Malian soldiers die in Islamist attack

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Suspected Islamist militants killed 29 Malian soldiers in an attack on a base in the country’s north-east, the army said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Tarkint, 125 km north of Gao. Mali’s army has repeatedly suffered heavy casualties from jihadist fighters in the area with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The army said earlier two soldiers died but tweeted later the death toll “heavily evolved” to 29 killed and five wounded.

Swathes of central and northern Mali are lawless, used by the jihadists as a base for attacks in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, where security deteriorated markedly over the past year.

Former colonial power France has thousands of troops across the Sahel, but French officials acknowledge they failed to slow the violence.

French army chief Francois Lecointre told senators last month the Malian, Nigerien and Burkinabe armies were losing the equivalent of a battalion a year to militant attacks.