A Malian militant group with links to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two French soldiers in the West African country on Wednesday.
The soldiers were killed after their armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device near Mali’s border with Niger and Burkina Faso, an area that has become increasingly dangerous for international forces seeking to quell Islamic insurgencies in the remote Sahel region.
In October, militants killed four U.S. troops just over the border in Niger, sparking a debate about America’s combat role in the vast and unpoliced scrubland just south of the Sahara.
JNIM, which has been responsible for other attacks in Mali and has been linked to the kidnapping of at least six western hostages in recent years, claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack late on Friday on two Mauritanian websites, through which the group has previously communicated.
Islamist militants took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013. But since then the threat has crept back, and attacks have occurred further and further south, into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, and as far afield as Ivory Coast.
In a bid to counter the insurgents, international donors on Friday pledged half a billion dollars towards the G5 Sahel, an international force made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.