Seven soldiers and one civilian driver have been killed after two Malian military vehicles were hit by improvised explosive devices while on an escort mission.
The Malian Defense Ministry denounced it as a “cowardly terrorist attack” in a statement on Thursday as it offered condolences to the families of the deceased.
The fatal ambush happened as the French military parachuted 120 soldiers in the north-eastern region of Menaka near the Niger border, French military spokesman Colonel Patrik Steiger said.
France’s bolstered military presence in Menaka comes after Malian security sources claimed that unknown gunmen had executed more than 12 civilians in the region on Tuesday.
Unknown gunmen have attacked an area torn by tribal strife in eastern Mali, killing at least 12 people, security source say.
Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely-allied militants took over the northern desert regions from the Malian military control in 2012.
The ensuing power vacuum allowed extremists linked to al-Qaeda to dominate the territory.
French forces intervened in 2013 to allegedly fight back the militants, but extremist forces have since regrouped and now regularly attack Malian and international forces.
France has kept about 4,500 troops in the region as part of the operations. French officials acknowledge that Paris is likely to remain in the area for the next decade.
By Africafrique and agencies