BAMAKO: Malian troops destroyed two jihadist camps and arrested 15 suspected militants in the latest operation combatting radical Islamist groups near the southern border with Ivory Coast, military sources said on Tuesday.
“During new military operations in the area, we arrested 15 new jihadists and destroyed a new sanctuary of theirs in the region of Sikasso, on the border with Ivory Coast,” a military officer told AFP.
Among the jihadists was a radical preacher who “came from Ivory Coast in order to build a mosque in a Malian village where he could impose his law”, said the same source on condition of anonymity.
A different Malian military source said troops seized arms, explosives and motorbikes in a raid on another camp near the frontier town of Fakola, which was pillaged on June 28 in an attack claimed by Islamist group Ansar Dine.
The latest raid came after Malian troops last week killed several jihadists in the Sikasso region, near the border with Ivory Coast, and destroyed the insurgents’ camp in a forest straddling the frontier.
Jihadist attacks are normally confined to Mali’s restive northern desert region but areas bordering Mauritania have been targeted since the start of the year, and southern settlements more recently.
The north came under the control of Ansar Dine — which is Arabic for Defenders of Faith — and two other jihadist groups, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, in April 2012.
A move south towards the capital by the extremists, who imposed a brutal version of sharia on inhabitants, prompted Mali’s former colonial master France to intervene in January 2013, pounding their positions in the north.