Mali’s army on Tuesday attacked an al-Qaeda base near the Algerian border, killing several militants, security sources said, nearly two weeks after the group said it had killed a British hostage.
The operation was believed to be the first such attack by Malian troops against Islamist militants in the country’s north, observers said.
“We have attacked a group of armed Islamists, members of al-Qaeda, in the desert,” one of the sources said. “There were several dead on their side and we seized ammunition, destroyed vehicles.”
The attack targeted al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claims close ties to al-Qaeda and emerged out of an Algerian radical group.
It has sought to extend its range into nations on the southern edge of the Sahara and has claimed several attacks in the region.
The source said Mali had been in touch with Algerian authorities and exchanged information with them, adding the aim of the military action was to flush out armed Islamists in both countries.
Another source said the destroyed base was located “between Mali and Algeria” and that there were deaths among the militants. The operation occurred in the Timetrine region.
The source said Algeria and Mali have accords allowing them to pursue the militants in each other’s territories and the two countries were working “hand-in-hand.”
Earlier this month, US-based monitoring group SITE Intelligence said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb posted an online statement saying it killed Briton Edwin Dyer on May 31.
The execution marked the first time that al-Qaeda’s north African branch had killed a Western hostage, observers said.
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