After a long media silence, al Qaeda’s Group of Support for Muslims and Islam (JNIM) returned to social media on Saturday and issued a claim of responsibility and also a video for last week’s multi-pronged attack against UN forces in the northern Malian city of Kidal.
The statement reads that forces from JNIM launched an attack on “the gates of the criminal MINUSMA forces in the city of Kidal.” It continues by saying that this battle resulted in one UN armored vehicle being burned and one peacekeeper wounded, while MINUSMA positions in Kidal were also targeted with mortars and rockets.
The jihadist statement largely conforms with what MINUMSA reported. According to the UN, the “MINUSMA camp in Kidal was the target of a complex attack, [resulting in] one wounded among its peacekeepers.” The UN also states that its forces repelled the assault after its “Rapid Reaction Force” was deployed.
In the video, jihadists can be seen firing on UN positions with mortars, rockets, small arms, and heavy machine gun fire. One vehicle can be seen burning in the background, confirming JNIM’s claim. In other scenes, jihadists are shown to be engaging with UN forces in relatively close combat. Saturday’s video is of lesser quality than what JNIM has typically produced in the past.
JNIM’s last claim came on July 31, when it stated its forces wounded four French soldiers with an IED near Tessalit in the Kidal region. It did, however, release a video showing its June 17 assault on a Malian base in the Timbuktu region in late August. Shortly thereafter, its Telegram channel was shutdown but a new one was created and remained silent until Saturday.
It is unclear why there was almost a month of media silence and why its last claim of responsibility was almost two months ago. Many attacks suspected to be the work of JNIM within this period have still gone unclaimed. In addition, more recent attacks, like Sunday’s IED blast near Gao which killed three UN peacekeepers and wounded five others. This is heavily suspected to be the work of JNIM, but has yet to be claimed.
Screenshots from the JNIM video:
Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.