BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — At least 10 Malian soldiers have been killed in a night-time attack by Islamic extremists in the country’s west near its border with Mauritania, the Malian army said Friday.
It was the largest attack on the military since it staged a coup d’etat on Aug. 18.
The Malian Army mission in Guire suffered deaths, injuries and material damage in the attack on Thursday, according to the Malian military’s Twitter account. “Reinforcements have been dispatched there,” it said.
The attack comes as Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Malian president ousted in the military coup, has been moved to his residence after hospitalization at a private clinic under the tight security of the junta, according to family members who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak about the situation. The 75-year-old’s health condition was not immediately known and it is unclear if he will be evacuated abroad, though leaders of the junta have said that they are open to whatever treatment he needs to get, even if in another country.
The junta, which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, is now running Mali under the leadership of Col. Assimi Goita. They have proposed taking three years to set up a transition to civilian rule.
The country’s longtime political opposition, international community and West African regional bloc are demanding the junta speed up that transition.
The regional bloc known as ECOWAS already has cut financial flows to Mali, and neighboring countries have closed their borders in a bid to step up pressure on the coup leaders.
The international community has expressed alarm over the coup, fearing that the political vacuum could allow Islamic extremists to expand their reach. A similar coup in 2012 led to the militants overtaking major towns in the north where they implemented their strict interpretation of Islamic law, amputating the hands of those charged with theft.
A French-led military operation in 2013 ousted the extremists from power but the Malian military and its partners have faced an insurgency ever since.
There are concerns that the new political upheaval could erode what gains have been made in the fight to stabilize Mali.
Attacks on the army continue, including one last week four soldiers were killed and 12 others wounded in an ambush on an anti-poaching unit by insurgents in central Mali about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Konna, the military said.
Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.