KANO – The radical Islamist group Ansaru on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack in central Nigeria that killed two soldiers who were due to be deployed to Mali, and injured five others.
In a statement in poor English, Ansaru said Saturday’s explosion at Okene city in the central Kogi state, in response to Nigeria’s deployment of troops to Mali.
“We have successfully execute our first attempt in (crippling) the Nigerian army troops (whose aim was) to demolish the Islamic empire of Mali,” it said.
The first 80 Nigerian troops left for Mali on Thursday as part of a UN-mandated African force to help the country retake its Islamist-controlled north.
Nigeria last week boosted its troop commitment for Mali to 1,200 soldiers from 900 planned earlier. The force is to be commanded by a Nigerian general, assisted by a Niger army general.
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,” Sunday’s statement said.
The group also warned African countries to stop helping the West fight Muslims.
“We are warning the African countries to confiscate their effort for helping Western countries in fighting against Islam and Muslim,” vowing to retaliate, especially against the Nigerian government, “anywhere, anytime.”
Ansaru is less well known than Islamist 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 banned membership of the group or support for it.
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 to 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.(AFP)