Mali: At least 49 civilians reported dead in attack on river boat
In northeastern Mali, Islamist militants have launched an assault on a riverboat, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 49 civilian lives, according to the announcement by the interim government. Additionally, they reportedly targeted an army encampment, leading to the unfortunate demise of 15 soldiers, with an estimated 50 militants meeting their end in the confrontation.
In response to this devastating incident, the government has declared a three-day period of national mourning. The persistent Islamist threat continues to loom, despite the military’s assertions that Russian Wagner Group mercenaries are altering the course of their campaign.
The city of Timbuktu in the northern region has been besieged since the conclusion of the previous month, and a series of recent transport-related attacks have further exacerbated the security situation.
It is worth noting that the BBC has been unable to independently verify the accuracy of the government’s latest report, which was disseminated via national television.
The militants reportedly targeted the riverboat while it was traversing the River Niger, en route from Gao to Mopti. Simultaneously, these extremists mounted an assault on an army base situated within the Bourem Circle of the Gao region.
According to the Malian military’s social media accounts, the riverboat fell prey to an attack by “armed terrorist groups” at approximately 1100 GMT. Comanav, the boat operator, disclosed to AFP news agency that the vessel was subjected to at least three rocket strikes aimed at its engines. Consequently, the boat became immobilized on the river, prompting a swift response from the army, which proceeded to evacuate the passengers. An official from Comanav shared this information on condition of anonymity.
Since 2020, Mali has been governed by a military junta. This transition to military rule gained widespread support when the junta assumed power following extensive protests against then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. The public’s discontent had been fueled by economic instability, a contentious election, and pervasive insecurity.
Regrettably, data suggests that Mali’s military administration has made limited headway in its efforts to combat the Islamist forces that maintain control over certain regions of the country. An insurgency, linked to both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, first took root in northern Mali in 2012, and since then, Islamist militants have expanded their influence, spreading throughout the Sahel region and encroaching upon coastal West African nations.