Ansar Dine claims series of attacks in northern Mali

Ansar Dine, a largely Tuareg front group for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has claimed credit for a series of attacks on UN forces yesterday near the town of Aguelhok in the Kidal Region.

The strikes included two separate incidents of rocket and mortar shelling and ambushes using improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The first occurrence of shelling occurred with Grad rockets, which targeted the UN base in Aguelhok. The rockets did little damage, but it was reported that one vehicle was destroyed. After the shelling, a Chadian patrol team mounted a combing operation near the area where the shells were fired. Ansar Dine claims that when the Chadian troops were near the area, it ambushed the patrol with an IED. One peacekeeper was killed in the blast, while another died from his injuries later in the day.

After the IED, an ambulance belonging to the Chadian contingent at Aguelhok was hit by another IED trying to make its way to the earlier patrol. As this was happening, mortars were again fired into the UN camp.

Elsewhere in Mali, suspected jihadists targeted a Malian military checkpoint near Timbuktu today, leaving one soldier dead. Two civilians are also reported to have sustained injuries as a result of the assault. While no group has so far taken responsibility, the Timbuktu Region is the main area of operations for AQIM’s al Furqan Battalion, which is part of its Sahara Emirate.

According to data compiled by The Long War Journal, there have been at least 175 al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and the wider West African region so far in 2016. This number represents a significant uptick in the insurgency waged by al Qaeda and its many affiliates and allies in Mali in recent years.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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