At least 53 soldiers and one civilian have been killed in a jihadist attack on a military post in northern Mali on Friday, the government said on Saturday.
In a post on Twitter, the army described it as a “terrorist attack.” On Saturday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault on the army post in Indelimane, in the Menaka region, according to the group’s Amaq news agency.
The attack was one of the deadliest strikes against the West African country’s military in recent memory. The violence is expected to further raise tensions in the capital, Bamako, where military families have already protested in the streets.
Relatives say that soldiers have not been adequately protected on the ground as they face an array of jihadist groups.
Mali has suffered sporadic violence since 2012, when Islamist militants took over the north of the country. The country is still reeling from deadly jihadist raids in late September that underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed groups operating in the region.
A government spokesman, Yaya Sangare, said on Twitter early on Saturday that “54 bodies including one civilian” were found, along with 10 survivors, in the latest assault. The attack unleashed “considerable material damage,” he said, but added, “The situation is under control.”
When the authorities first reported the attack by armed men on the army post, they gave a lower provisional death toll.
From their stronghold in Mali, groups with ties to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilizing parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
The violence on Friday took place a month after 41 soldiers were killed and 20 others went missing on Sept. 30 during two coordinated assaults on two army bases in central Mali, which has slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.