Two armed groups in Mali each claimed an attack on a military base that killed 17 soldiers and left 35 others injured, including a new organization that says it represents ethnic Fulani people.
“We will attack the army as often as necessary,” Oumar Aldiana, secretary-general of the latter group which goes by the French acronym ANSIP-RJ, said by phone on Tuesday. “We ask to be fully included in the peace process, despite the fact that we didn’t exist when the accord was signed.”
On Wednesday, Islamist militants claimed the assault on the military base in the town of Nampala, near Mali’s western border with Mauritania, according to a statement published by al-Akhbar, a private Mauritanian news agency. Ansar Dine, an Islamist group led by an ethnic Tuareg commander, said in the statement that the soldiers were killed by its allies, the Macina Liberation Front.
Mali’s army said 17 soldiers died and 35 others were injured. Army spokesman Souleymane Maiga didn’t say who was held responsible.
Mali has been gripped by violence since ethnic Tuareg rebels began an insurgency and joined forces with Islamist militants who seized control of the north in 2012. A French military intervention in 2013 pushed out most militants but ushered in an era of hit-and-run attacks and bombings, mainly in the north and on United Nations personnel. Hotels in central Mali have also been attacked. The north is now home to a myriad of armed groups that tend to shift alliances.
The government last year signed a peace deal with some Tuareg armed groups but not with Islamist militants. The new Fulani organization was created in June on behalf of what the group, known in West Africa as a nomadic people of cattle herders, considers an orchestrated military campaign against them, according to Aldiana.