BFF-33 Ten soldiers killed in central Mali ambush

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MALI-UNREST-AMBUSH

Ten soldiers killed in central Mali ambush

BAMAKO, Sept 4, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – At least 10 Malian soldiers were
killed in an overnight ambush in a central region near the Mauritanian
border where armed jihadist groups are rampant, security and local
sources said Friday.

It is the third time Malian security forces have suffered heavy
losses since the military took power in a coup on August 18.

According to an internal security ministry report seen by AFP, 10
soldiers were killed, including a senior officer, in the attack in
Guire and four vehicles were torched.

An elected official from the Guire region confirmed the toll.

“In the night, shots prevented us from sleeping, it looked like
bombs, our houses were shaking,” the official told AFP by phone.

A local administrator speaking on condition of anonymity said men
on motorcycles had been in the area since Monday. Four Malian soldiers
were killed and 12 others wounded on August 27 in a jihadist ambush
near the central town of Mopti, before the army killed 20 enemy
fighters, it said.

The army said it also suffered major equipment losses.

Four soldiers had been killed five days earlier when their vehicle
was hit by a bomb.

That incident also occurred in central Mali, a volatile,
ethnically-diverse region that has been badly affected by the jihadist
revolt.

– Army ill-equipped –

The troubled West African country was plunged into further crisis
when a military junta ousted president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita,
shocking Mali’s neighbours, which fear the fragile state already
battling jihadism and an economic slump may slide into chaos.

The fourth coup in Mali’s 60 years as an independent nation came as
the situation was getting increasingly unmanageable.

The ill-equipped army has the Herculean task of securing an area
two-and-a-half times the size of France from different groups allied
to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State and various militia groups, some
fighting for the government and others against.

Troops rotations are not fixed and soldiers can remain on hostile
terrain in barracks susceptible to attacks for up to nine months at a
stretch.

“The state of the army is catastrophic. Can you imagine that the
defence minister while visiting the ground at the end of 2019 learnt
that the soldiers did not have water in the camp?” former security
adviser Kissima Gakou said. It is increasingly clear that the Malian
army is not up to the task of ousting the jihadists without the
backing of foreign allies like France, which has deployed over 5,000
soldiers in West Africa.

The military has also been blighted by repeated accusations of
killing and looting civilians in the guise of anti-terrorist
operations.

Corruption is another major problem. Junior soldiers accuse
officers of stealing money “to swagger in the drawing rooms of
Bamako,” as one put it.

In 2014, a report on soldier’s kits found socks being sold for 35
euros a pair when the average salary of a soldier was 2 euros a day.

The coup leaders have promised to build a “New Mali” and hand over
power to civilians.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2152hrs