Jihadists in Mali launched three separate suicide attacks today against Malian and Nigerien troops in two towns outside of Gao. Reuters has some details on the attacks:
The attacks took place between 4 and 5 a.m. in Menaka and Gossi, near Gao – the first major town freed from the control of Islamist fighters during a French-led military intervention earlier this year.
“The first attack targeted Nigerien soldiers in Menaka. A car bomb entered the (military) camp, but the soldiers … destroyed the vehicle which exploded,” Lieutenant Colonel Souleymane Maiga told Reuters.
“At the same time in Gossi, three suicide bombers on foot attacked a checkpoint. Again the soldiers … shot at them. The three bombers were killed,” he said.
Another suicide bomber was killed as he tried to enter the military camp in Gossi, Maiga said, adding that the injury to the Malian soldier was not serious.
While no group claimed credit for the attack, it was likely executed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or Ansar Dine, or a combination of fighters from those groups.
Note that one of the attacks was a suicide assault (a group of armed suicide bombers attacking a target). Jihadist groups in Mali have executed several attacks of this kind in the past; the last one was on March 21 in Timbuktu. The suicide assault is a common al Qaeda and Taliban tactic that is frequently used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and in other theaters.
While today’s attacks were not particularly well-executed (only one Malian soldier was wounded in the attack, and the rest of the suicide bombers were killed), the jihadists in Mali are sending a message to Malian security forces and African Union troops that are preparing to deploy in the north: The attacks will continue, and the jihadist groups are not leaving anytime soon.
According to a count by The Long War Journal, there have been 12 suicide attacks in Mali, including the three attacks today, since France intervened in mid-January to halt the takeover of Mali by AQIM, MUJAO, and Ansar Dine. The first suicide attack was conducted on Feb. 9 in Gao. Attacks have also taken place in Timbuktu, Kidal, and Tessalit. Three of those suicide attacks have been claimed by MUJAO. French and Malian forces are still fighting to reestablish control of northern Mali, which was seized by the al Qaeda-linked groups in March 2012.