Mali: French commando raid targets wrong group?
French special forces, as part of the ongoing Operation Barkhane, carried out a raid in northern Mali over the weekend, targeting the jihadist group al-Murabitoon. According to the French Ministry of Defense, the raid "neutralized 10 terrorists"—with "neutralized" usually serving as a euphemism for killed. The town of Menaka, in the Gao region, was taken over by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in 2012, which is now said to be one of al-Murabitoon's constituent groups. MUJAO was driven from Gao in the 2013 French intervention but has continued to wage an insurgency in the region. In April, al-Murabitoon launched a suicide assault on the nearby town of Ansongo, killing three civilians and wounding 16 others including nine Nigerien peacekeepers. (Long War Journal, Dec. 23)
However, a secular ethno-nationalist militia in the Gao area, the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), accused French troops of killing four of its fighters in the raid. Ironically, the MAA had recently joined the pro-government Platform coalition, uniting Tuareg and Arab armed factions in alliance with Mali's military. (Afrik.com, Dec. 24)