Mali’s military government says coordinated insurgent attacks on Wednesday killed 15 troops and three civilians, while leaving scores of militants dead. Analysts say the attacks show increasing insecurity in the West African country following the withdrawal of French forces.
The attacks were launched Wednesday against military targets in Mopti, a city in central Mali, as well as in Sokolo and Kalumba, also in central Mali. The Malian army issued a statement saying it “neutralized” 48 militants.
In it, the chief of staff of the armed forces reassured Malians and called on observers not to be deceived by the recent acts of an adversary losing momentum. According to the analysis of the chief of staff, the recent attacks, which confirm signals and clues previously detected and identified by the army, show the final throes of armed terrorist groups on Malian territory.
Fodie Tandjigora, a sociology professor at the University of Bamako and researcher on security in Mali for several organizations, said from Bamako that despite such assurances, the situation in Mali is getting worse, and has entered a new phase in which Islamist militants are able to better organize and carry out simultaneous, planned attacks.
Militants also launched a series of attacks last week in several localities, before attacking Kati, a town just 15 kilometers from Bamako and home to the army’s main military base.
Tandjigora says these attacks are meant to send a message.
It’s a message, he said, not only towards public opinion, but also and especially to the international community, to say that ultimately the Malian army, contrary to the impression which has been conveyed by them, does not have the ability to maintain security on Malian territory.
Insecurity has been mounting in Mali in recent months, as the French army completes the process of withdrawing from the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron is currently visiting several countries in West Africa, where France continues to send military support to some of them in the fight against extremism.
The French army was primarily active in Mali’s north. Macron announced the withdrawal of troops in February, following increasing tensions with Mali’s military government, and concerns about the government working with Russian mercenaries.
Reports of mercenaries committing human rights abuses have been published by Human Rights Watch and several international media outlets since March.
Tandjigora said that public opinion in Mali is widely in favor of a Russian intervention, which many hope can end the country’s rampant insecurity. He said that though Mali maintains that it only works with official Russian instructors, whether official soldiers or mercenaries, the presence of these soldiers has had little effect on the security situation.
Tandjigora also said that the state is failing to address widespread misinformation circulating on social networks, which has contributed to increasing tensions in the country.