Mali: At least 49 civilians reported dead in attack on riverboat
Islamist militants have attacked a riverboat in the northeastern region of Mali, resulting in the tragic deaths of at least 49 civilians, as confirmed by the interim government.
In addition, they targeted an army base, leading to the loss of 15 soldiers, with approximately 50 militants reported to have perished in the clashes.
In response to this devastating incident, the government has declared three days of national mourning.
Despite assertions from the military that Russian Wagner Group mercenaries were helping to reverse the situation, the Islamist threat has continued to escalate.
Since the end of the previous month, the city of Timbuktu in the north has been under siege, and there have been multiple recent attacks on transportation routes.
It’s important to note that the BBC was unable to independently verify the latest government report, which was announced on national television.
The militants reportedly launched their attack on the riverboat as it was en route from the town of Gao to Mopti along the River Niger. Simultaneously, they also assaulted an army encampment in the Bourem Circle within the Gao region.
The Malian army said on social media that the boat had been attacked around 1100 GMT by “armed terrorist groups”.
The boat operator, Comanav, told AFP news agency the vessel had been targeted by at least three rockets aimed at its engines,
The vessel was immobilized on the river and the army went in to evacuate passengers, said a Comanav official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mali has been ruled by a military junta since 2020.
There was huge popular support for the junta when it seized power after mass protests against then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. People had been angered by economic uncertainty, a disputed election, and chronic insecurity.
Since then, data suggests Mali’s military government has made little progress in its fightback against Islamists who control parts of the country.
An insurgency with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State took root in the north of Mali in 2012. Islamist militants have since gained ground, spreading across the Sahel region to coastal West African nations.