JNIM claims four suicide bombers used in Timbuktu attack

One of the foreign suicide bombers said to have been used in the April 14 suicide assault in Timbuktu

The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s branch in West Africa, claimed earlier today that four suicide bombers were used in the April 14 suicide assault on the Timbuktu airport.

Previous accounts of the attack mentioned only two or three suicide car bombs were used, with one of the vehicles not being able to detonate. The vehicles were disguised as either UN or Malian army vehicles, a tactic used to allow better access to the various military bases (dubbed the “super camp”) at the airport. It is still unclear why one vehicle failed to detonate.

JNIM’s statement claims, however, that the jihadist group used four suicide bombers during the strike. The statement also provided the nom de guerre, as well as a photo, of each of the bombers. According to the nisba name (an Arabic term referring to an adjective that indicates one’s origin or tribe) of the bombers, three were foreign fighters while one was a local Malian.

As one vehicle is confirmed to have not detonated, it is unclear if one of the claimed suicide bombers detonated himself in another manner — which has not been reported — or if JNIM is simply exaggerating what happened on the ground.

In addition to showing the bombers, JNIM also denied claims by France’s Operation Barkhane that women suicide bombers were used during the attack. The use of women in the assault, if it were true, would be the first use of female suicide bombers by the group and the first overall use in the Malian conflict.

The suicide attack in Timbuktu, which was large and ambitious in scale, resulted in a complete tactical failure for the jihadists. One actual UN peacekeeper was killed, a Burkinabe, while at least 10 others were wounded during the assault. France confirmed seven of its soldiers were also wounded. On the other side, the French military reported at least 15 jihadists were killed. JNIM has tried to down play this number.

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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