Fifteen soldiers and six civilians killed in attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso

Fifteen soldiers and six civilians were killed on Sunday in attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, military and security officials said.

Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives into three military camps in central Mali before dawn, the military said in a statement. Six were killed and 15 wounded at the Sevare camp, and five were wounded at two other locations.

Across the border in northern Burkina Faso, simultaneous attacks on military detachments in Gaskinde and Pobe-Mengao in the early hours killed nine soldiers and six civilians, including two who were members of an armed self-defence group, the military said in a statement. About 30 were wounded in the two attacks.

Military juntas have snatched power in Mali and Burkina Faso in the last two years, promising to provide greater security than their democratically-elected predecessors.

But violent attacks on civilians and the army persist. The armed forces of both countries have been accused of abuses against civilians in their attempt to root out jihadist fighters from rural desert communities.

The trouble began in Mali in 2012 when Islamists took over the north. Forces from former colonial power France beat them back, but they regrouped and were soon carrying out attacks closer to the southern capital Bamako.

Within years, groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State spread and were wreaking havoc in Burkina Faso and Niger, despite international efforts led by France to stop them. Thousands have died and millions have been displaced.

The junta that toppled Mali’s government in a 2020 military coup has sought the help of private fighters belonging to Russia’s Wagner Group, accused of committing abuses in other countries and sanctioned by the European Union.

Mali and Russia have previously said they are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment purchased from Russia.