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Al-Qaida Affiliate Claims It Killed Four Russian Mercenaries in Mali

This undated photograph handed out by French military on Jan. 6, 2022, shows three Russian mercenaries, right, in northern Mali. (French Army via AP)

Al-Qaida's affiliate in Mali claimed Monday it had killed four mercenaries from Russia's private military firm, the Wagner Group, in an ambush around Bandiagara in central Mali.

The media unit for Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), said in a statement its fighters clashed with the mercenaries Saturday in the Mopti region, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist statements.

Wagner has no public representation and could not be reached for comment.

Mali is struggling to stem an Islamist insurgency that took root after a 2012 uprising and has since spread to neighboring countries, killing thousands and displacing millions across West Africa's Sahel region.

Wagner began supplying hundreds of fighters last year to support the Malian military and has since been accused by human rights groups and local residents of participating in massacres of civilians — accusations it has not responded to.

The Russian government has acknowledged Wagner personnel are in Mali, but the Malian government has described them as instructors from the Russian military rather than private security contractors.

In July, JNIM claimed responsibility for an attack on Mali's main military base, which it said was a response to governmental collaboration with Wagner.