DOUALA, Cameroon (AA) – The death toll of Malian security forces in the Sunday terrorist attack has risen to 42, with the government announcing that it will launch thorough investigations into the well-coordinated attack in the southeastern Gao Region, which also injured 22 troops.
Earlier, the government had announced that 17 soldiers were killed in Tessit, a town in the region.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the government did not rule out the possibility of external forces being involved in the attack with the latest and most sophisticated weapons.
The ensuing gun battle resulted in the killings of 37 terrorists as well.
“An investigation will be opened to shed light on the circumstances of this terrorist attack, then track down and bring the perpetrators and accomplices to justice,” said government spokesman Col. Abdoulaye Maiga in a statement.
It was coordinated and “likely” carried out by armed terrorist groups apparently from the “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” (ISGS), an operationally independent subgroup of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), he said.
The ISGS operates in the Liptako-Gourma region of the Sahel, which includes portions of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.
They used “drones, explosives, vehicle bombs, as well as artillery fire, which indicates that the terrorists had major support, including outside expertise,” Maiga said.
He emphasized that the army’s primary objectives remained securing the lives of the people.
There were no civilian casualties, while 22 soldiers were injured in what he described as a “complex attack.”
It was a “cowardly and barbaric attack,” said Col. Assimi Goita, the transitional president of the country.