The firefights in both Mali and Niger represent a sharp increase in violence since the beginning of this year.
Yesterday’s ambush in Gao is the worst attack on UN forces since they took over security responsibilities in the summer of 2013.
This week, Agence France-Presse received a disturbing call from a terrorist group announcing the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodrigues Leal.
Malian officials claimed that Oumar Ould Hamaha, whom the US has offered a $3 million reward, was killed. The report is unconfirmed.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s al-Mulathameen Brigade is behind terror attacks in Niger, Algeria, and Mali. Its “aliases,” the al-Murabitoon Brigade and al Mua’qi’oon Biddam, have also been added to the US’s lists of terror groups.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar united his group, the al-Mulathameen Brigade, with Ahmed el Tilemsi’s Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa to form the al-Murabitoon. The new group has praised the emirs of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The al Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa said the suicide attacks were intended to punish Niger for “cooperation with France in the war against Sharia” in Mali.
Hamad el Khairy, the head of the MUJAO’s sharia committee, said reports of Belmokhtar’s death are “merely unfounded lies” and have “no basis of truth.”