Islamic group claims attack on Mali-bound Nigerian troops

maliAN Islamic group, Ansaru, on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two soldiers due to be deployed in Mali, and injured five others.

The Agence France Presse (AFP) said that in a statement in poor English, Ansaru said Saturday’s explosion at Okene city in the central Kogi State, was to hit back at Nigeria over its deployment of troops in Mali.

“… with the aid and guidance of Allah, we have successfully execute our first attempt in griping the Nigerian army troops that were aim to demolish the Islamic empire of Mali,” it said.

The first 80 of a contingent of Nigerian troops departed for Mali on Thursday as part of a United Nations mandated African force to help the country retake its Islamic-controlled north.

Ansaru had also claimed last month’s kidnapping of a French citizen in northern Nigeria.

“We are equipped and waiting for any slightest attempt of Nigerian army, moving towards the Islamic empire of Mali,” said yesterday’s statement.

Ansaru is less well known than Islamic group Boko Haram, which is waging a deadly insurgency across northern Nigeria that has killed hundreds since 2009. Boko Haram has said it wants to create an Islamic state in the North.

The two groups are known to have ties but are seen as independent from one another.

In November, Britain’s interior ministry identified Ansaru as a “Nigeria-based terrorist organisation” and declared membership of or support for it illegal.

The group’s full name, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan, is roughly translated as “Vanguards for the aid of Muslims in black Africa.”

Britain has said the group likely has ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and may have been responsible for the 2011 kidnapping of a Briton and an Italian in northern Nigeria. Both hostages were killed last March.