Three days of mourning have been declared as authorities continue to assess the death toll in the latest attacks in Mali.
Armed groups attacked a passenger boat and military camp in Mali, killing at least 49 civilians and 15 soldiers, according to the country’s armed forces. Approximately 50 assailants were also killed in the attack.
“On September 7, 2023, around 11 in the morning [11:00 GMT]armed terrorist groups with deadly designs attacked a boat from COMANAV [a ferry operator] between Abakoira and Zorghoi, in the territory of Rarhous,” said the Malian military in a statement on social mediawhich refers to the cities in the central part of the country.
The ship is traveling on the River Niger. COMANAV said in a separate statement that “at least three rockets” targeted the ship, targeting its engines.
When the ship was stranded in the waterway, unable to move, army officials led an evacuation effort to help the passengers ashore, a COMANAV official told AFP news agency. . The river is an important navigation route for the region, with little road infrastructure.
A separate attack targeted an army installation east of Bourem Circle, part of the Gao region.
Before the death toll on Thursday and many more injured in the attacks, Mali’s interim government declared three days of national mourning. Since the 2021 coup d’etat, Mali has been led on an interim basis by Colonel Assimi Goita.
An al-Qaeda-affiliated group claimed credit for both attacks, according to AFP.
The Sahel region, of which Mali forms a part, has experienced an increase in violence in the last decade, including rival groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group.
The United Nations has raised alarm about the situation, saying the “devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets” has already resulted in “alarming” humanitarian consequences. .
Since August 13, a local affiliate of al-Qaeda, known as the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims or JMIN, has organized a blockade around the historic Malian city of Timbuktu, located near the Niger River, east of where the attacks took place on Thursday.
The blockade has resulted in many of Timbuktu’s 35,000 residents suffering from food insecurity and rising prices of basic necessities. Humanitarian aid has also been halted.
A UN panel also noted in August that ISIL fighters had almost doubled their territory in the past year, with continued confrontations between the rival groups expected.
Instability in Mali has largely followed a 2012 conflict that saw rebels in the north push for independence. Then a military coup d’etat later that year overthrew the democratically elected government.
The country has since experienced two more coups: one in 2020 and the latest in 2021.
A 2015 peace deal attempted to end the rebellion in the north, but government turmoil undermined the deal, allowing ongoing fighting between various armed groups.