Militants kills dozens of soldiers in north-east Mali
At least 49 troops died in 'terrorist attack' on army post near border with Niger
A "terrorist attack" on a military post in strife-torn north-eastern Mali has left 49 soldiers dead, the army said on Saturday, lowering an earlier death toll.
The assault on Friday at Indelimane, in the Menaka region close to the border with Niger, was one of the deadliest strikes against Mali's military in a region wracked by extremist violence.
The Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) "recorded 49 dead, three wounded and material damage, and some 20 survivors have been recovered", it said on its Facebook page on Saturday.
"The situation is under FAMa control."
The government had said on Friday that 53 people died in what it described as a "terrorist attack".
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
The army and government said reinforcements were sent to the area. An army officer said troops arrived at the outpost at about 5pm on Friday and "took back control of our positions".
"The terrorists carried out a surprise attack at lunchtime. Army vehicles were destroyed, others taken away," he said.
The attack comes a month after two extremist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso. However several sources said the death toll had been underestimated.
Mali's army has been struggling in the face of an extremist revolt that has spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and volatile region.
The recent attacks are also a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force – a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries created a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force – and for France, which is committed to shoring up the fragile region.
Northern Mali came under the control of Al Qaeda-linked militants after Mali's army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012.
A French-led military campaign was launched against the extremists, pushing them back a year later.
But they have since regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.
The violence has also spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger where extremists have exploited existing inter-communal strife, leaving hundreds dead.
Updated: November 6, 2019 05:26 AM