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At least 19 soldiers were killed in an attack on central Mali camp

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — 19 Malian soldiers were killed and five wounded in a massive attack attributed to jihadists on a camp in Sokolu, central Mali, on Sunday morning, according to an endless toll announced by the army.

“The site is under the control of the Malian armed forces,” the Malian army said on Twitter. “The place is being combed, and a Malian military plane has flown overhead. The initial toll includes 19 dead and 5 wounded, in addition to theft of equipment and other damage.”

The village of Sokolo is located near the town of Nyuno, near the city of Sego (center), where jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda are active. Sokolo is the last town in Mali before the border with Mauritania.

– 100 attackers.

“The number of attackers exceeded 100. They took their dead with them. They did not attack any of the villagers, so we were able to help the wounded and collect the victims before the (military) reinforcements arrived,” a resident of Sokolu Baba Gaku told AFP.

“They came at five in the morning (local time and GMT) … and the shooting stopped at seven,” Gaku added.

According to the eyewitness, “the (assailants) took all the cars and weapons of the army” that were in the camp.

A foreign source told France Press that “at least nine military vehicles were stolen.”

“All the soldiers belong to the gendarmerie,” said an elected local representative, who declined to be named for security reasons.

He added that the aggressors “came in motorcycles and were armed with weapons. They entered the camp and took many equipment.”

– “Mess” in the camp.

“Anarchy prevailed,” a local source working in the humanitarian field, who managed to enter the camp after the supposed jihadists left, told AFP.

“Inside the camp we counted at least 15 bodies of military personnel. All the military equipment was stolen, and we felt that the attackers knew what they were doing.”

Reinforcements were brought in from the town of Diabali, which is about ten kilometers away, according to a Malian military source.

Central Mali, like the two neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger, has witnessed an escalation of jihadist attacks against the military and civilians in recent months, without the local and foreign forces present in the region being able to stop them.

The number of victims of violence in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has quadrupled since 2016 to 4,000 people in 2019, according to the United Nations. The conflict in the coast has displaced hundreds of thousands.

French presidency staff said Thursday that its fighting force for jihadists in the desert coast, which bears the name “Barkhan”, has “neutralized” more than 30 jihadists in central Mali during the past week, in reference to their killing.

It also indicated that 5 other jihadist elements were killed on 19 January in a strike by a drone on a site not far from the Niger border.

Barkhan has announced that “dozens” of jihadists have been “neutralized” since December.

In January, France sent 220 soldiers to reinforce its strength in the 4,500-strong coast.

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