In the increasing violence that is tearing apart the country, Jihadist militants attacked a military base in the northern town of Bamba early on Monday morning. At least 20 Malian soldiers were killed in the fighting, government sources stated.

Army officials confirmed that the attack occurred in Bamba. They said that there had been losses on both sides but because of the jihadists’ practice to carry away their dead and wounded it is difficult to say how many of them were killed.

A local official, speaking to the AFP news, said that the terrorists arrived on motorcycles and other vehicles. He added that “investigations are still ongoing on the ground because the death toll must be higher than the 20 deaths announced.”

Armed men had been reported around nearby villages riding motorcycles since Sunday, before hitting the camp during the dawn attack, a citizen told the media. The jihadist terrorists overran and destroyed the camp and took much of the equipment. “We saw 23 bodies on the spot,” he said.

“No civilian was hurt, this was an operation against the camp,” he added.

The war-torn west African country has been in a constant state of upheaval since 2012, when Tuareg semi-nomadic separatists, driven in part by a drought and a hunger crisis, launched a rebellion against the government. They were quickly supported by Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda. AQIM is Algerian-led and has been designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. 

The French, sensing that the country was about to fall into total chaos, deployed troops to help Malian forces drive the jihadists from the northern area of the country. 

The security situation has now gotten worse with ISIS also getting involved. The fighting has spread from Mali across the Sahel threatening the region’s security. The Sahel is a semi-arid region just south of the Sahara. It extends across Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

These five countries have partnered together and created G5 Sahel in an effort to combat the increased violence.

There have been five times as many attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger just since 2016. Last year a reported 4,000 civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands more displaced in the violence. 

The French are trying to ramp up the training for not only the Malian military but other members of the G5 Sahel too. They have created a Special Operations Task Force (Takuba) that will train, assist, and accompany host nation soldiers into the fight against al-Qaeda and ISIS. 

Yet, the military aspect is just part of the solution. Al-Queda and ISIS are preying upon the citizens who lack basic necessities such as water, food, and medicine. Despite the French efforts hunger and poverty still cripple the countryside, especially in the disputed areas. Tellingly, one in every three Malian children is stunted due to malnutrition. Therefore, the Sahel governments will have to not only defeat the jihadist terrorist groups on the field of battle but also bring hope to those starving and displaced by the violence.