Al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali claimed responsibility for thwe attack on a military base that killed at least 11 soldiers, saying it was revenge for the massacre of Fulani civilians last month, the SITE Intelligence Group said.
Sunday’s assault on a base in west-central Mali was the latest in a series of raids by heavily armed jihadists, who stepped up attacks in central Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger in recent months.
The militants tap into tensions between semi-nomadic Fulani herders and farming communities across West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region to win support among the Fulani, who often feel politically and socially marginalised.
Suspected militiamen from the Dogon ethnic group killed about 160 Fulani in Ogossagou on March 23 in Mali’s worst ethnic bloodletting in living memory.
In a statement, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the leading Islamist group in Mali, said its attack was “in commitment to its past vow to avenge and exact retribution for martyrs from the Ogossagou massacre”, according to US-based SITE, which monitors jihadist websites.
Previous Islamist attacks led to reprisals by ethnic militia against Fulani civilians, feeding a cycle of violence regional forces, U.N. peacekeepers and French troops in the zone cannot stop.
JNIM said it killed at least 16 soldiers and took two hostages while four of its own fighters died. Mali’s Defence Ministry said 11 soldiers were killed.
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appointed a new prime minister on Monday, days after government resigned following pressure to respond to the Ogossagou massacre and other violence.