Jihadi rebels have attacked Mali’s Kati military base on the outskirts of the capital city Bamako, the ruling junta confirmed Friday.
It’s the first time Kati, Mali’s largest military base, has been targeted by extremist rebels in the more than 10-year insurgency in the West African country.
Two vehicles loaded with explosives detonated at the camp at about 5 a.m., according to a statement issued by the military.
“The Malian Armed Forces vigorously repelled a terrorist attack on the Kati barracks,” said the statement, which indicated that two attackers were killed.
“The situation is under control and a sweep is underway to find the perpetrators and their accomplices,” said the statement.
Friday’s attack on the Kati barracks follows a coordinated series of insurgent attacks Thursday. In one of those incidents, the extremists attacked a police base in Kolokani, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Bamako and two Malian soldiers were killed, said the military in a statement.
The leader of Mali’s ruling junta Lt. Col. Assimi Goita frequently stays at the Kati camp, where he launched the 2020 coup that brought him to power.
Jihadi rebels linked to al Qaida and the Islamic State group have been fighting an insurgency in Mali for more than a decade. Their attacks have mostly been in northern Mali but recently the extremists have moved into central Mali. In recent weeks they have moved closer to the capital.
Last week gunmen attacked an army checkpoint about 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside Bamako, killing at least six people and wounding several others, officials said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to be by the al-Qaida-linked rebel group known as JNIM that has carried out several other attacks around Bamako.
The attacks show “how the al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin continues to expand its operations outside its traditional strongholds in northern and central Mali,” said Heni Nsaibia, a senior researcher at The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
“As in other Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger … major cities including the capitals themselves, are increasingly surrounded by a steady spread of Islamist militancy that poses an ever-increasing risk and challenge to the security environment.”
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions.