As the jihadist alliance of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Ansar Dine has lost control of most of the towns in northern Mali, it has launched a guerrilla campaign against the French and Malian troops. Yesterday, fighters from MUJAO infiltrated the town of Gao, took control of the mayor’s office, and battled French and Malian troops in the streets. Fifteen MUJAO fighters are said to have been killed, but the message is clear: As the French plan on quickly exiting Mali, the Islamist alliance will remain to wage a brutal insurgency.
In addition to guerrilla warfare, MUJAO has signaled it is capable of deploying suicide bombers. There have now been five reported suicide attacks in Mali since the first was reported on Feb. 9, in Gao. Another suicide bomber, an “Arab,” struck one day later, at the same place in Gao.
According to Xinhua, a suicide bomber struck yesterday in the northern town of Kidal, killing one security personnel. And today, a pair of suicide bombers detonated two car bombs near Tessalit. Five people were killed in today’s blasts.
MUJAO has claimed credit for the Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 attacks in Gao, as well as yesterday’s bombing in Kidal, and likely executed today’s attacks in Tessalit.
The US government added MUJAO and two of its leaders to the list of global terrorists and entities in December 2012. Earlier last year, the group quickly established training camps for jihadists from across the globe following the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in March 2012. France did not intervene in Mali until January 2013, when AQIM, MUJAO, and Ansar Dine had begun marching south and threatened to take control of the capital of Bamako.
AQIM, MUJAO, and Ansar Dine have had sufficient time to establish camps and train and indoctrinate suicide bombers to be used in the Malian insurgency. As a letter written by AQIM emir Abdelmalek Droukdel shows, the jihadists were prepared for Western intervention, and planned accordingly.
Reuters reported that 13 Chadian soldiers and 65 jihadists were killed during fighting in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains, an al Qaeda refuge near the border with Algeria. French troops are also hunting the jihadists in the mountain, no casualties have been reported:
“The provisional toll is … on the enemy’s side, five vehicles destroyed and 65 terrorists killed. We deplore the deaths of 13 of our valiant soldiers,” said a statement from the army general staff read on state radio.