The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s group in West Africa, has claimed several attacks on French forces in northern Mali in recent weeks.
Earlier today, JNIM claimed an improvised explosive device (IED) ambush on a French patrol near the town of Tessalit in Mali’s northern region of Kidal. Local media reported that four French soldiers were wounded in the ambush, which was later confirmed by French officials.
Last week, JNIM claimed a similar incident on a French military vehicle approximately 25 miles north of Kidal. Prior to that, on July 8, JNIM said it wounded three French soldiers with an IED near Tessalit. Late last month, the group issued a statement saying its forces hit a French military convoy with an IED near Menaka in the Gao region. However, these three incidents have not been confirmed by French authorities.
On July 17, the joint French-UN base near Tessalit was also hit by several mortars. While JNIM has not claimed this barrage, the base has been targeted numerous times in the past by JNIM’s predecessor groups.
Since the beginning of the year, French troops in Mali have been deliberately targeted at least 12 times by jihadist forces according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. This includes a deadly ambush on a French patrol near the borders with Burkina Faso earlier this year. Two soldiers were wounded while a third was killed, making him the ninth soldier to be killed in France’s Operation Barkhane. [See Threat Matrix report, JNIM claims ambush on French troops in Mali.]
In addition to the claims on French troops, JNIM has also claimed several other attacks in recent weeks across Mali. This includes ambushes on Malian national guardsmen in both the Gao and Mopti regions. It also recently claimed its first attack within Burkina Faso’s borders, which helps showcase the relationship between the Burkinabe jihadist group, Ansaroul Islam, and JNIM. Ansaroul Islam is believed to be heavily tied to JNIM’s Katibat Macina.
Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.