Islamic State claims attacks on American, French forces in the Sahel

Fighters in the Sahel renew their oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State in a recently released video.

In the most recent issue of the Islamic State’s Al Naba weekly newsletter, the global jihadist group claims its forces were responsible for two recent attacks targeting French and American forces in the Sahel.

“Thanks to God, soldiers of the caliphate in Niger detonated an improvised explosive device on a car belonging to the Crusader American special forces which were supervising the training of apostate Nigerien soldiers,” the Islamic State’s newsletter reads.

It goes on to claim that two American soldiers were killed in the explosion. US Africa Command, while confirming that a vehicle was damaged in an explosion near Ouallam, Niger, on June 9, denied that any service member was killed.

The reported IED is not the first claimed Islamic State attack on US troops in Niger. In October 2017, the Islamic State was also responsible for the now infamous ambush near Tongo Tongo, Niger, which left four US Special Forces soldiers and several Nigerien soldiers dead.

Also enclosed in today’s Al Naba is a statement asserting that the Islamic State’s men also recently shot down a French helicopter in Mali’s northern Menaka region. The jihadist newsletter states that the helicopter was shot down as part of a complex ambush on French and Malian troops last week.

The French Ministry of Defense has confirmed some parts of the Islamic State’s version of events. France states that it conducted a joint operation against the Islamic State’s troops with Malian soldiers near Akabar in northern Mali between June 13 and 14.

While not specifying the reason, the French ministry did state that a Gazelle helicopter was forced to conduct an emergency landing during the operation. France also adds that at least 20 Islamic State fighters were killed during the operation.

The jihadist organization has claimed several attacks, bombings, and other assaults on French forces in the Sahel. This includes a purported failed suicide bombing earlier this year in Menaka and another suicide bombing on French troops last year.

Lastly, the Islamic State reported its “security apparatus” assassinated a member of the Tuareg group Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) in Mali’s Menaka region earlier this month. MSA, which has not been active on social media since mid-May, has not commented on this alleged incident.

However, the Islamic State and MSA, along with its ally the Imghad and Allies Self Defense Movement (GATIA), have waged a brutal campaign against each other for over a year. Dozens of members of both sides have been killed, while massacres have been committed against civilians by both sides.

The Islamic State’s men in the Sahel, colloquially known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), recently renewed their oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State in a newly released video.

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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