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Published On: Thu, Jan 18th, 2018

At least 77 killed in bomb attack on Joint Operational Mechanism base in Gao in Mali

nsnbc : Wednesday’s bomb attack on a military camp in northern Mali, targeting the Joint Operational Mechanism, has riden to 77, a French military spokesman said. The area hit by the blast is housing government soldiers as well as armed groups who conduct joint patrols under a controversial UN-brokered peace agreement. France intervened in Mali in 2013 – apparently – to drive back groups that got control of large swaths of the country a year earlier, and it maintains a large, regional operation.

Gao_Mali_jan 2018_AQIM Bomb blast_77 casualties“We regret to say that there are 77 deaths,” said Colonel Patrik Steiger, speaking to reporters in Paris. Wednesday’s explosion struck the Joint Operational Mechanism base in Gao, which was seized by armed groups in 2012 before French forces drove them out a year later. Many analysts have since build a strong case for French intelligence at work to use the pretext of terrorism” in Mali to intervene and assure that no Mali government would challenge the near absolute French control over the regions economic and monetary system.

Former rebels from the Tuareg-led CMA movement and others were preparing to go on a joint patrol with pro-government militia members, under the terms of the 2015 agreement, when the attacker struck. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita declared a three-day mourning period following the attack, the worst in years.

Witnesses said the car laden with the explosives breached the camp at around 9am, just as hundreds of fighters were gathering for a meeting. Diarran Kone, a Mali army spokesman, said the attacker’s vehicle bore the logo of the unit coordinating the joint patrols.

Later on Wednesday, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, AQIM, claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to the SITE Intel monitoring group. It is worth noting that French military and intelligence has over the years been implicated in situations where AQIM fulfilled functions that at least indirectly furthered French interests in the Maghreb.

AQIM described the attack on the Joint Operational Mechanism base as “punishment for cooperation with France”. Gao is considered the best-secured town in northern Mali, with multiple UN, French and Malian army checkpoints along main roads. However, the offices of the UN peacekeeping mission located next to the airport terminal were razed by a truck-bomb explosion last month. The UN has deployed 13,000 troops in Mali to serve in the MINUSMA force, considered one of the deadliest missions in peacekeeping.

F/AK – nsnbc 18.01.2018

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