An attack on UN troops yesterday in the northern city of Kidal has left seven Senegalese peacekeepers wounded. According to Reuters, the peacekeepers were traveling near the Kidal airport when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). No group has yet taken responsibility for this attack, but al Qaeda militants are suspected to be the perpetrators. The Malian jihadist group Ansar Dine, the local arm of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been accused of planting the majority of the explosive devices in the Kidal region.
The bombing follows a string of attacks in central Mali this week. On Jan. 8, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa, assaulted a Malian military base in the town of Teninkou. The operation was said to be a probe to test the response from the Malian military. On Jan. 7, AQIM attacked the nearby town of Djoura before quickly retreating, leaving one civilian dead. And on Jan. 5, AQIM assaulted a Malian military base in the town of Nampala close to the Mauritanian border, killing seven troops. Another jihadist group operating in Mali, al Murabitoon, the alliance between Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s al-Mulathameen Brigade and Ahmed el Tilemsi’s faction of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), has also conducted several attacks in the past week. [See accompanying map for more information.]
Jihadists in Mali and neighboring states have increased their operations despite an ongoing French-led counterterrorism mission. The al Qaeda groups in Mali appear to have regrouped and re-equipped in recent months.
In 2014, jihadists launched at least 34 significant offensives in Mali and five more in Niger, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal [see accompanying map]. Improvised explosive devices were the most common method used by the groups; 15 IED attacks were launched against French and UN forces as well as civilians in 2014. [For more information on the data compiled, see LWJ report, Jihadists in Mali step up attacks, kill 7 soldiers.]