Malian army families demand answers after deadly raids against soldiers

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Hundreds of wives and children of Malian soldiers demonstrated on Wednesday in the capital Bamako, demanding information from the government after at least 25 soldiers were killed and 60 went missing in attacks by suspected jihadists.

The raids on Monday on two army camps in central Mali were among the deadliest this year against soldiers struggling to repel increasingly brazen attacks by militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The roughly 300 protesters who gathered in front of a military base accused army chiefs of withholding needed resources from soldiers in the field. Some burned tyres, and one wore a t-shirt that read: “No to thieving generals.”

“We have no news about our husbands,” said one woman, who declined to be identified. “We learned that some are dead and others are missing, but we have received no clear information.”

An army spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

“We demand that our soldiers be equipped in accordance with the mission assigned to them,” said Amadou Dembele, the son of a soldier in Boulkessi, where one of Monday’s attacks took place. “Otherwise we are going to resist any deployment of reinforcements.”

Protests over military losses have destabilized Mali before. Renegade soldiers seized power in 2012 following protests over the government’s handling of a Tuareg-led rebellion in the north.

The resulting political chaos helped precipitate the fall of the northern two-thirds of Mali to the rebels and allied Islamist militants.

France intervened in early 2013 to drive them back, but jihadist fighters have since regrouped and now use Mali as a launchpad for attacks across West Africa’s Sahel region.

Reporting by Idrissa Sangare; Additional reporting by Paul Lorgerie; Writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Grant McCool