, NOUAKCHOTT, May 24 – Algerian commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar “supervised” twin suicide bombings that killed at least 20 people in Niger, the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar reported.
“It was Belmokhtar who himself supervised the operational plans of attacks” on the Agadez army base and a French-run uranium mine, El-Hassen Ould Khalil, spokesman for Belmokhtar’s “Signatories in Blood” group, was quoted as saying.
He said the near-simultaneous bombings “targeted elite French forces” who were providing security at the uranium mine in northern Arlit that is majority-owned by France’s Areva.
“More than 10 fighters took part in these attacks,” the spokesman told the online press agency, adding that they were jointly led with the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.
MUJAO, one of the extremist groups that seized control of northern Mali last year before being driven out by French-led troops, had earlier claimed the bombings.
“Thanks to Allah, we have carried out two operations against the enemies of Islam in Niger,” MUJAO spokesman Abu Walid Sahraoui told AFP.
The “Signatories in Blood” spokesman, who also goes by the alias “Julaibib,” said the deadly operations were carried out in the name of top Al-Qaeda operative Abou Zeid, killed in fighting led by the French army in the Ifoghas mountains in northern Mali in late February.
Belmokhtar, a former leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, left that group late last year to create “Signatories in Blood.”