Militants attack Mali's main military base, situation 'under control'

Militants attack Mali’s main military base, situation ‘under control’

KATI, Mali, July 22 (Reuters) – Suspected Islamist militants on Friday attacked the main military base where Mali’s interim president lives outside the capital Bamako, but the armed forces said they had repelled the assault and had the situation under control.

Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have repeatedly attacked army bases across Mali during a decade-long insurgency concentrated in the north and centre but never so close to Bamako in the south.

Heavy gunfire rang out for about an hour early on Friday at the Kati camp, about 15 km (10 miles) from Bamako. A convoy carrying the leader of Mali’s junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, later sped away from his house in Kati in the direction of Bamako, a Reuters reporter said.

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“The Malian Armed Forces vigorously repelled a terrorist attack against the Kati base. It was early this morning at around 5 o’clock with two car bombs,” the military said in a tweet.

The military and government typically refer to Islamist insurgents in the country as terrorists.

“The provisional death toll is two assailants neutralised. The situation is under control and clearing operations are under way to flush out the authors and their accomplices.”

Kati was the site of mutinies in 2012 and 2020 that led to successful coups, but three camp residents, who asked not to be identified, said the soldiers did not appear to be fighting among themselves.

The army said late on Thursday that al Qaeda-linked militants had staged coordinated attacks against several military camps earlier in the day in central Mali, killing one soldier and wounding 15.

Mali’s junta came to power in an August 2020 coup that began as a mutiny at the Kati base. It staged a second coup in 2021 to force out a civilian interim president who was at odds with Goita.

Goita then became interim president. He plans to continue to lead a transitional government until elections are held in 2024.

His government has sparred repeatedly with neighbouring countries and international powers over election delays, alleged army abuses and cooperation with Russian mercenaries in the fight against the Islamist insurgency.

Despite coming to power pledging to stamp out the insurrection, the junta has been unable to prevent the insurgents from extending their operations further south.

Last week, unidentified armed men killed six people at a checkpoint just 70 km east of Bamako. read more

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Reporting by Fadimata Kontao; Additional reporting and writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Edmund Blair, John Stonestreet and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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