The Koulikoro Training Center (KTC), part of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali, came under assault late last month from unknown gunmen and was rocked by a pair of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs). Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) has claimed responsibility for the attack and released images of their “heroes” along with a statement claiming to have killed and wounded European staff.
What is significant about the attack is that it’s so close to the capital city of Bamako. JNIM’s area of operations is mainly in the north. With that said, there have been attacks down south but not usually claimed by this group. The fact this group could launch such a successful assault on the EU camp should raise concern around Bamako. The assaulting party escaped being arrested or killed after the offensive, raising more questions. How can the attackers move this deep into the south and just vanish?
In recent weeks, JNIM has suffered some hard loses with its number-two leader being killed by French forces. On top of this, leader Iyad Ag Ghali also lost a close friend, Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi, a senior al-Qaeda member and the architect of the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.
JNIM appears to be losing ground to both the French and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), making life difficult in the north. Last year, we saw the rise of ISGS in the region and now the group is responsible for a volume of attacks in Burkina Faso. JNIM still launches very strong attacks against the U.N., like the assault on the Chad base in Aguelhoc in the northern part of Mali’s Kidal region.
Looking back to 2016-2017, JNIM was the major force in the north, but lately there have been several attacks in the Mopti Region. The group that has claimed responsibility for these attacks in the lower region is none other than JNIM, so the area of operation may be shifting to the lower regions. It’s likely the only reason JNIM would risk going that far south is because the group is struggling to launch offensive operations in the north.