Al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), its wing in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed Sunday’s large-scale assault on a military base in central Mali. At least 23 Malian soldiers were killed in the attack, which also saw the base briefly occupied by the jihadists.
“Thanks to God, mujahideen in the Macina region, under the leadership of Sheikh Amadou Kouffa, carried out a blessed raid on a base of the G5 [Sahel] force in Dioura,” JNIM’s statement reads. The claim then goes on to state that field artillery guns, DShK heavy machine guns, SPG-9s, RPGs, military vehicles, and small arms were captured in the base.
By stating that the strike was led by Kouffa, the jihadist group directly disputes the claim from the Malian military that the operation was led by Ba Ag Moussa, a former Malian colonel who defected to the jihadists in 2012. Additionally, the statement further presses back against French and Malian claims that Kouffa is dead – a claim proven false by a video released earlier this month by JNIM.
JNIM’s also states that the raid was “in response to heinous crimes committed by the forces of the Bamako government, and the militias supported by it, on the right of our people of the Fula.” The jihadist conglomerate has long framed itself as a protector of the Fulani people in central Mali for its own Machiavellian advantage.
The al Qaeda group also claimed responsibility for an attack on fighters from the Tuareg Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) near Talataye in the northern Gao region on Tuesday. JNIM said it killed nine fighters from the militia, however, MSA has yet to confirm or deny this number.
MSA and its ally, the Imghad and Allies Self Defense Movement (GATIA), were last targeted by JNIM last month in the neighboring Menaka region.
JNIM and its predecessor groups have claimed attacks on Tuareg militias in the past, however, the GATIA-MSA alliance has been the main target for the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in northern Mali.
Since the beginning of the year, JNIM has been responsible for dozens of strikes on Malian, French, and UN troops across Mali. Despite a French-led counterterrorism mission, troops from the G5 Sahel, and a United Nations peacekeeping force, Al Qaeda still retains the ability to operate openly inside Mali and the wider Sahel.