Witnesses said several military helicopters could be seen heading to the area following a massive explosion, said Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s expert on jihadist groups.
The attack came days after French forces in Mali captured a senior commander of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) group.
Dadi Ould Chouaib, also known as Abou Dardar, was arrested on June 11 in the flashpoint “tri-border” region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the site of frequent attacks by jihadist groups, according to the French military.
Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the country’s president of a decade. The power vacuum that was created ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. A peace agreement was signed in 2015 by three parties — the government, a coalition of groups who seek autonomy in northern Mali, and a pro-government militia.
However, the insurgents quickly regrouped in the desert and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies fighting the insurgency. The extremists, affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State militant group, have moved from the arid north to more populous central Mali since 2015 where their presence has stoked animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the area.
In the latest turmoil, Col. Assimi Goita grabbed power in August 2020 by overthrowing Mali’s democratically elected president. He eventually agreed to a transitional government led by a civilian president and prime minister but on May 24 he ousted those civilian leaders after they announced a Cabinet reshuffle.