Mali: the death of two French soldiers claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Sahel

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Three days after the attack that claimed the lives of two French soldiers in Mali, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, a jihadist alliance affiliated with Al-Qaeda, claimed to be at the origin, in a statement. published by its Al-Zallaqa propaganda platform. The GSIM (or Jnim according to the Arabic acronym), which notably denounces the French colonial past, confirms having “detonated an explosive device” as the vehicle of two soldiers of the anti-jihadist Barkhane force passed, including a woman, “carrying the total toll of 5 dead in less than a week, ”according to this press release.

Sergeant Yvonne Huynh and Brigadier Loïc Risser, both from 2e regiment of hussars of Haguenau, near Strasbourg (east), were killed in the region of Ménaka (north-east). Five days earlier, three other French soldiers had been killed in the border area with Niger and Burkina Faso during an escort mission. In total, 50 French soldiers have been killed in the Sahel since 2013 in the Serval and then Barkhane operations.

Towards a downsizing of the Barkhane force?

The GSIM, however, claims its innocence in the attack on two villages in western Niger near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, which left 100 dead on Saturday, the most deadly committed by jihadists against civilians in Sahel. “This attack, whoever the perpetrators, is no different from the massacres of the French occupier and its criminal militias,” said the GSIM, which claims that its “jihad” (holy war) is not turned against his people and promises retaliation in the short or long term. An implicit allusion to its great rival in the region, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) group, against which the fighting has been very violent in the area for several months.

In 2020, France engaged 600 additional troops in the Sahel, bringing its strength to around 5,100. It is currently examining the evolution of this engagement. At the end of November, the commander of Barkhane, Marc Conruyt, had designated before the French deputies the GSIM as the “most dangerous enemy” in the Sahel. A year earlier, EIGS had been designated as enemy number one in the region. The statement was authenticated by the American center for monitoring jihadist sites SITE.

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