Seven government soldiers were killed in an ambush in central Mali in an area where at least 32 villagers had been killed the previous day by suspected jihadists, authorities said on Friday.
The attack on an army patrol took place on Thursday on the outskirts of Gouari village in the Mopti region, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Diarran Koneman said.
“The unit was attacked at the entrance of Gouari village by armed individuals on three vehicles and on some 40 motorcycles,” the army said in a statement, adding that another two soldiers were injured and three missing.
Suspected Islamist militants had raided the villages of Gouari, Djindo and Fangadougou on Wednesday.
The mayor of a town close to Gouari told Reuters the jihadists returned on Thursday afternoon and attacked troops arriving after their raid.
“There was violent fighting. Army vehicles were set on fire,” the mayor said, asking to remain anonymous.
A summit of European Union (EU) and leaders of Sahel nations agreed on Tuesday to intensify a military campaign against Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State in the region, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying victory over the jihadists was within grasp.
The United Nations’ envoy in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, condemned the attacks, which he said were aggravating the security and humanitarian crisis. He expressed deep concern about allegations of killings and summary executions of civilians, including children, in central Mali in recent weeks.