Some of the soldiers as seen in the video
Ansar Dine, a mainly Tuareg jihadist front for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has released a video showing Malian Army soldiers that were captured in last month’s large-scale attack on a military base in southern Mali. Ansar Dine has previously stated its Katibat Macina (Macina Battalion), which is mainly an ethnic Fula group, perpetrated the attack.
The video, one of the first produced by Ansar Dine’s new Al Rimaah Media outlet, shows five soldiers sitting in front of the jihadist group’s flag. Each soldier then speaks to the camera, saying their name, rank, and where they were captured. The highest ranking soldier shown is a First Sergeant, while three others are only identified as “soldiers.” In prior releases related to the Nampala attack, Ansar Dine did not mention any captives taken during the battle. The first report of hostages taken came from the Mauritanian news outlet Al Akhbar just days prior to the release of the video.
The jihadist group does not indicate that these soldiers will be executed in the video and it is possible the soldiers could be used as bargaining chips for potential prisoner swaps in the future. Jihadist groups in Mali, like AQIM, have completed prisoner exchanges in the past, but these have usually been performed for Western captives.
Prior to the release of the video, Malian authorities claimed to have captured a leader of Katibat Macina, Mahmoud Barry, who is also known as Sheikh Yahya. The Malian officials have placed Yahya as one of the masterminds of the Nampala offensive. Yahya was first seen and identified as a leader of Katibat Macina in a video released by the battalion in May. In addition, Malian authorities also claimed to have captured a Burkinabe leader of Katibat Macina last month near the border with Burkina Faso. It remains to be seen if the loss of key leaders hinders its ability to effectively operate.
Last month’s attack in Nampala left at least 17 Malian soldiers dead and more than 30 others wounded. The assault was claimed by both Ansar Dine and the National Alliance for the Protection of the Peul Identity and the Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ), which is an ethnic Fulani (also known as Peul) militia that formed just two months ago. It is possible that there was cooperation between the two in the onslaught, as both Ansar Dine’s Katibat Macina and ANSIPRJ are ethnic Fulani groups and ANSIPRJ is unlikely to have the capabilities to pull off such an invasion by itself.
In addition to the ANSIPRJ and Ansar Dine, Malian officials have stated that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also took part in the assault on the base. Reuters has reported that a Malian military spokesman said that “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attacked from the north, the Macina Liberation Front [another name for Katibat Macina] linked to Ansar Dine waited outside the town to ambush military reinforcements and an ethnic Peul [another word for the Fula people] group attacked from the southeast.” (See Threat Matrix report, Malian military base targeted in southern Mali.)