Jihadists claim French soldier blast

2014-07-17 18:15
(Photo: file, AFP)

(Photo: file, AFP)

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Nouakchott - A jihadist movement led by al-Qaeda-linked Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack that killed a French soldier in Mali, the private Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar reported.

"A jihadist of our group succeeded in blowing up his booby-trapped vehicle against a unit of the invasion forces in the Al-Moustarat region," killing one French soldier and wounding others, a spokesperson for the group Al-Mourabitoune, Abou Aassim El-Mouhajir, said late Wednesday via the agency.

"[Monday's] attack was a reply addressed to the French who claim to have annihilated the jihadist forces and succeeded with Operation Serval," he added, referring to a military task force deployed in January 2013 to drive out armed Islamists who occupied towns in northern Mali for more than nine months.

The French defence ministry said on Tuesday that a Serbian-born legionnaire was killed north of Gao, one of three main towns in the desert north of the Sahel nation, taking to nine the number of French troops to have died in Mali. Six other soldiers were wounded.

"Operation Serval, which was launched against Muslim peoples, has wound up plunging the region into a civil war and inter-ethnic clashes while Islamic power had put an end to these tensions," the spokesperson for Al-Mourabitoune added via the news agency.

He alleged that France had "tried as usual to hide the truth and minimise the losses caused" but gave no alternative casualty figure.

Al-Mourabitoune is an armed movement formed last year by the merger of the Signatories in Blood group led by Belmokhtar and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which has been highly active in the Gao region.

Belmokhtar, a former chief of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is wanted by the security services of several countries and is currently believed to be in southern Libya.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was on Thursday due to visit Gao during a visit to Mali, where he has signed a military cooperation agreement to step up the fight against Islamists in the north.

Paris has also announced that Operation Serval is to be replaced by a permanent anti-terrorist force known as Barkhane, with some 3 000 men covering Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

Read more on:    aqim  |  mujao  |  france  |  mali  |  west africa
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