Mali mourns soldiers killed in deadliest attack by Jihadists on the country.
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Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Monday declared three days of mourning after a militant attack on an army base killed more than 50 soldiers over the weekend.
Army sources in the country said that 49 of the soldiers were killed on Friday by motorbike-riding gunmen, during a surprise attack on the Indelimane military base, near Menaka northeastern region of Gao near the border with Niger.
A branch of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has claimed responsibility for the attacks at the army post constructed with the help of the 13,000 strong UN Peace-keeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA.
Hit and run attacks
The weekend was also marked by the death of a French soldier serving with the Barkhane Force.
He was killed in the same Gao region, when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.
At least 40 troops were killed in a double attack near the Burkina Faso border just a month ago.
Mali is one of five Sahel countries alongside Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Chad which have been fighting a jihadist insurgency.
Northern Mali fell into the hands of jihadists in 2012 before the militants were driven out by a 4,500-strong Barkhane expeditionary force.
But the Al-Qaeda-backed militants have since regrouped to carry out hit-and-run strikes in violence that has spread to central Mali.
More than 200 soldiers and at least 630 civilians have been killed and half a million people forced to flee their homes in the land-locked country, according to the United Nations.
Jihadists gaining the upper hand?
About a year ago there were only able to attack gendarmes travelling, now they are going after bases, inflicting devastating casualties and seizing heavy military equipment”, says Hannah Armstrong, senior Sahel analyst with the International Crisis Group.
According to the Dakar-based researcher, it is extremely worrying to see a few dozen guys of bikes overrun military bases and posts heavily equipped and operated with international support.
The Jihadist threat in nearby Burkina Faso has also worsened in recent weeks. At least four people including the deputy mayor were killed in an area plagued by hit-and-run raids on villages, road mines and suicide bombings in the north of the country.
France, standing alone?
While the so-called G-5 countries struggle with the bloody insurgencies inside their borders, France continues to honour its security engagements towards the former colonies.
French Armed Forces Minister, Florence Parly, currently on an official visit to the Sahel called for "patience" in the battle against the militants.
"This is a fight where we have to have patience," she said on a visit to Barkhane operations in the Chad capital N'Djamena.
"We still need time for the local forces to build up their resilience", Parly told French commanders as she prepared to fly to Burkina Faso and Mali – he last two laps of the Sahel mission.