Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday (November 8) in support of the country’s armed forces after more than 50 soldiers died in an attack on an army post in the north.
Fifty-three soldiers and one civilian were killed in Indelimane, Menaka region on November 1. It was the deadliest strike against Mali’s military in recent memory. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the strike which was one of the deadliest against the West African country’s military in recent memory.
The attack in Indelimane, Menaka region, on November 1 started with shellfire from heavily armed and unidentified men, a government spokesman said. On Friday (november 8), officials said soldiers had left the military outpost of Anderhaboucane, 85km from Menaka on Wednesday (November 6), fearing a similar attack. They said the soldiers complained that they did not have enough equipment to defeat this type of assailants.
France also lost a soldier the next day after his vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device.
A group of demonstrators calling for cooperation with Russia said they were angry at the French forces for failing to restore peace.
The largely Saharan nation has been in turmoil since Tuareg separatists and allied jihadists took control of more than half the country in a rebellion in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year.
A 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups has failed to end the violence. Islamists have also staged assaults on high-profile targets in the capital, Bamako, and in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back fighters who had hijacked a Tuareg uprising a year earlier, and some 4,000 French troops remain there. The U.N. Security Council then deployed peacekeepers, which have been targets of a concerted guerrilla campaign.
The President’s visit
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita visited soldiers wounded in an attack on an army post in the north of the country this month.
“Be vigilant. We are at war, we are not in a time of peace. Our attitude needs to change, our posture needs to change we cannot continue as we did in the past,” said the President.
During the visit filmed by the national television channel ORTM, one soldier said he appealed for more equipment and another said he wanted the army to change tactics and have a more offensive strategy.
Speaking to the soldiers, the president repeated a message he made to the nation after the attack, saying the country is at war against jihadists.
The attack on Indelimane follows jihadist raids in late September that underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed groups operating in the region.
From their stronghold in Mali, groups with al Qaeda and Islamic State links have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilising parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.