Belmokhtar jihadi group threatens more Niger attacks
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The Signatories in Blood group, led by Algerian jihadi Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has threatened more attacks against French and other interests in Niger after Thursday’s double suicide bombings that claimed more than 20 lives.
Promising to launch more attacks in the country, Belmokhtar’s group declared that Thursday’s blasts were a “first response to the statement of the president
of Niger [Mahamadou Issoufou] from his masters in Paris that he had crushed
the jihad and mujahedeen militarily" in the region.
In a statement posted on jihadi internet forums it said it would "bring the fight to the interior of his country unless he withdraws his mercenary army" from Mali, where France has led an offensive against armed Islamist rebels.
"We thank God that France only won a propaganda victory with its Crusader war on the rule of sharia," the statement said, insisting that its withdrawal from towns in Mali during the French intervention "was a military choice imposed by the the circumstances of war and our desire to preserve the blood of Muslims".
The Signatories in Blood claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attacks, as did its ally, the Movement for Oneness in Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).
Belmokhtar supervised the attacks, his group claimed, contradicting Chad’s claim to have killed him last month.
A dawn car bomb at the Agadez army base killed 18 soldiers, a civilian and four attackers on Thursday.
Thirty minutes later a suicide bomber blew up a car at the Arlit uranium mine, which is 64 per cent owned by French company Areva and 36 per cent by Niger’s government, killing one person, injuring 14 and reportedly forcing its closure.
French special forces have been stationed near the site since the beginning of the year, Niger’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Bazoum has told RFI, but failed to prevent the attack.
The French defence ministry refused to confirm the information but admitted that there had been a major security failure.
The Arlit mine, run by Areva’s subsidiary Somaïr, provides 36 per cent of the French company’s uranium and 20 per cent of the fuel used by French nuclear power stations, which are the backbone of the country’s energy programme.
It produces nearly all the uranium mined in Niger, although there are plans for another mine at Imouaren, south of Arlit.
Areva is the largest private employer in Niger, whose government is unhappy at the income it receives from the mine, in which it has a 36 per cent share.
French President François Hollande promised to help Niger "destroy" the armed groups.
Thursday's attacks came four months after an attack on the In Amenas gas plant in neighbouring Algeria that left 38 hostages dead.