At least six soldiers were killed and several were wounded in an overnight attack in central Mali, the army said on Thursday, in fresh violence in the war-torn West African state.
The troops came under fire late Wednesday from “unidentified armed men” in Dioungani, an area in central Mali’s volatile Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso, the army said on Twitter.
A security official who declined to be named said that, in an assault lasting several hours, the attackers overwhelmed the soldiers’ position before reinforcements took it back.
Local authorities and inhabitants have blamed the attack on jihadists.
The army gave a “provisional toll” of six dead and several wounded, without giving further details.
The security official, however, said seven soldiers had been killed.
Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.
Despite some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, plus a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Local Malian troops are frequently attacked. On Tuesday, two soldiers were killed in the Mopti region when their convoy hit a roadside bomb.
On January 13, French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Sahel states agreed to focus their military efforts on the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.