The European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali has come under assault, attacked by gunmen and rocked by a pair of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs). The unknown attackers struck the Koulikoro Training Centre (KTC) on February 24 at about three o’clock in the morning.
The assault involved two vehicles, packed with explosives, and some armed men functioning as a breaching team. The assailants opened fire and sought to breach the main gate of the KTC, but were interrupted by force protection elements. One of the two vehicles caught fire after being stopped at the main gate while the second one detonated. Three Malian soldiers were injured and transferred to a nearby medical facility for further treatment. KTC was put on high alert, its defensive positions fully manned. None of the EU training team were injured in the attack.
According to a tweet by EUTM Mali, “Koulikoro Training Center was attacked by unknown elements. It was repulsed by defensive shares of Malian Armed Forces and EUTM Mali Force Protection Elements. No EUTM Mali staff were injured. EUTM Mali wishes a speedy recovery to the injured Malian Armed Forces personnel.”
The attack marks the latest aggression against international forces in Mali, where a French-led military action first fought jihadis six years ago. Even though French forces are suppressing the violence, regular attacks like this have become a way of life in the country.
Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM), the official branch of al-Qaeda in Mali, has experienced a serious defeat of their own over the weekend, losing their number-two leader, an Algerian named Yahya Abu al-Hammam. Although leaders of these groups come and go, their presence in Mali still presents a serious risk to the security situation.
Mali’s crisis originally began with a 2012 ethnic Tuareg separatist revolution upon which al-Qaeda capitalized to take over key cities in the north. The radicals were mostly pushed out of the country by a French-led military effort launched in January 2013, but vast areas of the region remain outside the control of Malian, French, and U.N. forces. Those forces are constant victims of attacks, despite a reconciliation pact signed with Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the terrorists. The violence has spilled over into both Burkina Faso and Niger.