Mali: Ansar Dine claims barrage of mortar shells against MINUSMA base in Aguelhok – False and incorrect claims by Ansar Dine and AQIM?
Ansar Dine’s media channel Al-Rimaah Foundation released a communiqué on June 27 with Ansar Dine claiming to have targeted the UN MINUSMA base in Aguelhok with a barrage of mortar shells totalling 10 shells that according to the statement landed inside the base.
The Global Islamic Media Front’s English translation of the Rimaah communiqué
The attack is yet to be confirmed since no such incident has been reported for verification. A similar incident was reported on June 18 by a local source that stated that 5 mortar shells were launched against the base, but landed at least 100 meters outside the perimeter. It is reasonable to believe that this latest statement actually was meant for the June 18 incident which Ansar Dine never claimed.
There are several reasons for the issuing of this seemingly incorrect statement. First, Rimaah Foundation’s Telegram & Twitter accounts were created as late as June 15 & June 21 respectively, a factor that could explain why the accounts don’t run smoothly yet. Second, It is possible that there was a misunderstanding between the individual that reported the attack and the person that manages the media account/s, who might have understood the date 18th of the month as 18th of Ramadan instead of June 18, note that Ramadan 18 correspond to June 23, the date according to both Islamic and Gregorian calendar which the actual statement refers to. The local source who reported the incident on June 18 is a well-informed and reliable source that provide information with high accuracy.
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Another incident claimed to have been carried out was the targeting of the French (Barkhane) forces’ base on the 17th of Ramadan / June 22 in Kidal with a number of rockets.
According to a local source, this attack never happened.
Mali: correction! Local source said there was no Ansar al-Din rockets launched on French base in Kidal as it claimed https://t.co/ZiNN0OrfqT
— Rida Lyammouri (@rmaghrebi) June 23, 2016
These unreliable and also seemingly incorrect claims brings us back further to another incident related to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who claimed an attack against the French-owned and operated Areva uranium mine in Arlit, Niger. According to the statement released by AQIM’s al-Andalus Media should the incident have taken place on May 20, also in this case are no reports available for verification of the incident.
In order to get confirmation we contacted a local source and got the answer:
“Elle est fausse. J’ai vérifié partout” – (“It is false. I checked everywhere”)
This incident is particularly interesting for analysis. The statement names the unit that carried out the attack as ‘Saraya al-Nasser’, a unit to our knowledge never mentioned before. Further, the statement says that the uranium mining facility was targeted with a barrage of Grad rockets similar to the attack against the Krechba gas facility in Algeria on March 18. In contrast to the Krechba attack was this incident firmly dismissed by Areva France and Niger Government via its Minister of State for the Interior Mohammed Bazoum:
@OlivierGuitta We formally deny this claim. This information is not true.
— AREVA France (@AREVAfr) May 25, 2016
Je démens formellement l’information diffusée sur internet faisant état d’une attaque d’AQMI sur nos sites miniers d’Arlit.
— Mohamed Bazoum (@mohamedbazoum) May 25, 2016
On the other side, it is worth noting that AQIM doesn’t have a habit to make false claims, still this doesn’t mean that their statement must be true. Another important factor is the sensitivity of the site and with regard to that we need to take into consideration the interests of already mentioned “involved” parties such as Areva France, the Niger government but also French interests related to its military activities along the Sahel-Sahara axes, i.e. Barkhane, with the Niger uranium mines constituting a significant factor for this project that probably weighs more than the territorial integrity of the Republic of Mali, although both these aspects being closely linked.
Another hypothesis is that the rockets missed the target, with artisanal Grad rockets having rather low accuracy like those used in the Krechba attack, according to sources similar to the Qassam rockets deployed by Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Photo/graphic released by AQIM/al-Mourabitoune’s El-Ribat Media following the Krechba attack
Fighters from Islamic Jihad in Palestine’s Saraya al-Quds preparing launch of artisanal Grad rockets
Photo released by ISIS Wilayat Sayna’ showing grad rockets on launcher rails
Whether the Arlit attack happened or not, it is in the interests of both Areva France and Niger government to downplay such negative attention the claim by AQIM constitute, this with reference to the suicide attack (SVBIED) that targeted the facility on May 23, 2013 which resulted in 1 dead and 14 wounded including the suspension of operations at the mine.
We should be careful to correlate the May 2013 suicide attack with Areva’s economy following the attack, still we can see a dramatic change with a nosedive coinciding with the attack as displayed in the chart of Areva’s balance report.