At least four dead, 20 injured in Mali attack on French soldiers

A still image taken from a video shows an armored personnel carrier on fire after a car bomb attack in Gao, northern Mali July 1, 2018. (REUTERS/via Reuters TV)
Updated 01 July 2018

At least four dead, 20 injured in Mali attack on French soldiers

  • Sunday’s attacks occurred as an African Union summit opened in neighboring Mauritania, with security crises on the continent, including unrest in the vast Sahel region, high on the agenda.S
  • On Friday, a suicide bombing hit the Mali headquarters of the five-nation force known as G5 Sahel. The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims claimed responsibility.

BAMAKO: French soldiers on patrol in troubled northern Mali were targeted in a bombing on Sunday in which four civilians were killed and over 20 people injured, Malian authorities said.
In a separate incident on Sunday meanwhile, a vehicle of the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), an armed group of former Tuareg rebels which often operates alongside French and Malian forces in Mali’s north, also hit a land mine in Talataye village in the Gao region.
That blast killed four people and injured three, the group said in a statement.
The attacks, coming in the wake of two others on Friday and Saturday, highlighted the fragile security situation in the West African nation as it prepares to go to the polls on July 29.
Sunday’s attacks occurred as an African Union summit opened in neighboring Mauritania, with security crises on the continent, including unrest in the vast Sahel region, high on the agenda.
Following the attack on the French patrol, Malian authorities, citing hospital sources, gave a provisional death toll of four civilians and over 20 people seriously injured.
On Friday, a suicide bombing hit the Mali headquarters of the five-nation force known as G5 Sahel, adding to concerns about how it can tackle the extremist groups roaming the region.
The French military said there were no deaths among the troops whose armored vehicle was attacked near the town of Bourem in the Gao region on Sunday, but that there were civilian casualties.
“A blast of unknown origin took place and there is a large number of civilian casualties, including children,” military spokesman colonel Patrik Steiger told AFP.
Gao resident Fatouma Wangara said the French patrol was deliberately targeted by a suicide car bomb.
“An armored vehicle blocked the way and the car blew up,” she said.
Another resident told AFP that the area around the ambush had been sealed off by French troops.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose country is part of the G5 and is hosting the two-day African Union summit, warned that Friday’s attack on the Sahel force HQ had exposed regional security failings.
He said the blast “hit the heart” of the region’s security and lashed out at a lack of international help, saying the doors of the United Nations were “closed.”
“It was a message sent by the terrorists at this precise moment when we are getting organized to stabilize and secure our region,” Aziz told France 24 television.
“If the headquarters was attacked, it is because there are so many failings we need to fix if we want to bring stability to the Sahel.”
The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main extremist alliance in the Sahel, claimed Friday’s bombing in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar.
And on Saturday, four Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle drove over a land mine in the central Mopti region.
The G5 aims to have a total of 5,000 troops from five nations — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — but has faced funding problems and accusations of human rights abuses.
French President Emmanuel Macron will meet G5 leaders in Nouakchott on Monday to focus on progress made by the force.
G5 operates alongside France’s 4,000 troops in the troubled “tri-border” area where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, and alongside the UN’s 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.
African leaders will also look at a planned cease-fire in South Sudan’s civil war and at the detente between Ethiopia and Eritrea, whose relations have been poisoned for decades.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who holds the presidency of the 55-nation AU, will make a call to promote free trade.
Mali votes on July 29 in a presidential election in which incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will face more than a dozen challengers.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in banned opposition protests.
Mali’s unrest stems from a 2012 ethnic Tuareg separatist uprising, which was exploited by extremists in order to take over key cities in the north.
The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
But large stretches of the country remain out of the control of the foreign and Malian forces, which are frequent targets of attacks, despite a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the extremists.
The violence has also spilled over into both Burkina Faso and Niger.


UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 23 min 55 sec ago

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.