At least four soldiers, two civilians and five assailants were killed in an attack, attributed to jihadist groups, on a locality where a military camp is located, Tessit, in the so-called three-border zone between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the Malian army said Monday.
The toll could be “much higher” for the Malian army, said several sources on the ground who could not be named for security reasons. The two civilians are locally elected officials, relatives of the victims said.
The Tessit sector, located on the Malian side of the Tri-border area, in a vast rural zone not controlled by the state, is frequently the scene of clashes and attacks.
Armed groups affiliated to al-Qaeda, under the umbrella of the Groupe de soutien à l’Islam et aux musulmans (GSIM, JNIM in Arabic), are fighting the Islamic State’s group in the Greater Sahara (EIGS). The jihadists are seeking control of this strategic and gold-rich area.
The Malian army, based in a military camp next to the town of Tessit, has often been attacked in this region. In this area, sometimes called the “Malian Gourma”, there are also peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali and, until a few months ago, French soldiers from the Barkhane operation.
As for civilians, as elsewhere in Mali, they are caught in the crossfire between these actors in the conflict, and accused of being allied with one when they are not with the other. Thousands of the inhabitants of the area have fled, notably to the large neighboring town of Gao, some 150 km away.