Attack on UN base in Mali carried out according to Zawahiri’s guidelines, JNIM says

Al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, JNIM) attacked a United Nations base in the northern Malian city of Aguelhok earlier today. According to the UN, at least 10 Chadian peacekeepers were killed and 25 others wounded.

JNIM quickly issued a claim of responsibility, framing the assault as part of a broader al Qaeda campaign intended to prevent the “normalization” of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital.

JNIM’s statement mirrors the language employed by Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, after its raid on a hotel complex in Nairobi last week.

Shabaab portrayed that operation as being “in accordance with the guidelines of Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri,” adding that the mass murder operation in Nairobi was codenamed “Jerusalem will never be Judaized.”

The raid in Mali is part of the same campaign, according to JNIM. Its twopage statement, which was released in Arabic and English by the group’s media arm, is titled “Al-Quds Will Never Be Judaized.”

“This attack comes in response to the guidelines of the Command of [Al Qaeda], led by Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri (may Allah preserve him), to thwart the normalization schemes woven by the Zionist Arabs and non-Arabs,” JNIM says in its claim of responsibility.

Similar to the statement by Shabaab after its attack in Nairobi, JNIM reproduces a quote from Osama bin Laden on the Palestinian cause.

“The blood of [your] children is the blood of our children, and your blood is our blood. So, blood for blood, and destruction for destruction. May Allah the Almighty bear witness that we will not let you down until we achieve victory or we taste what Hamza bin Abdul Mutallib tasted,” bin Laden is quoted as saying.

JNIM adds that its operation in Mali is “a clear response from the Mujahideen in the Islamic Maghreb, to demonstrate their rejection of and their standing in the face of the normalization campaigns with the criminal Jewish entity, and that they will spare no effort to foil the plots of America, France, and Israel to infiltrate Africa.”

JNIM mentions President Trump, who recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the Saudi monarchy. But much of its claim of responsibility focuses on Chad, which has recently renewed its diplomatic ties with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Chad earlier today and the two countries reportedly signed cooperation agreements.

The al Qaeda branch blasts these ties, specifically mentioning the meetings between Chad President Idriss Deby and Netanyahu. JNIM describes Deby as the “head of these corrupt tyrannical rulers,” saying he “raced to visit Israel, following in the footsteps of the perished [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, who had set the precedent decades before!!”

JNIM’s statement claims that Deby’s actions are “a flagrant defiance of the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Chad, who have become stricken under poverty and hunger, despite the substantial wealth of their land!!”

As a result of these meetings, JNIM says, it specifically targeted Chadian forces inside Mali. “Deby’s visit to Israel would not pass without a proper response from the Mujahideen in the Islamic Maghreb. The first of the responses came today, concurrent with the visit of Netanyahu to N’djamena.”

In reality, JNIM regularly targets UN forces comprised of multiple nationalities. But the group’s latest attack in Mali demonstrates how it considers its actions to be part of al Qaeda’s global jihad.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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