BAMAKO (Reuters) – Eight Malian soldiers were killed, 14 others injured and four are missing following a clash with armed Islamist militants in the northeast of the West African nation on Friday, the defence ministry said.
The ministry said late on Friday that columns of armed jihadists on motorbikes had pinned down the unit, but the army, backed by the air force, killed 57 of them in the tri-border area near Burkina Faso.
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are struggling to contain armed militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that control swathes of territory in the porous border area of the West African Sahel that is larger than the size of Germany.
The attack comes as Mali’s ruling military junta on Friday asked France to withdraw troops from its territory “without delay”, calling into question Paris’ plan for a four- to six-month departure and highlighting the breakdown in relations between Paris and its former colony.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Alison Williams)