Mauritania holds border military drills amid increasing tensions with Mali

Army exercises follow reports of attacks on southern villages by the Malian army

Mauritania's army conducts military drills on its south-eastern border with Mali. Photo: Armed Forces of Mauritania
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Mauritania's army has held a series of military exercises on its south-eastern border with Mali amid increasing tension between the two countries after reported attacks on southern Mauritanian villages by Malian troops.

Army chiefs said the aim of the drills was to determine the “logistical needs” of military units and “to test infantry weapons, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers and combat aircraft”, said a statement posted on Facebook on Sunday.

“Aircraft weapons, artillery and special forces participated in destroying a hypothetical enemy who attempted to infiltrate the national territory for the purpose of carrying out an aggressive act,” it added.

The border exercises, which are the first the North African country has held in years, were attended by Mauritanian Defence Minister Hanan Ould Sidi, Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lamine, and army chief Lt Gen Moktar Bella Chaabane.

The Lt Gen called on commanders and soldiers posted on the border to remain “constantly vigilant” and prepared to tackle any type of threat that might arise as a consequence of instability in the region.

Mauritanian media outlets last month reported the Malian army, accompanied by forces from Russia’s Wagner group, had stormed the border village of Fassala in pursuit of militants from Azawad, Mali's separatist Tuareg movement.

Mauritania summoned the Malian ambassador in Nouakchott, Mohamed Debassy, to protest against what it described as “repeated attacks” against Mauritanians living in Mali.

President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani sent Defence Minister Mr Ould Sidi to Bamako, Mali's capital, with a message for Malian military junta interim president, Assimi Goita, while government spokesman Nani Ould Achrouka warned that Mauritania would "hit twice as hard” against any attempt to intrude into its territory or harm its citizens.

Mali, which has been under military rule since a coup against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government in 2020, has remained silent on the issue.

Mauritania and Mali share a land border of 2,260km, most of which is desert.

The frontier has been volatile for years due to the presence of extremist groups such as Al Qaeda affiliates in the Maghreb and separatists such as the Azawad.

Updated: May 06, 2024, 10:38 AM