Ansar Dine, a Tuareg jihadist front group for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has claimed several recent attacks that have occurred in multiple regions throughout Mali. Three attacks were targeting French forces in the northern part of the country. However, the French Ministry of Defense (MoD) has yet to confirm or deny these claims.
The majority of these attacks took place on Aug. 16 in the Kidal Region of northern Mali. The first attack was an IED blast on a French armored vehicle near the town of Abeibara, which is a stronghold of the jihadist group. Additionally, Ansar Dine claimed to fire rockets or mortars at the joint United Nations-French base at Amachach near the town of Tessalit. According to local sources, the base was previously targeted on March 21 and April 1 and 17.
Immediately after the rocket fire, French forces reportedly sent troops to scan the area. During this, Ansar Dine claimed to have hit a French vehicle with an IED. The blast, according to the jihadists, killed two soldiers. The French MoD has not yet commented on this or the other reported incidents.
Further south, Ansar Dine also claimed its forces assaulted a Malian military checkpoint in the central town of Mopti. In the statement, its forces purportedly fired shots at the checkpoint, which caused Malian forces to retreat. The group then claimed to have captured four motorcycles, two Kalashnikovs, and “a lot of ammunition.”
In addition to the Ansar Dine claims, local sources reported that French forces clashed with AQIM in the northern town of Tabankort on Aug. 17. These reports came two days after other reports said that AQIM clashed with the ostensibly pro-Bamako militia, GATIA, also near Tabankort. However, neither AQIM nor GATIA have commented on the reports of clashes.
Since the beginning of the year, at least 148 al Qaeda-linked attacks have occurred in Mali and neighboring countries according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. There have been more than 280 al Qaeda-linked attacks in the region in the last two years, with most occurring in northern Mali. The rate in which these assaults have occurred is unlikely to slow down, which may make 2016 one of the deadliest years for Mali since 2012. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda has launched more than 100 attacks in West Africa in 2016.]