While JNIM has not claimed the assault, its Katibat Macina is widely suspected of perpetrating the attack. This comes after sustained operations against it in the area last month.
French and American officials say the emir of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel (a.k.a. Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud), was killed in a counterterrorism operation in northern Mali on June 3. The U.S. military supported the French-led operation.
In the latest edition of its Al-Naba newsletter, the Islamic State claims that Al Qaeda started a war against the so-called caliphate’s men in West Africa. Independent reporting shows the two sides have clashed in recent weeks.
The two jihadist groups continue their rampage in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
The attack in Mali’s northern Gao region is one of the deadliest in recent months.
Al Qaeda’s branch in West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, has released a statement saying it is willing to meet with the Malian government — but only after French and allied forces withdraw from the area.
Two recently released booklets by the al Qaeda group are likely meant to assuage tensions both within and outside its organization.
It is unclear if the unit represents a splinter of al Qaeda’s JNIM, though the group now represents an Islamic State-loyal faction close to the borders with Mauritania.