Attacks claimed by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS)

Since its founding in May 2015, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) has neither created any media wing nor has the Islamic State (Central) media office issued any statements or reports via its newswire Amaq in order to claim responsibility for any military operations on behalf of ISGS. However, the group has claimed responsibility for its operations through other channels including the Mauritanian news agencies Al-Akhbar and ANI, the international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), and by a written letter posted on WhatsApp. Five videos have been produced, namely “Maarakah* Tongo Tongo” and “Ghazwa** Ayorou”, “Punishments of Traitors”, “Ambush by Soldiers of the Caliphate against Soldiers from the ‘apostate’ Movement for the Salvation of Azawad”, and “The battle of Taranguit – Soldiers of the ‘caliphate state’ attack the ‘apostate’ Movement for the Salvation of Azawad”. Two clips have also been released by Katiba Salaheddine. We thought it may be useful to gather all claimed attacks for reference at one place, accompanied by an infographic that shows their geographic distribution.

*Maarakah means battle in Arabic

**Ghazwa is a Quranic term for battle or military expedition

Update: Since the first publication of this post, there have been some developments in terms of Islamic State media activity related to ISGS, on March 22, 2019, Islamic State (Central) released a single photo attributed to the organization’s “West Africa Province”, showing ISGS fighters in Burkina Faso. See MENASTREAM analysis ”Islamic State in Burkina Faso”

On March 28, 2019, Islamic State published a two-page report about ISGS in the 175th edition of its al-Naba newsletter which due to the content including visual evidence clearly indicated that ISGS has re-established lines of communications with Islamic State (Central). See Jihadology New issue of The Islamic State’s newsletter: “al-Nabā’ #175″

ISGS has claimed a total of 28 attacks including 14 in Mali, 6 in Burkina Faso, and 8 in Niger.

May 14, 2019: ISGS militants ambushed a convoy of the 112th Special Intervention Company (CSI) of the Nigerien armed forces (FAN) in the area of Siwilli, about 14km from Tongo Tongo and 16km from Bella Beri. The attack was initiated by the detonation of an IED or landmine against the lead vehicle followed by an armed assault. Twenty-eight soldiers were killed and others wounded, marking the deadliest attack ever recorded in the context of the insurgency in the regions of Tillabery and Tahoua. (Claimed responsibility on May 16, 2019)

May 13, 2019: ISGS militants attacked a National Guard checkpoint near the Koutoukalé high-security prison during what appeared to be an intended prison break. A vehicle stolen from the humanitarian organization MSF had been converted into an SVBIED, but failed to detonate and abandoned. A national guard was killed, a vehicle seized and another vehicle burned. (Claimed responsibility on May 16, 2019)

April 11, 2019: An MSA officer and his associate were assassinated in the area of In-Kiringya, south of Menaka. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, likely carried by ISGS militants. The claim was a first issued by Islamic State’s central media apparatus in the form of an official operation claim template, shortly after, followed by a report by its Amaq News Agency. (Claimed responsibility on April 12, 2019)

March 10, 2019: ISGS militants attempted a complex attack against French forces of Operation Barkhane near Akabar, a suicide car bomb was prematurely detonated followed by an armed assault by gunmen on motorbikes, fifteen French soldiers were wounded in the attack. (Claimed responsibility on March 28, 2019); See MENASTREAM incident report Mali: Complex Attack Against French Forces in Menaka

February 14, 2019: ISGS militants overrun an MSA position in Taranguit, Menaka, a dozen MSA militiamen killed, and motorbikes, arms, ammunition, and other equipment seized as spoils of war. (Video obtained on March 31, 2019)

February 1, 2019: ISGS and GATIA clashed in Tidimbawen throughout the day, 25 individuals were killed amidst the fighting, the majority GATIA militiamen, one ISGS unit commander, and a civilian hit in the crossfire. ISGS published photos showing corpses of GATIA fighters killed and arms, ammunition, and a GATIA mission order seized (Photo report obtained on February 20, 2019)

January 15, 2019: Presumed ISGS militants attacked the mining site of Tiabongou, not far from the border with Niger. Kirk Woodman, a Canadian national and Vice President of Progress Minerals was abducted, Woodman was found executed between Salmossi and Beiga, nearly 190 kilometers north of the site of the abduction. (Claimed responsibility on March 28, 2019) Note: Erroneous date in the claim, Jumada Al-Awwal 19, 1440, corresponds to January 25, 2019, thus, the correct date should be Jumada Al-Awwal 9, 1440

December 19, 2018: ISGS militants attacked a Bellah camp in Aboungoulou and ambushed a truck used for fuel transportation carrying a group of young men, seven or eight individuals were reported to have been killed in the double-attack. (Video obtained on February 9, 2019)

July 18, 2018: GATIA and ISGS clashed in the area of Tin Téhégrin, 20km southwest of N’Tillit, Gao Region. GATIA and MSA said in a joint statement that one of their patrols killed nine ISGS militants including a lieutenant while three were killed and three others wounded in its ranks. ISGS for its part claimed that it ambushed and killed eight GATIA militiamen and seized weapons near Ansongo. (Claimed responsibility on July 19, 2018)

June 29, 2018: ISGS militants assassinated, Lieutenant-Colonel Hanou Ag Almouner, Azarante Ag Madidou, and a child in Tinkourazeyna, near N’Tillit, Gao Region. (Video obtained 21 December 2018)

May 16, 2018:  Unknown gunmen abducted Imouchag notable Hamada Ag Mohamed in the village of Tin Habou, worth noting that the concerned individual together with other local notables announced that they had left GATIA to join HCUA the day before. In a written statement attributed to ISGS, the group claimed that it had executed Ag Mohamed. (Claimed responsibility on May 23, 2018)

April 29, 2018: Unknown gunmen assassinated the subprefect of Ouinerden, Alhassane Ag Ibrahim also known as “Toubeyssi” at his home in Gossi. ISGS claimed responsibility. Ag Ibrahim led the Malian army detachment that arrested MUJAO police chief Aliou Mahamar Touré in December 2013 near Gossi. (Claimed responsibility on May 23, 2018)

April 15, 2018: Unknown gunmen aboard a motorbike assassinated GATIA field commander Mohamed Yousef Ag Nouh also called ‘Akhalshosh’ at an auto repair workshop in Gossi (Gourma-Rharous), Tombouctou Region. ISGS claimed responsibility for the assassination. (Claimed responsibility on April 22, 2018)

April 12, 2018: Presumed Ansaroul Islam militants attacked the school in Bouro (Nassoumbou), Soum Province, one student was killed and a teacher abducted. ISGS claimed responsibility. (Claimed responsibility on April 18, 2018)

April 8, 2018: Presumed Ansaroul Islam militants assassinated the mayor of Koutougou outside his home just after he had left the local mosque, ISGS claimed responsibility. (Claimed responsibility on April 18, 2018)

February 21, 2018: ISGS claimed responsibility for a deadly IED attack “West of Menaka” targeting French forces, while details provided are limited, it is assessed that the claim refers to an attack for which its ally Jama’ah Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) already has claimed responsibility (Claimed responsibility on March 28, 2019)

January 11, 2018: An ISGS militant carried out a suicide attack by detonating a booby-trapped vehicle (covert pickup truck) against a convoy of French Operation Barkhane forces between Menaka and Indelimane, wounding three soldiers. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

December 22, 2017: Katiba Salaheddine attacked a GATIA position in the area of Ahina and seized two vehicles (Clips obtained on June 23 and June 28, 2018)

October 21, 2017: ISGS militants raided the gendarmerie headquarters in Ayorou, Tillabéri Region, killing 13 and wounding 5 gendarmes, seizing three vehicles, arms, ammunition and other military materiel as “spoils of war”. Three militants were killed in the attack. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

October 19, 2017: ISGS militants (“Soldiers of the Islamic State in Burkina Faso and Mali”) ransacked and burned a school in Tém, Soum Province (Video obtained February 1, 2019)

October 4, 2017: ISGS militants ambushed a convoy of joint forces of the U.S. Green Berets and the Nigerien army in Tongo Tongo, Tillabéri Region, near the Malian border, killing four U.S. special forces (Green Berets) soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers and an interpreter, and wounding others, a headcam containing combat footage, arms and other military equipment were seized as “spoils of war”. A DoD investigation estimated that 20-25 militants were killed in the battle. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

July 9, 2017: Presumed militants ambushed a Malian army convoy in the area of I-n-Kadagotan, axis Menaka-Anderamboukane, three soldiers were killed in the attack and eight others were found on July 18, supposedly executed. ISGS claimed responsibility. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

May 31, 2017: ISGS militants raided the gendarmerie camp in Abala, Tillabéri Region, killing at least four gendarmes and two national guards, and seizing four vehicles, arms and ammunition as “spoils of war”. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

March 6, 2017: ISGS militants raided a position of the Nigerien gendarmerie between the villages of Wanzarbe and Yatakala, in the area of Bankilare, Tillabéri Region, near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, killing seven gendarmes, wounding four others, destroying a vehicle, and seizing arms and ammunition as “spoils of war”. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

February 22, 2017: ISGS militants ambushed a convoy of the Nigerien army near the village of Tirzawane near the Malian border, killing 16 soldiers and wounding 18 others, four vehicles were destroyed; and seven vehicles, arms, and ammunition seized as “spoils of war”. (Claimed responsibility on January 12, 2018)

October 17, 2016: ISGS militants attacked the Koutoukale high-security prison, supposedly an attempt to free imprisoned militants, one attacker equipped with an explosive belt was killed during the attack and two guards wounded. (Claimed responsibility on October 18, 2016)

October 12, 2016: ISGS militants attacked a military outpost in Intangom, Oudalan province, killing four soldiers and a civilian, in response, security forces mistakenly killed two civilians, the attackers reportedly fled toward Mali after the attack. (Claimed responsibility on October 14, 2016)

September 1, 2016: ISGS militants attacked a customs office in Markoye, Oudalan province, killing a customs agent and a civilian guide, and wounding three other customs agents. (Claimed responsibility on September 3, 2016)

Note that the claimed attacks only account for a fractional part of the attacks and acts of ISGS