CNN  — 

Mali has been hit by a wave of attacks over a 24-hour period, sparking fears of spiraling insecurity in the aftermath of two coups in the volatile Sahel country.

On Friday, Mali’s armed forces reported a “complex” suicide attack on the airport area of the military base in the northern Gao region, according to a post on its official Facebook page.

It said the situation was still being assessed and gave no further details.

On Thursday, there were two attacks on a passenger boat on the Niger River near Timbuktu and an army base in Bamba, in the northern Gao region, killing a total of 64 people – 49 civilians and 15 soldiers – according to a statement by the interim government.

They were carried out by suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants in restive northeastern Mali, the government said.

It was not immediately clear how many people died in each attack. However, the government statement added that around fifty of the attackers were killed by Malian armed forces.

The boat attacked is operated by ferry operator Compagnie Malienne De Navigation (Comanav), according to the military.

According to local media, this is the second time in a week a Comanav vessel has been hit by militants. A 12-year-old child was killed in an earlier attack.

Thursday’s attacks were claimed by Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), a militant group associated with al Qaeda, the government said.

Local media also reported that there has been a blockade of the ancient city of Timbuktu for weeks following an announcement by GSIM.

Authorities declared three days of national mourning in the country, which has seen an escalation in violence after seeing two military coups in the past three years.

Turning its back on Western partners

Mali has been grappling with armed conflict since 2012 when political and ethnic-led insurgent groups took up arms against the government over battle for territorial control.

These conflicts have worsened since 2021 after the miitary junta seized power. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Mali’s security situation has deteriorated due to the junta ostracizing some local political actors, and also withdrawing its cooperation with global security partners.

The United Nations in June said “endless” violence was being unleashed on civilians in northeastern Mali by the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group and its affiliates and experts have voiced widespread concern regarding the worsening conditions in the troubled Sahel state.

“In less than a year, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has almost doubled its areas of control in Mali,” a UN Security Council report released in August said.

In June, Mali called on the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA, which has been stationed in the country since 2013, to leave its territory “without delay.” That process is ongoing.

Mali’s relationship with France, its former colonial ruler, has also deteriorated due to the junta’s proposed delay to return to democratic rule.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was overthrown in a coup in 2020, which was followed by another coup in 2021, when current junta leader Assimi Goita overthrew the transitional president Bah N’Daw.

Under the junta, Mali has turned its back on relationships with previous Western partners and embraced Russian mercenary group Wagner, which deployed fighters to the country following the 2021 coup.

It is unclear what has happened to the fighters since the death of Wagner boss Yevgeny Prighozin.

France began withdrawing its troops from Mali last year, with President Emmanuel Macron saying at the time: “We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities whose strategy and hidden objectives we do not share. The fight against terrorism can’t justify everything.”

Analysts say there is also a battle for control over Mali’s northern region between rival Islamist groups – an area that was previously under surveillance by UN peacekeepers.

However, Mali’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop has accused the UN of worsening the security problems in the country.

The UN also expressed concerns about human rights abuses by Mali’s armed forces and “their foreign security partners.”

“Violence against women and girls and conflict-related sexual violence remains prevalent in Mali,” UN experts said in the report.

Almost 9 million people need humanitarian assistance in the country. Earlier this month, UN agencies said 200,000 children were at risk of starvation.

“A nexus of protracted armed conflict, internal displacement and limited humanitarian access threatens to plunge nearly one million children under the age of five into acute malnutrition by the end of this year … if life-saving aid fails to reach them,” the UN said.