24 Mali soldiers, 17 jihadists killed in clashes in east – army

Bamako
– Twenty-four Malian soldiers and 17 jihadist fighters were killed on Monday in
clashes in the east of the country, the army said, as security in the west
African nation deteriorates further. Mali and Niger forces were
carrying out a joint operation when a patrol was attacked by
“terrorists” near the northeastern town of Tabankort, the army said
on social media.

According to the military, the
total toll was “24 dead, 29 injured and material damage” while 17 of
the jihadists were killed and a hundred more suspects captured. The prisoners are in the hands of
Niger soldiers, the statement said.

In an earlier statement, which
gave a lower death toll, the army said French and Niger forces took part in a
counterattack.

Northern Mali fell into the hands
of jihadists in 2012, before the militants were forced out by a French-led
military intervention. Since then however, the border
regions of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have become the theatre of repeated
clashes with jihadist fighters.

Mali’s army has been struggling
to contain the Islamist insurgency despite help from France, African neighbours
and the United Nations.

Monday’s action was another heavy
loss for the army, which lost a hundred soldiers in two jihadist attacks in a
month in autumn.