Bamako – Malian
special forces arrested a senior figure from the Ansar Dine jihadist group on
Tuesday close to a central military base where he is accused of planning an
attack that killed 17 soldiers.
at around 16:00 (16:00 GMT) our special forces captured Mahmoud Barry, alias
Abou Yehiya," one of the most senior figures in the group's branch
operating in central Mali, an intelligence officer told AFP.
security sources confirmed the arrest, adding that Barry was the
"emir" of Ansar Dine's Macina combat unit and was behind several
attacks on Malian security forces since last year.
is suspected of taking part in last week's attack on a military base of
Nampala, near the border with Mauritania, that left 17 soldiers dead and
another 35 wounded, said a security source.
attackers stormed the site, which has been targeted multiple times since
January last year, taking control of it for several hours and making off with
government declared a 10-day state of emergency after what it called a
"coordinated terrorist attack", which was claimed by Ansar Dine and
another armed ethnic group.
was captured between the military base of Nampala and Dogofri, in the central
region of Segou.
several days, Mali's special forces and intelligence services have been
searching for the individual in the area," the security source said.
intelligence officer said Barry is in the process of being transferred to the
Mali has seen repeated violence since it fell under the control of Tuareg-led
rebels who allied with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda, including Ansar
Dine, in 2012.
attacks are now becoming more frequent in the country's centre, close to its
borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, both from criminal and jihadist elements.
Islamists were largely ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation
launched in January 2013, sporadic attacks from desert hideouts are common.