DAKAR, Senegal — Suspected jihadists attacked a military camp in central Mali on Saturday, two local elected officials and a diplomatic source told AFP, referring to the site as a “Russian camp”.
Mali’s junta in 2022 began working with what it calls Russian military “instructors”. Opponents say these are mercenaries from the Wagner group.
“We have no toll for the moment — the situation is still confused — it is jihadists who targeted the airport and the Russian camp next to it”, a local elected official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Two Malian military officials also confirmed the attack had taken place in the town of Sevare, in the Mopti region.
Around 5:30 am (0530 GMT), four loud explosions could be heard, followed by automatic weapons fire, several people on the ground told AFP.
Smoke was also seen near the airport.
“It is the Russian camp and their planes that have been targeted — the camp is near the airport”, another local official told AFP.
“The jihadists have surrounded part of the airport.”
He said that Senegalese soldiers from the UN’s mission in Mali, MINUSMA, were able to slow the jihadists’ advance.
MINUSMA’s camp covers four hectares of land next to the airport and the Malian army camp that houses the Russians.
A MINUSMA official declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
“We are facing a terrorist attack in Sevare — our men are on the ground”, a Malian military official told AFP.
“It was a complex attack that required a booby-trapped vehicle and guerrilla techniques,” another military source said.
Mali has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north of the country in 2012.
It has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism and turned militarily and politically toward Russia.