19 Malian soldiers killed by armed men: Military
At least 19 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military post in central Mali on Sunday.The attack took place in Sokolo military camp in the Segou region, where armed fighters linked to al-Qaeda are known to operate.
"The provisional toll is 19 dead, five wounded," Malian Armed Forces said on Twitter.A local politician said all those killed were troops or paramilitary police officers, adding he saw "two other bodies outside the camp".
"They were well-armed. They entered the Sokolo camp. They took away a lot of material," he said, adding some were able to escape the camp.
The assault comes after a similar attack on Thursday by armed men in Dioungani, an area in the country's volatile Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso, killing at least six soldiers."There were more than 100 attackers," said Sokolo resident Baba Gakou.
"They arrived at five in the morning. They cut off any withdrawal by the gendarmes. The firing stopped at 7am," he said, adding the assailants left with all the weapons and vehicles at the camp."They picked up all their dead. They did not touch anyone in the village."
Struggle with armed groups
Mali has struggled to contain an armed uprising that erupted in the north in 2012 and has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians in the years since.More than 140 Malian soldiers reportedly died in attacks between September and December alone.
The conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger - despite the presence of 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, plus a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force.
On Wednesday, Mali announced it would hold legislative elections in late March after repeated postponements because of insecurity and political infighting.
The conduct of the elections was a key recommendation from crisis talks in December aimed at exploring non-military solutions to the worsening violence.