İrem UZUN -TDO- At least 25 Malian soldiers have been killed in an attack on a military base in the northern town of Bamba, the government said in the latest bout of violence in the West African nation. A dozen assailants were also "neutralized" during the "terrorist" attack, the government said in a statement, without specifying which group may have been involved in the assault.

A local official said the attackers arrived on motorbikes and in cars. "Investigations are still ongoing on the ground because the death toll must be higher than the 25 deaths announced," he added.

A Malian army official stationed in northern Mali confirmed that an attack had taken place in Bamba but said that there had been losses on both sides. He added that the army did not have a clear idea of enemy losses, however, because the militants took their casualties with them when they left the area. Another military official told AFP that reinforcements had been dispatched to the area.

Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist revolt that first broke out in the north in 2012 and has since spread to the center of the country and neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.  Thousands of Malian soldiers and civilians have died, despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops.

The former French colony braved threats of violence and coronavirus infection on March 29 to stage much-delayed elections to parliament. The hope is that the new assembly will implement reforms from a 2015 peace agreement brokered between the Bamako government and several armed groups. Parallel to these efforts, the government in Bamako has also said it is prepared to enter into talks with jihadist groups. Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists have indicated that they are prepared to negotiate with the government, but only if French and UN troops pull out.

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