Yesterday, al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) claimed a suicide assault on the French base at Gao’s airport in northern Mali.
“On July 22, a group from a company of JNIM, composed of the martyr Shuaib al Ansari and the commandos Jaafar al Ansari and Abdul Jabar al Ansari, overtook a security checkpoint at the Gao airport,” JNIM’s statement reads.
JNIM then reports that after Shuaib al Ansari’s suicide car bomb, the other two jihadists rampaged through the security checkpoint killing several soldiers.
This side of the story has not been corroborated by the French.
While several French soldiers and at least five Estonian troops were confirmed injured in the blast, the two other jihadists were neutralized reportedly before being able to breach the perimeter.
Other sources have reported that all three were killed after the vehicle was targeted by the Malian defenders, which prompted the vehicle to detonate prematurely.
The French Ministry of Defense also reported that the JNIM fighters attempted to use UN painted vehicles and were dressed in Malian army uniforms, which has been a common tactic of the jihadist group when trying to target military bases.
Gao has been routinely targeted in suicide bombings and attacks by JNIM and its predecessor organizations, including the massive bombing in Jan. 2017 that killed at least 77 people.
JNIM also took credit yesterday for an assassination of a commander within the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad, a pro-Bamako militia. According to the al Qaeda group, the commander, Moussa Ag Ismael, was assassinated by men of its Katibat Muhammad bin Maslamah in the northern town of Menaka.
JNIM continues to pose a serious threat to not only Malian security, but the overall security situation in the Sahel. Despite a French-led counterterrorism mission, troops from the G5 Sahel, and a United Nations peacekeeping force, al Qaeda still retains the ability to operate openly inside Mali and the wider Sahel.
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