At least 16 soldiers have been killed in a raid on an army camp in central Mali‘s Mopti region, two local councillors in the area where the attack happened said.
The base is in the village of Dioura, the mayor of the nearest town Kareri, Youssouf Coulibaly, told Reuters by telephone from inside the base on Sunday.
“I’m currently inside the base and there were many deaths here. We have counted 16 so far,” Coulibaly said. Army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone confirmed the attack but gave no further details.
A second military source told AFP that the troops had tried to fight off the attackers.
“Our men responded … We don’t have an exact toll yet but there is a lot of damage,” he said.
A foreign security source said efforts were under way to determine how many people had died.
Central Mali has in the past few years been overrun by fighters with links to al-Qaeda.
Violence by fighter groups has worsened almost every year since it first started in Mali in 2012 when rebel fighters and allied Tuareg rebels took over the north and advanced towards the capital Bamako, until a French-led intervention pushed them back the following year.
Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) used central and northern Mali as a launch pad for growing numbers of attacks across the Sahel region, especially on neighbours Niger and Burkina Faso, despite the presence of 4,500 French troops, UN peacekeepers, a strong French military contingent and the creation of a five-nation military force in the region.
Violence has not abated in Mali which suffered 237 attacks in 2018, UN figures show.
Central Mali is the locus of the Macina Liberation Front, led by preacher Amadou Koufa.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly claimed in November that Koufa had been killed in a raid by French forces.
But at the end of last month, Koufa appeared in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces.