BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Explosions and gunfire were heard early Friday morning in the area of the Kati military base on the outskirts of Mali’s capital city Bamako, according to local residents, in a suspected attack by Islamic extremists.
The military has cordoned off the roads to Kati, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Bamako.
The leader of Mali‘s ruling junta Lt. Col. Assimi Goita frequently stays at the Kati camp, where he launched the 2020 coup that brought him to power.
Jihadi rebels linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been fighting an insurgency in the West African country for more than 10 years. Their attacks have mostly been in northern Mali, but recently the extremists have moved into central Mali. In recent weeks, they have moved closer to the capital.
Last week gunmen attacked an army checkpoint about 60 kilometers outside Bamako, killing at least six people and wounding several others, officials said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to be by the al-Qaida-linked rebel group known as JNIM that has carried out several other attacks around Bamako.
The attacks show “how the al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin continues to expand its operations outside its traditional strongholds in northern and central Mali,” said Héni Nsaibia, a senior researcher at The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
“As in other Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger … major cities including the capitals themselves, are increasingly surrounded by a steady spread of Islamist militancy that poses an ever-increasing risk and challenge to the security environment.”
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions.
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