Mali attack
Islamist militants attacked an army base in Mali and killed 17. Al-Qaeda and Ansar Dine affiliates as well as a militia defending the ethnic Peul group has claimed responsibility - Representational image Reuters

At least 17 soldiers were killed and dozens injured when some unidentified gunmen attacked an army base in Mali, in West Africa. The landlocked country is reportedly facing growing threats from Islamist militants and defence minister Tièman Hubert Coulibaly has vowed to give an "appropriate" reply to the terrorists involved in the attack.

According to reports, the attackers raided the army base in Nampala, located in a semi-desert scrubland close to the border with Mauritania on Tuesday (19 July). The militants took over the base for a brief duration an army spokesman said, adding that three Islamic militant groups have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Spokesman for the army, Souleymane Maiga, told Reuters that al-Qaeda fighters in the Islamic Maghreb attacked from the north and an ethnic Peul group launched an attack from the southeast, while the Macina Liberation Front linked to Ansar Dine – a militant Islamist group – waited outside the town to ambush military reinforcements. He added that following the attack, Malian troops retreated to nearby Diabaly to regroup. An intelligence source told the news agency that the attackers seized weapons and vehicles from the base and took them to a forest in the region.

Ansar Dine has already claimed responsibility for the attack, admitting that its Macina Battalion launched the raid. The National Alliance for the Safeguarding of Peul Identity and the Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ) – headed by Oumar Aldjana, reportedly also claimed responsibility for the attack through a call to a donor-funded national radio station, Studio Tamani reported.

"We lost 17 men and unfortunately 35 were also wounded and these have all been transported for medical care in the region of Segou," Coulibaly said on state television following the attack. The army is now looking for the militants responsible for the attack, he said and noted, "We will make sure that this coordinated terrorist attack ... is met with an appropriate response."

There has been growing unrest in the West African nation for over a year, as warring factions were reportedly due to sign a peace agreement to prevent violence. However, the move did not meet the desired result and in November 2015, the country witnessed one of its worst attacks in which militants had killed 20 people in a hotel in capital Bamako.

In March this year, a similar attack was carried out at a hotel hosting an EU military training mission in the capital, but armed forces killed at least one of the four gunmen who had launched the attack.