At least 10 killed, dozens wounded in central Mali attack

Attack took place in Sevare near a military camp that hosts Malian forces, UN peacekeepers and Russian Wagner fighters.

Soldiers of the Malian army manning a machine gun during a patrol on the road between Mopti and Djenne, in central Mali, on February 28, 2020.
Soldiers of the Malian army are seen during a patrol on the road between Mopti and Djenne, in central Mali, in this photo from 2020 [File: Michele Cattani/AFP]

At least 10 people have been killed and dozens of others wounded in a bomb attack near a military camp and airport in central Mali, according to an official and a military spokesperson.

Yacouba Maiga, a spokesperson for the regional governor, told the Reuters news agency that more than 60 people were wounded in the attack in the town of Sevare in the Mopti region early on Saturday.

“The blast destroyed about 20 houses in the neighbourhood. There are a total of nine dead and about 60 wounded, all civilians,” Maiga said.

Colonel Souleymane Dembele, the spokesperson for the Malian army, told the Associated Press news agency that at least 10 people were killed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

In separate incidents on Saturday, the Malian army “destroyed a terrorist sanctuary in Mourdiah and neutralised some 60 terrorists in Boni”, the government said in a statement. Boni is also in the Mopti region.

Also on Saturday, a Malian air force helicopter crashed in a residential neighbourhood of the capital Bamako, killing three military crew members and injuring six civilians, the government statement said. It said the crash occurred “following a typical aerial surveillance operation of Bamako”.

Images shared on social media from the Sevare attack showed several buildings, including a petrol station, destroyed by the blast as well as wounded people being given assistance.

Residents of Sevare said they were going to morning prayers at the mosque when they heard a loud explosion. “We heard gunfire. It was total confusion,” Ousmane Diallo, a villager in the area, told AP.

Earlier on Saturday, the West African country’s government said in a statement read on national television that “a terrorist attack” had been stopped by the army in Sevare.

“Three vehicles filled with explosives were destroyed by army drone fire,” the statement said, without giving further details on casualties.

‘A complex attack’

Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar, Senegal, said the attack happened at 5am when most residents would have been asleep.

He added that the government described the incident as “a complex attack” at the airport in Sevare, which is home to a Malian security forces base, UN peacekeepers and Russian fighters from the Wagner group.

“No one has claimed responsibility for this attack,” he said, adding that the governor in the region asked residents to urgently donate blood due to the high number of casualties.

The attack comes days after ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda affiliate groups reportedly took control of parts of the region.

Lassane Ouedraogo Wedraogo, a research fellow focusing on the Sahel region at the Centre for Democracy and Development, said the attack most likely targeted Wagner mercenaries stationed at the camp.

He said it is hard to pinpoint the group responsible for the attack as many armed groups are active in the region.

“But so far everything is pointing towards the JNIM group because it is the type of attack they would do,” he said, using the initials for the Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin group, adding that they have recently criticised the presence of Wagner forces in Mali.

Wagner mercenaries, which have been deployed to Mali and the Central African Republic, are currently also fighting in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies