Twenty-nine Malian soldiers were killed by suspected Islamist militants on Thursday, March 19, north of the town of Gao. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although it is likely that they are affiliated with either al-Qaida or the Islamic State, both of which have been aggressively increasing attacks against regional security forces since December. Last month, French army chief General François Lecointre informed French senators of the dire losses suffered by Malian, Nigerien, and Burkinabe armed forces, which were losing one battalion per month on average due to terrorist attacks.
Why It Matters
While COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc globally, ongoing conflicts in Africa have not abated. As governments have been forced to divert resources from the frontlines to tackling the pandemic, terrorist organizations operating in the border regions of the Sahel and in the Sahara have gained breathing room. The latest attack provides more incentive to engage in dialogue with jihadist leaders, an option that Mali was finally exploring, as President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta acknowledged in February.