Malian troops killed several jihadists near the country’s southern border with Ivory Coast and destroyed the insurgents’ camp in a forest straddling the frontier, a Malian army officer said Thursday.
“We have just destroyed the main military camp of the jihadists in the south, in the Sama forest located on the Ivorian border,” the officer told AFP by telephone, requesting anonymity.
Since last week, Malian army parachutists known as the “Red Berets” and regular troops stationed in the frontier region of Sikasso have been conducting operations against the insurgents, the officer said.
Another Malian security source said “arms, ammunition, motorbikes and strategic documents” were seized from the camp.
A humanitarian source said two Malian soldiers were injured in the operation.
Malian troops on Thursday also pressed on with anti-insurgent operations in the frontier town of Fakola, which was attacked and pillaged on June 28, for which the Islamist Ansar Dine militia claimed responsibility.
Jihadist attacks are normally confined to Mali’s restive northern desert region but areas bordering Mauritania have been targeted since the start of the year, and southern settlements more recently.
The north came under the control of Ansar Dine — which is Arabic for Defenders of Faith — and two other jihadist groups, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, in April 2012.
A move south towards the capital by the extremists, who imposed a brutal version of sharia on inhabitants, prompted Mali’s former colonial master France to intervene in January 2013, pounding their positions in the north.
Their organisational structure smashed, small pockets of armed Islamists managed to remain active, and continue to carry out occasional deadly attacks in the desert.