Four civilians, two Malian police officers and a customs officer were killed in an attack on a border post on Mali’s frontier with Burkina Faso, security sources and government officials said Monday, May 20.
“Armed men attacked the border post at Koury on Sunday night,” said a local police officer, who asked not to be identified. “Two gendarmes, a customs officer and four civilians, including two Ghanaians, were killed.”
Koury, in Mali’s southern Sikasso region, lies about 480 km (300 miles) east of the capital Bamako near the border with Burkina Faso and is a major crossing point for goods entering or leaving Mali.
Another security source confirmed the toll and said the two Ghanaians were lorry drivers.
“The assailants arrived on three motorbikes and in a car,” the source said. “They fired at the gendarmes, the customs officers and the civilian truck drivers.”
“Right now, we can’t confirm who the attackers were. They arrived in Koury from two directions,” a government official said. “We were told that they took the soldiers’ boots as they left.”
The attack comes a day after a United Nations peacekeeper was killed and another injured in Timbuktu in central Mali.
In March, French and Malian troops launched a major counter-terror operation in the Gourma region near the Mali-Burkina Faso border.
Some 4,500 French troops are deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups, six years after France helped chase al-Qaeda out of northern Mali.
The recent unrest in the Sahel began in Mali in 2012 with Tuareg separatist uprising against the state, which was exploited by Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaeda who took key cities in the desert north.
France began its Operation Serval military intervention in its former colony early the next year, driving the jihadists from the towns, but the militant groups morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, sometimes winning over local populations by providing basic services and protection from bandits.
The insurgency has gradually spread to central and southern regions of Mali, and across the borders into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. Large swathes of Mali remain outside government control, despite a 2015 peace accord designed to isolate the militant Islamists.
The French mission evolved in August 2014 into the current Operation Barkhane, which has 4,500 troops personnel deployed with a mandate for counter-terrorism operations across the Sahel region, with 2,700 soldiers in Mali to support poorly-equipped local military forces.
Troops deployed to Barkhane work alongside other international operations, including the U.N. MINUSMA stabilization mission in Mali, which began in 2013 and has about 12,000 troops and 1,750 police deployed, as well as the regional G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force that aims to train and deploy up to 5,000 personnel.
With reporting from AFP