|JNIM confirms deaths of co-founder, senior leaders in French raids|
|[LongWarJournal] In its official claim of responsibility for Friday’s terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) also confirmed the deaths of several of its senior leaders.|
According to the jihadist group, the assault on the French embassy in Ouagadougou was in response to the French raids on Feb. 14 between Boughessa, Mali, and Tinzaouatene, Algeria. In that operation, French forces conducted three simultaneous raids, accompanied with airstrikes, which killed or captured over 20 jihadist fighters. JNIM confirmed the death of six of its leaders, including its co-founder, Hasan al Ansari.
Ansari, along with Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Ahmed el Tilemsi, was also a co-founder of Al Murabitoon. He would later become the second-in-command of the al Qaeda-loyal group, before becoming a co-founder and senior leader within JNIM. In the photo above, Ansari can be seen sitting second from the right between Iyad Ag Ghaly and Abu Abdul Rahman al Sanhaji, another Murabitoon official.
JNIM also confirmed the death of two top Ansar Dine commanders, Malik Ag Wanesnet and Abdullah Ag Oufata. Wanesnet, also known as Abu al Tayyib, was a former colonel in the Malian army before defecting to the jihadist cause and becoming a top military commander for Ansar Dine. Oufata was the former mayor of Boughessa, Mali, before he joined the Tuareg jihadist group. Ansar Dine joined Murabitoon, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara branch, and Ansar Dine’s Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front>Macina Liberation Front) to form JNIM last year.
|Some blame an ISIS-linked group for Niger ambush|
|[NEWSWEEK] The Pentagon is reluctant to attribute the ambush to any specific group, but the Defense Intelligence Agency told ABC News it is "highly likely" a group linked to ISIS is responsible.|
The group, known as ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), has been active in Niger for roughly two years. In 2015, the current leader of the group, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, severed ties with an Al Qaeda affiliate and pledged allegiance to the and its leader, . But ISGS has not been formally recognized as an official branch of ISIS, according to ABC News.
"[ISGS] primarily operates along the Mali-Niger border in Mali's Menaka region, but its reach may extend as far as Niamey, Niger," Robyn Mack, a spokesperson for AFRICOM, tells Newsweek. "The group has conducted small-scale attacks against regional security forces."
AFRICOM is one the Pentagon's six geographic combatant commands and is responsible for military relations with African nations, the and African regional security organizations.
ISIS recently suffered a major defeat when it was driven from Raqqa, a Syrian city that became the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate. But the attack in Niger highlights the terrorist organization's continued global appeal, even as its presence in Iraq and Syria dwindles.
Al Qaeda's presence in the region is much more significant than ISGS.
Other terror organizations are also active in the region where the ambush occurred, including Al Qaeda's rebranded Mali-based affiliate Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal- in (JNIM).
"JNIM is an umbrella organization of regionally-focused terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Sahara Emirate, al-Mourabitoun, and locally-focused groups Macina Liberation Front (MLF) and Ansar al-Din (AAD)," Mack says.
The group has for at least 35 attacks since it formed in early March, "including the June 18 attack on a Western-frequented hotel near Bamako, Mali, and probably are responsible for the August 13 attack on a Western-frequented cafe in Ouagadougou, ," Mack adds.
Experts were surprised to hear ISGS is being blamed for the ambush.
Jason Warner, an assistant professor at the Combating Terrorism Center and the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, tells Newsweek he was "surprised" when he heard the October 4 ambush was being blamed on ISGS.
Warner, who's done extensive research on terrorism in Africa, says he "never really heard anyone mention ISGS in a serious way" and the group has "not really ever come up as a real threat" in conversation.
"When it first came out that these four Americans were killed, for most of us who watch this region, it seemed unlikely it was ISGS since they haven’t been so active," Warner adds.
In Warner's view, if the attack is indeed "pinned down to [ISGS], it would be the most ideologically significant" it has been involved in thus far
|Mali confirms arrest of key jihadist near Timbuktu|
|[Ynet] Malian and French troops have a close associate of a preacher whose jihadist group has claimed dozens of attacks against Western and Malian targets, Mali's security minister said on Sunday.|
Macina Liberation Front,
|Top Malian Jihadist Killed as Unrest Intensifies|
|[AnNahar] The Malian army said Friday it had killed a top jihadist commander operating in the country's troubled central region, following heavy fighting in the north against jihadists and among s this week.|
Bekaye Sangare, a senior figure in the Macina Brigades,
Sangare's death follows the killing of a dozen jihadists this week by joint Malian-French forces in the troubled north, while an attack by Islamists on Malian soldiers dead left three troops dead and five more still missing.
The French army said in a statement Thursday that fighting "took out several in the Gao-Ansongo region," between July 10 and July 12, requiring helicopter and drone cover.
Elsewhere, non-jihadist s faced off in the region of Kidal on Tuesday, violating a ceasefire as they battled for control around the Anefis area, which they have fought over for two years.
Mali's north is controlled in parts by s loyal to Bamako and in others by former rebels who want greater autonomy for the region, while the state is absent from much of the territory.
Head of the peacekeeping mission in the country Mahamat Saleh Annadif noted that the between the Gatia pro-government group and the former rebels of the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) took place as a committee aimed at enforcing a peace accord was in session.
Both sides signed a 2015 peace deal aimed at curbing violence in Mali's north, but both have repeatedly violated a ceasefire.
Several of the peace deal's key planks have yet to be fully implemented, while jihadists continue to roam the north and center of the country, despite being ousted from key northern towns by an ongoing French-led military intervention in 2013.
former rebels still control the city of Kidal.
|Macron heads to Mali to reaffirm French commitment to battle jihadists|
|[AlAhram] President Emmanuel Macron undertakes his first trip as commander-in-chief on Friday when he meets troops fighting Islamist in Mali where the security situation has worsened despite French intervention more than four years ago.|
The Sahel, a politically fragile area whose remote desert spaces spanning from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable after a series of attacks in recent months.
That has been brought further to light after a spike in violence across Mali, where the former colonial power intervened more than four years ago to drive out al Qaeda-linked who hijacked a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs and attempted to take control of the central government in Bamako.
Macron, a newcomer to international diplomacy, put counter-terrorism at the top of his security priorities during the election campaign, vowing to strengthen support for West African allies.
"Emmanuel Macron made the commitment during the campaign to immediately go and see troops engaged in the fight against terrorism," said a senior French diplomat.
The trip to Gao, where some 1,600 troops are based and where he will also hold talks with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, will reaffirm ' engagement, in stark contrast to his predecessor , who began his term pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
After sending troops to Mali, has since spread some 4,000 soldiers across the region to hunt down Islamists,
the U.N.'s forces have lacked equipment and resources, making a political settlement between Tuaregs and the government in Mali increasingly fragile and paving the way for Islamists and traffickers to exploit a void in the north of the country.
French officials acknowledge that is likely to have to keep its forces in the region for an indefinite period.
Diplomats said Macron wanted to fine-tune policy to ensure countries were also given more help to develop rather than just focusing on security aspects.
With shouldering the bulk of European military operations overseas, and in particular in Africa, officials said the trip would also be an opportunity to outline his desire for a greater European role, something that has been pushing for years, but with few tangible results.
"The Franco-German engine must give Europe impetus to play a bigger role in crucial dossiers such as the African Sahel," the diplomat said.
|Three jihadi groups active in Mali announce merger|
The Macina Brigades group, active in central Mali, has also joined the merger.
"It is very particular to see them all together," said Wassim Nasr, 24’s expert on jihadist movements.
ANI distributed a screenshot of the video showing five jihadist leaders seated together, with Iyad Ag Ghaly in the centre.
The four others were identified as the "emirs" of the new movement.
"What they are doing here is also against the in the region, which is gaining in force," Nasr said. "They are confirming their presence there."
The ability of such key players in local terror groups to meet freely is notable. "It shows that it is impossible to monitor this huge region militarily and even with technical means," said Nasr.
In an audio excerpt Iyad Ag Ghaly can be heard swearing allegiance to slain Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ‐ whose Al Qaeda in Iraq group later evolved into the Islamic State group ‐ and Ayman al- , Al Qaeda’s current leader.
He can also be heard praising Al Qaeda founder , who was killed in Pakistain in May 2011.
It was not clear when the video was recorded, though ANI said it was "recent".
All three groups already had ties to Al Qaeda, and were involved in an onslaught that saw northern Mali fall out of government control for nearly a year from spring 2012.
The were later expelled from the region by a French-led international military intervention.
Nonetheless large swathes of northern Mali continue to come under attack from jihadist groups.
The area is also seen by governments battling the jihadist threat as a launchpad for attacks against other countries in the region.
|Mali Arrests Senior Jihadist Blamed for Military Base Attack|
|[AnNahar] Malian special forces a senior figure from the jihadist group on Tuesday close to a central military base where he is accused of planning an attack that killed 17 soldiers.|
"Today, at around 4:00 pm (1600 GMT) our special forces captured Mahmoud Barry, alias Abou Yehiya," one of the most senior figures in the group's branch operating in central Mali, an intelligence officer told Agence Presse.
Other security sources confirmed the arrest, adding that Barry was the "emir" of Ansar Dine's Macina combat unit and was behind several attacks on Malian security forces since last year.
He is suspected of taking part in last week's attack on a military base of Nampala, near the border with Mauritania, that left 17 soldiers dead and another 35 , said a security source.
The attackers stormed the site, which has been targeted multiple times since January last year, taking control of it for several hours and making off with military vehicles.
The government declared a 10-day state of emergency after what it called a "coordinated terrorist attack", which was claimed by Ansar Dine and another armed ethnic group.
Barry was captured between the military base of Nampala and Dogofri, in the central region of Segou.
|Al-Qaeda and 2 other Islamist groups launch attack on army base in Mali killing 17 soldiers|
|[IBTIMES.CO.UK] At least 17 soldiers were killed and dozens injured when some unidentified attacked an army base in Mali, in West Africa. The landlocked country is reportedly facing growing threats from Islamist and defence minister Tièman Hubert Coulibaly has vowed to give an "appropriate" reply to the involved in the attack.|
According to reports, the attackers raided the army base in Nampala, located in a semi-desert scrubland close to the border with Mauritania on Tuesday (19 July). The took over the base for a brief duration an army said, adding that three Islamic groups have for the attack.
Spokesman for the army, Souleymane Maiga, told that al- in the Islamic Maghreb attacked from the north and an ethnic Peul group launched an attack from the southeast, while the Macina Liberation Front linked to ‐ a Islamist group ‐ waited outside the town to ambush military reinforcements. He added that following the attack, Malian troops retreated to nearby Diabaly to regroup. An intelligence source told the news agency that the attackers seized weapons and vehicles from the base and took them to a forest in the region.
Ansar Dine has already for the attack, admitting that its Macina Battalion launched the raid. The National Alliance for the Safeguarding of Peul Identity and the Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ) ‐ headed by Oumar Aldjana, reportedly also for the attack through a call to a donor-funded national radio station, Studio Tamani reported.
"We lost 17 men and unfortunately 35 were also and these have all been transported for medical care in the region of Segou," Coulibaly said on state television
... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
following the attack. The army is now looking for the responsible for the attack, he said and noted, "We will make sure that this coordinated terrorist attack ... is met with an appropriate response."
|U.N. Staffer Killed in Mali Attack on Peacekeeping Convoy|
|[AnNahar] A U.N. employee was killed Tuesday in an attack on a peacekeeping convoy in northern Mali, Secretary General said.|
The attackers used explosives on the road from Goundam to Timbuktu where the vehicles from the U.N. MINUSMA force were traveling, he said.
Ban condemned the attack in which a civilian staff member was killed and said such actions "will not alter the determination of the to support the Malian people and the ."
The attack came just days after Islamist stormed a luxury hotel in Bamako, killing at least 20 people and taking hostages before Malian, French and U.S. troops moved in to end the siege.
Northern Mali fell under the control of Tuareg rebels and jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in mid-2012 before they were beaten back by a French-led operation in early 2013.
In June, the two main armed factions signed a peace deal to end the conflict in the north, but some splinter groups are opposing the agreement.
Two separate jihadist groups have for the assault on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on Friday: the Al-Murabitoun group, an Al-Qaeda affiliate led by notorious one-eyed Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, and the Macina Liberation Front (LWF) from central Mali.
The United Nations has deployed some 10,200 peacekeepers in Mali to help restore order after the Islamist takeover in the north but the mission has come under repeated attacks.
|Islamists Kill Policeman in Mali|
|[AnNahar] Islamists from a group linked to a deadly hotel siege have attacked a police post in central Mali, killing an officer, military and local government sources said Sunday. |
"On Saturday, armed Islamists fired on three gendarmes in Bankass, at a security post," said a Malian army source in the regional capital Mopti, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, adding that one of the officers died.
Mahamane Cisse, a councilor in the Mopti region, said the "terrorists" were fighters for radical Islamic preacher Amadou Koufa's Macina Liberation Front.
Little is known about the group, but it was linked to a hostage drama at a hotel in nearby town of Sevare in August in which 13 people died, including five U.N. workers.
Cisse said the fighters in Saturday's attack moved on after killing the police officer to a nearby local government building.
"There, they set fire to two vehicles and the residence of the sub-prefect, who fortunately was not there," he added.
"It was the men of Amadou Koufa of the Macina Liberation Front that did it."
Koufa is close to Souleyman Mohammed Kennen, who for the Byblos hotel siege in a brief phone conversation soon after with AFP.
"The hand of Allah has guided the mujahedeen of Sevare against the enemies of Islam," Kennen said, adding that Koufa had given his "blessing" to the attack.
In 2012, Kennen was part of the Malian wing of fighters led by notorious Algerian jihadist commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a founding member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), who now heads his own group.
Northern Mali was then under the control of jihadist movements linked to al-Qaeda and ethnic Tuareg rebel forces. The main towns in the desert territory were recaptured from the with the help of French and African troops in 2013.
Security forces in Mali have at least 10 suspects over the Byblos hotel siege, which began on August 7 and lasted almost 24 hours.
Four foreign employees of the U.N.'s peacekeeping mission in Mali were killed, along with a Malian civilian driver, four "terrorists" and four soldiers, according to the government.
Army reinforcements arrived in the Bankass area on Sunday "to protect people and look for terrorists," the military source said.
|Terrorists Kill Village Imam in Mali after Refusing Recruitment|
|[ALMANAR.LB] A group killed a village imam in central Mali who had refused their repeated attempts to recruit him, a local official told AFP Friday.|
Gunmen with suspected links to preacher Amadou Koufa killed the imam of Barkerou village, Aladji Sekou, on Thursday night, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The two men arrived by , leaving it on the edge of the village before approaching the imam's home on foot where they shot him, he said, adding that the assailants appeared to be familiar with the area.
Security sources say that Koufa has linked with the Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a new group that emerged earlier this year and has for a number of attacks, some targeting security forces in central Mali.
The FLM draws its support from the Fulani people of central Mali, where Koufa is also from, and is also linked to Ansar Dine -- Arabic for "defenders of the faith" -- one of the groups that took control of Mali's vast arid north in April 2012.
Washington added Ansar Dine to its terror blacklist in 2013, accusing it of close ties to Al-Qaeda and of torturing and killing opponents in the north.
Investigators have found evidence linking the FLM to a deadly raid on a hotel in Sevare on August 7 that killed four foreign UN employees.
Three suspects so far were supporters of Koufa, a security source said.
|Mali Hotel Attack Claimed by Fighters Linked to Belmokhtar|
|[AnNahar] A deadly hostage drama at a Mali hotel in which 13 people died -- including five U.N. workers -- was claimed Tuesday by fighters linked to the notorious one-eyed Algerian jihadi leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.|
A radical associated with Malian Islamic leader Amadou Koufa said he gave his "blessing" for the attack on the Byblos Hotel in the central town of Sevare.
Koufa has ties to Belmokhtar -- known as "The Uncatchable" -- the former head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who now leads his own Al-Murabitoun group.
"The hand of Allah has guided the mujahedeen of Sevare against the enemies of Islam," Souleyman Mohammed Kennen told an AFP in Bamako during a brief telephone interview.
The stand-off with the hostage-takers, which began early Friday, ended nearly 24 hours later when Malian troops stormed the hotel.
Souleyman claimed the group was also behind the killing of three Malian soldiers on Monday when their vehicle hit an improvised close to Diabozo, near Sevare. Four other troops were , the government said.
Jihadist attacks long concentrated in the north of Mali -- where linked to AQIM still exercise much control -- began spreading to the center of the country earlier this year, even as far south as the borders with Ivory Coast and in June.
The U.S. said it targeted Belmokhtar in an air strike in the Libyan desert the same month, but AQIM denied reports its former leader had been killed.
Investigators said Monday they found phone numbers and addresses on the bodies of the "terrorists" killed in the Sevare hotel which suggested they were affiliated with the Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a new Islamic group drawn from the Fulani people of central Mali.
"At this stage there is no formal proof that it was the Macina Liberation Front, but strong suspicions point to this group that has been seeking notoriety at all costs," she said.
But a regional security source told AFP there is "much coming and going between all these groups. In claiming responsibility for the Sevare attack, Souleyman is also speaking for the other jihadi groups," he said.
The FLM, which emerged earlier this year, has claimed a number of attacks, some targeting security forces in central Mali. It is considered linked to Ansar Dine -- Arabic for "defenders of the faith" -- one of the groups that took control of Mali's vast arid north in April 2012. Washington added Ansar Dine to its terror blacklist in 2013, accusing it of close ties to Al-Qaeda and of torturing and killing opponents in the north.