Al Qaeda’s West Africa affiliate claimed responsibility for co-ordinated, deadly attacks last week on army bases in central Mali.
Thirty-eight soldiers were killed and dozens went missing during attacks on bases in Boulkessi and Mondoro, some of the worst violence against the army this year.
The attack underscored the reach and sophistication of jihadist groups in central Mali, which slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.
From their strongholds in Mali, groups with al Qaeda and Islamic State links fan out across the Sahel, destabilising parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin said in the statement published by the Site Intelligence Group it kidnapped two soldiers, including the colonel in charge of the Boulkessi base, and seized, among others, five vehicles, 76 machine guns, two mortar shells and ammunition.
It put the Malian army death toll at 85.
Government spokesman Yaya Sangare dismissed the statement as “propaganda”, reiterated the army’s official death toll and denied the colonel was kidnapped.
Referring to lost equipment, he said: “We have recovered some elements, we continue to rake them in little by little.”