By Jemal Oumar
A surprise missile strike in Mali’s breakaway province of Azawad killed seven al-Qaeda terrorists last week.
“The Yahya Abou al-Hammam brigade came under an air attack about 200km north of Timbuktu near Taoudenni,” journalist Mohamed Ag Ahmedu told Magharebia.
He added that the raid targeted a convoy of four vehicles belonging to the brigade linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The injured militants sustained “serious” wounds and were receiving treatment at a hospital in Timbuktu, the journalist said.
“Abou al-Hammam himself is in Timbuktu, and he was spotted by some National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) gunmen who secretly roam the city at night,” Ag Ahmedu said.
The attack came a week after unidentified reconnaissance airplanes were spotted hovering above Timbuktu, El Khabar reported on Sunday (June 17th).
According to the Algerian daily, western countries have transferred Special Forces and transport places to the region and placed the area under surveillance through reconnaissance, drones and satellites. The measures are reportedly in preparation for launching air raids on AQIM and jihadist groups.
“The planes that carried out the attack on the terrorists have something to do with the plane that was seen in Timbuktu sky last Thursday,” a Touareg soldier who served in the Malian army told Magharebia on condition of anonymity.
“I can’t say how many people were killed and wounded, and no one can confirm this information,” he added. “This is because the attack took place in a remote area of Timbuktu in the depth of desert. However, according to what the Bedouins told me, many people were actually killed or wounded.”
In his turn, Timbuktu truck driver al-Hasan Cissé told Magharebia that “the wounded were transferred to the provincial hospital in Timbuktu”.
“However, I can’t specify their number because Ansar al-Din and AQIM are preventing some people from reaching the city centre where the provincial hospital is located,” he said.
“As for the identity of the wounded, people say that they belong to Ansar al-Din,” he added. “However, most people in Timbuktu have come to realise that Ansar al-Din and AQIM are two sides of the same coin. AQIM has recently been using the picture and flag of Ansar al-Din to hide their identity for protection from being targeted by planes and informants.”
Terrorism analyst al-Mokhtar al-Salem commented that “the world is losing patience with the growth of terrorist groups’ influence in northern Mali”.
“Therefore, international powers don’t want to give the terrorists more time to re-organise themselves and plan to deal with the war that will inevitably come in the days ahead,” he concluded.