At least 53 soldiers and a civilian were killed in an attack on an army post in northern Mali, government said, in one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country’s military.
Islamic state claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency, without providing evidence.
The militant group posted dozens of claims of responsibility for attacks in several countries since US Special Forces killed its previous leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi more than a week ago.
Authorities first reported the attack in Indelimane, Menaka region, on Friday, but gave a lower provisional death toll.
“Heavily armed unidentified men attacked around noon. The attack started with shellfire. Then they retreated toward Niger,” government spokesman Yaya Sangare told Reuters.
He added the death toll remained provisional as corpses were being identified, the army was undertaking a combing operation on the ground with support from international forces, including French troops from the Barkhane operation and UN peacekeepers.
“Dispatched reinforcements found 54 bodies including a civilian, 10 survivors, and found considerable material damage,” Sangare said on Twitter.
France said one of its soldiers died after a vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, according to a statement by the French presidency.
The attack follows jihadist raids in September underscoring the increasing reach and sophistication of armed groups in the region.
From their stronghold in Mali, groups with al Qaeda and Islamic State links fan out across the Sahel, destabilising parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
Thirty-eight Malian soldiers were killed on September 30 in co-ordinated attacks on two army bases in central Mali, which slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.