Embassy bomber wanted to prove himself to Al-Qaeda
A 25-year-old Tunisian man responsible for an explosion at the French embassy in Bamako wanted to prove to former Al-Qaeda comrades he could strike a blow on his own, a police source said Thursday.
The young man, reported as harbouring a "personal hatred for France" told police he was first contacted by armed Islamists when he was attending Islamic school in Mauritania in 2005.
In his interrogation he said he spent "four months in the camps of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" in the Sahara where he underwent "ideological and military training."
After becoming "angry with AQIM" he left the camps for Senegal to sell mobile phones.
Wanting to show his old AQIM comrades he was "able to strike a blow on his own" he came to Mali and targeted the French embassy, he told police.
The bombing late Wednesday appeared ill-prepared and sources differed on whether it was a gas cylinder which exploded or a grenade.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Malian security ministry said: "A foreign individual exploded a gas cylinder in front of the French embassy in Bamako, lightly injuring two passers-by.
A security source said Wednesday evening the culprit was armed with an automatic pistol, a bomb and a grenade.
"I was there, the gas cylinder did not explode, it is the grenade which exploded," a witness told AFP on condition of anonymity. Witnesses also reported the man fired several shots at the entrance of the embassy.
The French embassy gave no information on the attack at its door, but the French school, which remained closed on Thursday, said it would re-open on Monday.
"This attack... is a reminder of the real threats weighing on French interests and citizens in the Sahel-Saharan zone, a spokeswoman for the French foreign ministry, Christine Fages, said in Paris on Thursday.
An investigation is under way," she added.
The explosion in Bamako came on the eve of the annual "Festival in the Desert" which starts Thursday in Timbuktu, with assurances of tight security from authorities who are expecting scores of tourists to attend.
© 2011 AFP