Tessit attack in Mali: a new assessment of 42 soldiers killed in fact deadliest since 2019

This umpteenth assault of jihadists took place while Bamako pushes his old French ally to the exit and reactive his military cooperation with Russia.

Le Monde with AFP

Forty-two Malian soldiers were killed on Sunday in northeast Mali, near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger, in the deadliest attack attributed to jihadists against Malian forces since 2019, According to a new assessment. This new statement comes from an official document listed by the deceased soldiers, authenticated Wednesday August 10 by several senior military officials to AFP. The previous one indicated 17 soldiers and 4 civilians killed.

This is the heaviest official assessment for the Malian army since the series of attacks at the end of 2019-early 2020 by the Islamic State group of military camps in this same region known as three borders.

The attack on Sunday comes when Mali, which pushed the old French ally and ardently relaunched cooperation with Moscow, has been doing for a few weeks in the face of a resurgence of assaults from the nebula of the support group Islam and Muslims (gsim, jnim in Arabic).

Among the four civilians killed, some of them were local elected officials, had told AFP relatives of the victims under the guise of anonymity. The press release also claimed that seven “enemies” died in the attack, probably Islamic State attackers to the Grand Sahara (EIGS) and benefiting from drone and artillery support with the use of explosives and vehicle trapped “.

Three borders

The Tessit area, located on the Malian side of the three borders zone, in a huge rural region not controlled by the State, is frequently the scene of confrontations and attacks.

Armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaida, gathered under the leadership of the GSIM, has been fighting the EIGS group there since 2020, affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) organization. The jihadists seek to take control of this strategic and gold area.

The Malian army, installed in a military camp alongside the locality of Tessit, has also often been taken to task in this region. In March 2021, thirty-three soldiers of the succession of Tessit had been killed in an ambush claimed by the EIGS.

In this area sometimes called the “Malian Gourma” also operate peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Mali.

As for civilians, as elsewhere in Mali, they are taken between the fires of these actors in the conflict, and accused of being allied with one or the other. In February, around forty of them had been killed by EIGS in Tessit, accused of complicity with al-Qaida.

The inhabitants of the zone, regularly cut off from the telephone network for several years and all the more landlocked in the rainy season (July to September), fled by the thousands, in particular to the neighboring city of Gao, at some 150 km to the north.

wave of attacks

This three borders area was the theater at the end of 2019-early 2020 of the deadliest attacks series that the three countries concerned since the conflict in 2012 in northern Mali.

More than a dozen isolated camps in which the Sahelian soldiers were entrenched had been the targets of the EIGS according to a proven operating mode: the flash attack of motorcycle combatants. Hundreds of soldiers had been killed. These setbacks had pushed the Malian army, as well as the Nigerian and Burkinabé soldiers, to fall back and to regroup in stronger places.

A military start had been announced in January 2020 at a Franco-Sahelian summit in Pau (southwest of France). The EIGS had been appointed “number one enemy” and numerous operations, French and Sahelian, had been carried out on the three borders.

Many chiefs of the jihadist group were killed in 2020 and 2021, first of all its founder, Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, in August 2021. But, tell several inhabitants and experts, the group did not never ceased to recruit and operate.

At the end of July, at least eleven coordinated attacks bearing the GSIM brand struck the Malian territory. One of them took place in Kati, at the gates of Bamako and at the heart of the Malian military apparatus.

/Media reports.