In Mali, the Malian army column that departed from Gao on Monday, October 2nd, towards the Kidal region, faced a violent attack by the CSP (Permanent Strategic Framework) on Thursday near Tabankort, over 200 kilometers north of Gao.
This convoy, consisting of about a hundred vehicles from the Fama (Malian Armed Forces) and their Russian allies from the Wagner Group, subsequently arrived near Anefis, at the entrance to the Kidal region, where new clashes occurred. The army and Fama offer contradictory versions of these confrontations.
In a statement released on the evening of October 5th, Bamako, for the first time, clarified the objectives of its offensive.
At least the Malian army and CSP rebels agree on one point: the latest clashes on October 5th took place about ten kilometers south of Anefis. In the statement released yesterday evening, the Malian army claims to have “broken through the enemy’s defensive barrier with air and ground actions.”
The Fama claims the destruction of several pick-up trucks and a “very significant human toll on the terrorist side,” a term used by the transitional Malian authorities to refer indiscriminately to jihadist groups like the JNIM linked to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, and groups that signed the 2015 peace agreement, largely consolidated within the CSP. Fighting has thus resumed with these groups for three and a half weeks.
Meanwhile, the CSP claims to have only eight wounded, and no fatalities and denies the arrival of Malian soldiers in the town of Anefis itself, located at the entrance to the Kidal region. These are highly contrasting accounts that are currently impossible to independently verify.
Most notably, the Malian army, in its statement, outlines an objective for its offensive for the first time: “To retake all premises initially held by UN forces.” These military bases are located in Aguelhoc, Tessalit, and Kidal—strongholds of rebel groups—and the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is expected to vacate them soon as part of its withdrawal from Mali.
The Malian army does not specify the order or timelines for these planned takeovers. All these bases are in areas claimed by the CSP, based on the 2014 ceasefire and security arrangements included in the 2015 peace agreement. However, the Malian transitional authorities believe that the national army is now meant to establish itself in these camps, just as it should across the entire national territory.
In a statement released on Thursday evening, the CSP accuses Malian soldiers and their Russian Wagner Group allies of killing 17 civilians in Ersane, between Tarkint and Anefis. They also provide their assessment of the attacks on the military camps in Bamba and Taoussa, carried out last Sunday and Wednesday. The CSP claims to have killed a total of 34 Malian soldiers and captured 8. The Malian army has not disclosed any casualties for these attacks, which it had previously stated it had repelled.