Ansar Dine claims string of attacks across Mali

A series of recent attacks targeting French, UN, and Malian forces throughout Mali has been claimed by the jihadist group Ansar Dine. The assaults ranged from the Kidal Region in the extreme north to the Timbuktu Region. Additional attacks blamed on Ansar Dine, but not yet claimed, have occurred as far south as just outside the capital, Bamako.

Starting on Oct. 29, Ansar Dine fired rockets into the main United Nations camp near the town of Kidal. No casualties were reported, but two Bangladeshi helicopters were damaged by the rockets. Two days later, the jihadist group claimed an IED blast targeting a French military vehicle near the town of Abeibara near the town of Aguelhok. On Nov. 4, IED blast struck two French military vehicles, which killed one French soldier. On the same day, a third French vehicle was hit by an IED near Kidal. All three were claimed by Ansar Dine.

Further south near Gourma in the Timbuktu Region, Ansar Dine claimed a complex assault on a national guard post near the city. Ansar Dine’s forces were reportedly able to temporarily take control over the outpost. Additionally, the group claimed to capture 5 vehicles, burned another 6, and captured at least one DShK machine gun. It also reported that one of its own fighters was killed in that attack.

Further south, two attacks that have yet to be claimed, but are widely suspected to have been the work of one of Ansar Dine’s branches in the southern half of the country. Yesterday, a UN convoy near the town of Douentza in the Mopti Region was subjected to an IED and then a subsequent ambush. One Togolese peacekeeper was killed and seven others from the contingent were wounded. Earlier today, Banamba, a town close to Bamako in the Koulikoro Region, was the scene of a large-scale assault.

A national guard outpost, a gendarme post, a bank, and a prison were all targeted in the multi-faceted assault. At the national guard post, three vehicles were taken by the suspected jihadists. While at the prison, at least 21 prisoners escaped during the assault.

These attacks, along with an unclaimed IED blast on a French vehicle near Aguelhok today, puts the total number of al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and the wider West African region in 2016 at 203. The majority of claimed attacks have been the work of Ansar Dine, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s largely Tuareg front group.

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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