About twenty Islamist fighters were killed in an offensive carried out, Tuesday night, by the Malian army against a base belonging to the North African branch of Al Qaeda, in the north of Mali. The operation comes two weeks after the assassination of a British hostage and one week after a soldier was murdered in Timbuktu. Mali has pledged to continue its crackdown on terrorists operating on its soil.
Early June, Malian authorities announced that they would embark on a “merciless fight against all terrorist groups on their soil”. Keeping to their promise, the army announced Wednesday that they had killed 26 Islamist fighters in an offensive against a base belonging to the North African branch of Al Qaeda (Aqmi) in the northern part of the country, close to the Algerian border.
The offensive, the first after the May 31 assassination of a British tourist, who had been held hostage since January by Aqmi, as well as the murder last week, of an army officer in Timbuktu, north-west of Mali. A source from the Malian security services was quoted as saying that “among the Salafists killed, there are sponsors and most probably one or two men involved in the killing of the officer.”
Algeria to follow the situation “very closely”
The operation, which saw the destruction of Abu Zeid ‘s group’s base affiliated with Aqmi, took place in the town of Garn-Akassa west of the oasis of Tessalit. “When our troops took possession of the Islamist camp, we counted 26 enemy elements killed. Some were even buried in a mass grave by the Salafists who had fled,” a military source told Agence France Presse.
Other sources confirm the military’s takeover of an area that was previously under the control of the Salafists. Contrary to government sources, however, they maintain that figures are below those provided by the authorities, that is, a little more than a dozen dead.
Algeria, meanwhile, has said it would monitor the situation “very closely”. Two weeks earlier, the Malian Ministry of Interior said he was holding talks with several other countries including France, Algeria, the United States and Canada to help coordinate the fight against armed Islamist groups on Malian territory.