Suicide assault targets African coalition military base in central Mali

The headquarters of the G5 Sahel force, a coalition of Sahelien states sent to combat the growing insurgency in central Mali, was subjected to a complex assault earlier today. At least six people were killed in the attack, which has so far yet to be claimed by any group.

Earlier today, suspected jihadists attempted to infiltrate the G5 base in Sevare, a town in Mali’s central Mopti region. A suicide car bomb was used in the attempt to penetrate the perimeter. The explosion was then followed by heavy gunfire as militants attempted to exploit the chaos to enter the base. According to local reports, the provisional death toll stands at six people dead. However, it is unclear if all six are members of the G5 military force.

No group has yet to officially claim responsibility for the assault, however, the modus operandi, as well as the area in which the attack took place, fits with that of al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). According to Mauritanian news outlet Al Akhbar, JNIM contacted the outlet to claim the assault. However, the group itself has not verified its involvement elsewhere. JNIM reportedly told a connected journalist the suicide bomber went by Harun al Muhajir, indicating he was a foreign fighter.

The jihadist conglomerate, and its constituent groups, have launched many similar attacks in the past. Its Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front) routinely conducts operations in this region of Mali. Sevare was also the location for a hotel siege conducted by Al Murabitoon, a JNIM constituent, in 2015.

In April, JNIM used four suicide bombers in an assault on the UN’s super base at the Timbuktu airport. The jihadist group used several vehicles disguised as UN or Malian army vehicles to try to infiltrate that base. One actual UN peacekeeper was killed, while at least 10 others were wounded during the assault. France confirmed seven of its soldiers were also wounded. JNIM later confirmed that three out the four suicide bombers used were foreign fighters.

Today’s suicide assault means that there have been at least 133 al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and the wider Sahel region since the beginning of the year, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. The current number of attacks is on pace to match the pace set in the last few years, despite a French counter-terrorism operation, UN troops, and troops from the G5 Sahel.

Article updated with new information of a purported claim sent to Al Akhbar.

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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