Al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa on Tuesday claimed responsibility for coordinated, deadly attacks last week on two army bases in central Mali, it said in a statement.
Thirty-eight soldiers were killed and dozens others went missing during attacks on bases in Boulkessi and Mondoro, in some of the worst violence seen against the army this year.
The attack underscored the reach and sophistication of jihadist groups operating in central Mali, which has slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.
From their stronghold in Mali, groups with al Qaeda and Islamic State links have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilizing parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin said in the statement published by the Site Intelligence Group that it had kidnapped two soldiers, including a colonel in charge of the Boulkessi base, and seized, among other things, five vehicles, 76 machine guns, two mortar shells and ammunition.
It put the Malian army death toll at 85.
Government spokesman Yaya Sangare dismissed the statement as “propaganda”, reiterated the army’s official death toll and denied that the colonel was kidnapped.
Referring to the lost equipment, he said: “We have recovered some elements, we continue to rake them in little by little.”