Mali: IS jihadists take Talataye after fighting

Jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State organization seized a strategic locality in northern Mali on Tuesday evening at the cost of bitter fighting with other armed groups in the region and rival jihadists who have pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, indicated a local elected official, a regional manager and an on-site contact person.

Talatayeabout 150 km from Gaois regularly the battle theater since the beginning of the Malian conflict in 2012, given its location at the confluence of the areas of influence of different armed groups. No human toll from the fighting was available Wednesday morning.

Tuesday’s fighting illustrates the will ofterritorial extension demonstrated recently by men affiliated with theIslamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS), which multiplies operations beyond the area already under its control. The clashes pitted ISGS fighters against a number of still poorly defined actors, given the difficulty of access to information in this desert region.

But jihadists rivals of Islam and Muslim Support Group (GSIM, affiliated with Al-Qaeda) were among their opponents, according to AFP sources. The nature of the relationship between GSIM fighters and other opponents of EIGS could not be clarified.

The GSIM is very established in the bushes of Talataye. Olivier Dubois, the French journalist kidnapped in Gao in 2021, had gone there for an interview with the commander of the GSIM of Talataye. Fighters from the pro-government group Azawad Salvation Movement (MSA) and ex-rebels of the Coordination of Azawad movements (CMA), who fought the Malian state before signing a peace agreement in 2015, are also present in the area.

“The EIGS people arrived this afternoon on motorbikes, the fighting lasted three hours”, told AFP on Tuesday evening an MSA fighter who took part in the fighting before withdrawing and who was reached by satellite telephone. ISGS fighters “took Talataye” at dusk, he said.

A local elected official confirmed to AFP that “the town hall of Talataye and the city” were on Wednesday morning in the hands of the EIGS. Talataye essentially consists of a agglomeration of hamlets where thousands of people live. A security official in Gao confirmed clashes “between jihadist groups”.

The Talataye area, like a large part of the country, de facto escapes state control. The Malian army said in a statement on Tuesday evening that it had conducted a “offensive reconnaissance” by air over Talataye. The junta in power since 2020 in Mali continues to claim to have cornered the jihadists on the defensive.

“Thanks to the offensive actions carried out, our armed forces won decisive victories against obscurantist groups. These actions also enabled the State to reassert its authority over a large part of the national territory”said Tuesday the head of diplomacy Abdoulaye Diop.

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