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Al-Qaeda’s Sahel branch claimed responsibility for the attack that claimed the lives of three French soldiers in Mali last Monday, in a statement released on Saturday by its Al-Zallaqa propaganda platform.

The Support Group for Islam and Muslims, affiliated with Al-Qaeda, claimed the death of three French soldiers killed in an explosive device attack last monday to Mali. The jihadist organization’s statement of claim was also authenticated on Saturday, January 2 by SITE Intel Group, an American organization which monitors the activity of Islamist extremism.

The GSIM (or Jnim according to the Arabic acronym), the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, invokes the continuation of the French military presence in the sub-region, the cartoons of Muhammad and President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of their publication in the name of freedom of expression, as well as the French government’s policy towards Muslims in France.

“To end the French occupation of the Sahel region, your Mujahideen brothers (from GSIM) carried out a qualitative operation against a convoy of French occupation forces on the road between Gossi and Hombori,” the group wrote in this press release released on Friday. “This blessed operation claimed the lives of three members of the occupation army’s elite forces.”

Cyril Payen: “a new mourning which will raise the question of the French presence in this region”

47 French soldiers killed in the Sahel since 2013

GSIM did not provide details of the attack. Asked by Reuters, the French army staff did not comment on this information immediately.

The three soldiers were killed in the border area with Niger and Burkina Faso when their armored vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while participating in an escort mission, according to the French presidency. Their death brings to 47 the number of French soldiers killed in the Sahel since 2013 in the Serval then Barkhane operations.

France hired 600 additional troops in the Sahel in 2020, bringing its strength to around 5,100. It is currently reviewing the evolution of this commitment.

The GSIM calls on the French to “put pressure on (their) leaders to withdraw from the land of Mali”.

At the end of November, the commander of Barkhane, Marc Conruyt, had indicated in front of the French deputies the GSIM as the “most dangerous enemy” in the Sahel, where the group Islamic State is also present.

With AFP and Reuters

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