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26.01.2020 Mali

Fifteen gendarmes killed in attack on Mali camp: source

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Fifteen members of Mali's security forces died in a jihadist assault on Sunday at a camp in the centre of the country, military and local sources said.

"At least 15 Malian military were killed Sunday in the Sokolo military camp during an attack by terrorists," a Malian military source told AFP.

A local lawmaker said all those killed were gendarmes, or paramilitary police officers, adding that he saw "two other bodies outside the camp."

"The terrorists arrived on motorcycles," said the official, who asked not to be named for security reasons.

"They were well-armed. They entered the Sokolo camp. They took away a lot of material", he said, adding that other officers were able to leave the camp.

"It was complete chaos," said a local humanitarian source who managed to enter the camp after the suspected jihadists had left.

"In the camp, we counted 15 military bodies. All the military material had been taken. It looked like the attackers knew what they were doing," the source said.

Sokolo is located in central Segou region where jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda are known to operate.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.

Mali announced Wednesday it would hold legislative elections in late March, after repeated postponements prompted by insecurity and political infighting.

Holding the elections was a key recommendation from crisis talks in December aimed at exploring non-military solutions to the worsening violence.

Despite some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, plus a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Local Malian troops are frequently attacked.