Several Malian soldiers were killed in the jihadist ambush on Thursday of an army convoy heading for Niger, in the Ménaka region (northeast), a military official and a local elected official said on Friday.
"According to an initial assessment, we lost six men," said the military official. "We have today launched the search for others (missing) but the terrorists have lost at least 15 fighters," he said.
"We can speak of about twenty people if we count the dead, wounded and missing Malian soldiers" , said the local elected official, stressing that the balance sheet is "not yet very clear" .
Both spoke on condition of anonymity in the absence of official communication from the authorities.
The elected official reported that the Malian army and paramilitaries from the Russian security group Wagner were deployed in the area. The ruling junta presents these external reinforcements as Russian instructors.
The ambush by jihadists from the Islamic State group targeted an army convoy escorting trucks towards Niger, a neighboring country plagued by the spread of jihadists and plunged into a major crisis since a military coup, according to military and police sources.
Mali , also ruled by a junta since a putsch in 2020, assured the new Nigerien authorities of its support and warned that it would consider an external military intervention a " declaration of war".
A figure of the Nigerian junta affirmed Wednesday, during a visit to Bamako, the importance of cooperation between the two countries in their fight against the jihadists.
Since 2012, Mali has been in the grip of a deep security crisis that started in the north and which has spread to the center of the country and to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The Ménaka region, in the northeast, has been the scene for several months of a push by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS). The attacks of the jihadist group have claimed, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, "hundreds" of deaths and forced thousands of people to flee the area since the beginning of the year.