Ten Chadian soldiers have been killed in combat in northern Mali’s mountainous border with Algeria where Islamist rebels regrouped after losing urban areas to a French-led offensive.
The latest fatalities came in an area of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains where 13 Chadian soldiers were killed in clashes on Friday that centred around what one senior commander said was a rebel base of “significant importance”. At least 93 rebels have been killed in fighting in the area so far, Chad’s army said.
The casualties, the heaviest by African troops since a campaign against al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels began six weeks ago, highlight the risk of the French-led coalition becoming entangled by guerrilla war as it helps Mali’s weak army.
“In the course of the clean-up operations, the bodies of 28 other terrorists were found in the combat zone … Ten more of our soldiers fell,” said a statement from the army general staff read on state radio yesterday.
France intervened in its former West African colony last month to stop a southward offensive by Islamist fighters who seized control of the north last April.
After quickly driving the rebels out of major urban areas, France and its African allies have focused on the remote north-east mountains and desert that includes networks of caves, passes and porous borders.