France is NOT attacking Mali. If there is any attacking involved, it would be the other way around.
The Associated Press
Published Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 1:20PM EST
BAMAKO, Mali - Mali's government is playing down an attack on the French embassy this week, calling the assault that wounded two people an isolated incident.
A man believed to be from Tunisia set off a small gas bottle and fired several gunshots outside the embassy on Tuesday in Mali's capital.
But security Minister Gen. Sadio Gassama said in a statement aired late Thursday on state television that the man "is just someone who wanted people to talk about him."
Mali: French embassy attacker claims al Qaeda link
Morocco breaks up al Qaeda-linked terrorist cell
The assailant has claimed he is a member of the al Qaeda network's North Africa branch, but Gassama said no links had yet been found connecting him to an international terror network.
Meanwhile, in France on Friday, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into the attack, an office spokeswoman said. The probe is to be handled by France's police counterterrorism agency, the DCRI.
The assault on the French diplomatic compound was unsophisticated. It was carried out by a single man who police say fired several gunshots and set a gas cylinder alight and threw it, wounding two people and causing only minor damage to one of the embassy's outer gates.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates in the former French colony and has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping last year of five French citizens and two others who worked at a French-owned uranium mine in neighboring Niger. AQIM is believed to have taken the seven across the desert into neighboring Mali.
AQIM grew out of an Islamist insurgency movement in Algeria that merged with al Qaeda in 2006. It has since spread through the Sahara and the arid Sahel region, and in recent years has increasingly been targeting French interests.
In 2009, a man wearing an explosive belt tried to blow himself up in front of the French embassy in Nouakchott.
Late last year, France rejected a reported demand from al Qaeda to negotiate with Osama bin Laden over the fate of five French hostages seized in Niger. The five, as well as two people from Togo and Madagascar, were kidnapped Sept. 16 as they slept in the Niger uranium mining town of Arlit.
AQIM, which is believed to have about 400 fighters active from Niger to Mauritania, conducts the bulk of its attacks -- bombings or ambushes -- in Algeria.