner private security firm.
France, which intervened in Mali in 2013, decided last month to withdraw its forces in the country after a decade-long fight against jihadists.
Vast swathes of Mali lie beyond government control due to the brutal conflict, and jihadist attacks have begun to spread into coastal African states, such as Benin.
Insecurity in the Sahel region has also gone hand in hand with political instability. Mali’s military has staged two coups since 2020. Burkina Faso’s army seized power in January.