Dakar: The head of Islamist group Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly, has released his first video in 22 months, reiterating threats against France and the United Nations` peacekeeping mission in Mali.
In the footage given to AFP at the weekend, Ag Ghaly singles out a violent protest in Kidal in northeastern Mali in April against French forces and the 12,000-strong peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, as an example of ways to confront "the crusaders` military machine".
The 11-minute clip, delivered in Arabic and the Tuareg language Tamasheq, is Ag Ghaly`s first since one posted online on August 5, 2014.
Following rumours over recent months circulating in local media, Ag Ghaly appeared because "he wants to show that he is still alive", a jihad group specialist told AFP.
Mali`s vast, desolate north fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels who allied with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.
The Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led operation preceding Barkhane in January 2013, although they have since launched sporadic attacks on security forces from desert hideouts.
Ag Ghaly has not been seen in Mali since January 2013, just before the United States designated his group as a terror organisation due to its links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).