Al Qaeda group claims assault near Mali capital

Five people were killed Sunday in an assault on a popular resort outside of Bamako, the capital of Mali, in an attack officially claimed by the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s wing in West Africa.

On Sunday, JNIM militants stormed the Kangaba complex, taking hostages and shooting at civilians. The hostages were eventually rescued after French and UN forces aided local Malian security forces in clearing the complex. One French-Gabonese citizen, a Cameroonian, a Portuguese soldier with the European Union training mission in Mali, and an unidentified victim were killed in the assault. A Malian soldier wounded in the attack later died of his injuries.

JNIM’s claim of responsibility noted that three militants conducted the attack. The three were identified as belonging to the Fulani ethnic group. In addition, the message stated that the resort was targeted as it is “frequented by citizens of Crusader states” and a “den of corruption and espionage.” The statement ended with JNIM’s long-standing threat against Western forces in Mali.

Prior to JNIM’s official claim released through its media wing az Zallaqa, the Mauritanian outlet ANI published a claim on its website. ANI has published claims from both al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and JNIM in the past. Today, ANI reported that Katibat Tariq ibn Ziyad, one of AQIM’s oldest and historically strongest brigades in the region, perpetrated the assault on Kangaba. Tariq ibn Ziyad was led by Abdelhamid Abu Zaid, an Algerian, until his death in 2013.

The battalion, as part of AQIM’s Sahara branch, merged into JNIM with several other AQIM battalions, Ansar Dine, its Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front), and Al Murabitoon. The statement released by JNIM on the Kangaba assault made no mention of any specific unit involved in the attack.

Prior to the formation of JNIM, AQIM and Murabitoon have been responsible for several terrorist attacks on hotels and resorts throughout West Africa. In March 2016, gunmen from AQIM targeted a tourist resort in the Ivory Coast, killing 16 people. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, AQIM targets beach resort in Ivory Coast.]

A few months before, Murabitoon killed 20 after assaulting the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou with two car bombs before breaching the perimeter and entering the hotel. In addition to hitting the hotel, a nearby restaurant was also targeted. Over 30 hostages were freed before the situation was contained. [See Threat Matrix report, Al Qaeda attacks hotel in Burkina Faso.]

Before that, AQIM’s Sahara Emirate and Al Murabitoon attacked Bamako in Nov. 2015. In that offensive, the jihadists stormed the Radisson Blu hotel, killing 22 civilians and taking more than 100 people hostage before being killed in a joint raid led by Malian forces. Al Murabitoon said it was responsible in conjunction with the “Sahara Emirate” of AQIM, according to a statement sent to Al Jazeera. This assault marked the re-integration of Murabitoon into AQIM. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Al Qaeda group claims credit for attack on hotel in Mali’s capital.]

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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