JNIM claims suicide bombing in northern Mali

Photo of the reported suicide bomber, Usama al Ansari, as released by JNIM. 

The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s branch in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed its forces were responsible for a suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao on Monday.

Late Monday evening, a suicide truck bomb detonated in a residential area of Gao. At least three people were killed and another 30 were wounded the attack. In JNIM’s statement, the jihadist conglomerate claimed it targeted a base of “Crusader invaders” from the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. It also named the bomber as “Usama al Ansari,” a nom de guerre implying the bomber was a local member of the group.

Today, the group released a short audio statement and a photo of al Ansari. The spokesman in the video stated that “this operation demonstrates that the mujahideen are continuing upon their covenant, which they had made to their lord, until they achieve one of the two good ends, victory or martyrdom.” The spokesman continued by saying that the group will continue to target international forces until “the Ummah [Islamic nation] enjoys the rule of Shariah.”

In response to the recent flare up of violence between Gaza-based militants and Israel, JNIM also sent a message to Gaza stating that “our hearts are loud in prayer for you.”

Malian sources told AFP that the people killed were local Malians. AFP also reported that four of the wounded were foreign employees of the United Nations Mine Action Service. They included two Cambodians, a South African, and a Zimbabwean. Today’s video confirmed that the Structural Engineering and Mine Dismantling headquarters in Gao was the intended target.

Monday’s suicide bombing was the first claimed by JNIM since July. In that attack, a bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a French patrol also in the city of Gao. At least eight French troops were wounded, while two civilians lost their lives in the explosion. That operation came just days after JNIM launched another suicide bomber at a G5 Sahel base in central Mali.

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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