Suspected jihadists killed five Malian soldiers in an ambush in the West African country’s volatile centre the army said, the latest attack targeting local security forces in the Sahel region.
Astatement said the soldiers were travelling between Hombori and Boni, about 100 km north of the Burkina Faso border, when they were ambushed.
“FAMA (Malian armed forces) deplores the killing of five people, which also destroyed military equipment,” the statement said. “Reinforcements have been sent back.”
The remote, grassy borderlands where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger meet is a haven for militants and criminal outfits linked to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State exploit ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours to boost recruitment and make swathes of territory ungovernable.
French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance from the desert north but the militants regrouped and expanded their presence.
Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, mostly former French colonies in Mali. The United States has troops in the region as well.
Efforts by Western powers and their regional allies to contain Islamist violence are hampered by difficult terrain and an often un-cooperative or frightened local population.