On Tuesday (11 August), last week’s deadly hostage drama, which killed 13 people including five UN workers, was claimed by fighters linked to Algerian jihadi leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The militant group also claimed responsibility for a roadside bombing that occurred Monday.
A radical, who is associated with militant Malian Islamic leader Amadou Koufa, stated that he gave his “blessing” for the attack on the Byblos Hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare. Koufa has ties to Belmokhtar, a former head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who leads Al-Murabitoun. According to Souleymane Mohamed Kennen, the group also claimed responsibility for the killing of three Malian soldiers on Monday, when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device close to Diabozo, which is located near Sevare. While the US had reported that it has targeted Belmokhtar in an airstrike in the Libyan desert in June, AQIM has denied reports that its former leader had been killed.
The claim of responsibility comes just a day after investigators disclosed that they have found phone numbers and addresses on the bodies of the “terrorists” killed in the Sevare hotel, which suggested that they were affiliated with the Macina Liberation Front (FLM), which is a new Islamic extremist group drawn from the Fulani people of central Mali. According to one investigator, “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.” Officials are reporting that this new extremist group is drawn from the Fulani people of central Mali and that it has links to Ansar Dine.
Meanwhile on Thursday (13 August), a policeman and a civilian were wounded when gunmen opened fire on a police outpost in the capital city in an attack that a Malian government minister has insisted is an “isolated act.” According to Interior minister Sada Samake, the attackers arrived at a busy bus station in a taxi before opening fore in the police post, injuring two people. The minister confirmed that officials “…have opened an investigation” into what he called an “isolated act.”
Militants stormed a hotel hosting United Nations staff in central Mali on Friday, seizing hostages and killing at least thirteen, including UN contractors and Malian soldiers in what is one of the most brazen attacks to occur in months.
The siege began Friday, when gunmen stormed a hotel in central Mali in an apparent attempt to kidnap Westerners. The attackers launched the assault on the Byblos hotel, in the town of Sevare, in the early hours of Friday in what military sources and local resident reported appeared to be a bid to abduct foreign guests. A military source has disclosed that Malian troops surrounded the hotel and shot dead one of the attackers who was wearing an explosive belt. The Malian army, along with foreign Special Forces, later stormed the building, brining the siege to an end nearly 24 hours later.
The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has reported that two Ukrainians, a Nepalese and a South African were killed during the siege and subsequent military operation, as well as a Malian driver who was working for a company contracted by the mission. An army officer reported that “five terrorists” were killed in the operation as well as five soldiers.
Residents have reported that the army mounted patrols overnight following the siege. On the ground sources have disclosed that soldiers could be seen in Sevare as well as along the road to the nearby regional capital Mopti, which is a popular tourist destination and the gateway to Dogon County, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sevare is located about 600 kilometres (375 miles) north of the capital, Bamako.
On Sunday, Malian authorities sought to identify the perpetrators of the hotel siege. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault, which comes during a surge in jihadist attacks in the region. The Malian government has reported that three of the attackers were killed, and seven suspected militants were detained, adding that four UN employees were rescued. The first attack to be carried out by Islamic extremists in a central Malian town indicates that militants operating in the region are spreading their aggression, targeting the government, military and the UN peacekeeping force.
In a separate incident, gunmen killed ten civilians in an attack on the village of Gaberi in northern Mali. Residents reported that the village attack began Saturday evening when three men arrived on motorbikes and infiltrate Gaberi, which is located in the Timbuktu region. Sources have disclosed that the resident opened fire on the attackers, killing one of them. Residents reported the following day that “the attackers came back this morning firing everywhere. There are nine or ten dead. People have deserted the village and set up camp around 4 km away.” Some residents have reported that they doubt that the attackers were Islamist militants, with one resident disclosing that the initial attack appeared to have been an attempted robbery, with the attackers returning later on with reinforcements.
These latest attacks are indicative of worsening security in Mali. Especially around the Timbuktu regions, as officials have reported more attacks on villagers and people on the road to market. According to Guillaume N’Gefa, human rights director for the UN Mission, “these are serious crimes by armed groups we cannot identify. The modus operandi is always the same. They attack a village and steal and then disappear. They are well-organized. These are not mere bandits.