BAMAKO, Mali – An explosives-laden car detonated at the headquarters of a new West African anti-terrorist force in Mali, triggering a shootout that killed two soldiers, a civilian, and two assailants, the Associated reported Press on Friday.
The attack highlighted the insolence of the extremist threat in a part of the world that made headlines in October with the killing of four US military personnel in an ambush in neighboring Niger.
Force Commander General Didier Dacko confirmed the Friday attack by telephone from Niger and said it had started the car attack. Residents said the explosion shook the municipality of Sevare near the central city of Mopti.
In addition to the deaths, two other assailants were captured, G5 Sahel spokesman Abdoul Salam Diagana told the AP. Four soldiers, three alleged attackers and one civilian were injured, Dr. Djibril Kassogue from Sevare Hospital. "The lives of the injured are not in danger," he said.
The leader of the G5 Sahel, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, confirmed the death toll of three, including two military personnel and one civilian, along with eight casualties.
In a statement from the G5 forces, Issoufou condemned "this cowardly act of criminal organizations whose aim is to destabilize one of the essential instruments for the stability of our subregion, in this case the G5 Sahel joint force." 19659007] He praised the effective response of the soldiers and expressed his solidarity with the families of the victims.
The statement also reaffirmed "the determination of the G5 Sahel member countries to fight the terrorists with determination to restore them to the usual calm and serenity in which people live in the Sahel."
This is the first time the G5 Sahel headquarters was targeted. The attack will take place shortly before the meeting of French President Emmanuel Macron and African leaders at an African Union summit in Mauritania on Sunday, with the regional extremist threat on the agenda.
There was no immediate information about the identity of the attackers. A number of extremist groups affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State Group are active in Mali, often targeting local security forces and the world's deadliest active peacekeeping mission. In the capitals of Mali and Burkina Faso, they have also carried out high-profile attacks, including attacks on the French embassy and army headquarters in the capital Burkina Faso.
The 5,000-member G5 Sahel force launched last year and includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania. It received millions of dollars in support from the United States, the European Union, Saudi Arabia and others.
The new force joins several anti-terrorist efforts in the region including France's largest overseas military operation Barkhane.
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