Mali: Killing Time For Peacekeepers


January 28, 2019: For the fifth year in a row Mali has been the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world with 177 deaths since the Mali peacekeeping effort began in 2013. There were 22 dead in 2018 and 2019 already has 12 dead peacekeepers during the first month of the year. During 2017 Mali saw 42 peacekeepers and civilian support staff killed. That was nearly half UN peacekeeper deaths worldwide for a force that accounts for less than 12 percent of all UN peacekeepers. The Mali peacekeepers (currently 15,000 strong) have suffered more fatalities because, in north Mali, where most of these deaths occur, there was lots of violence since (and before) the peacekeepers arrived in early 2013. The peacekeepers are mainly African and in 2018 the combined forces suffered a death rate of about 130 per 100,000 per year (a standard measure of such things.) The rate in 2017 was nearly double that and that high rate could be repeated in 2019. Compare that to Afghanistan, where in 2013 the rate (200 per 100,000) was lower for all foreign troops there. That was down from the peak 587 in 2010, which was about what it was during the peak years in Iraq (2004-7). The action in Mali is less intense than in pre-2014 Afghanistan or pre-2011 Iraq but is more than double the rate for peacekeepers worldwide. Total Mali peacekeeper casualties since mid-2013 are nearly 500 dead and wounded and losses but have been much heavier among the Islamic terrorists. The local pro-government militias also suffer heavier casualties as do the Mali security forces (army and police.)

The Hostiles

Fulani tribesmen, in general, were the biggest supporters of the new JNIM (Jamâ’ah Nusrah al Islâm wal Muslimîn, or Group for the support of Islam and Moslems) that was formed in early 2017 to consolidate the many separate Islamic terror groups in Mali. In part this was a reaction to the growing threat from ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) which is hostile to everyone who is not ISIL and will attack or recruit from the JNIM members like AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), Ansar Dine, FLM and al Mourabitoun (an al Qaeda splinter group). Another reason for the merger was to make it easier to pool resources (including information and advice) and coordinate with other Islamic terror groups in the region. This reduces friction and destructive feuding. Making a coalition like this work is always difficult, especially considering the importance of ethnic differences. The FLM is Fulani while the other groups are largely Tuareg, Arab and some have a lot of foreigners. Note that JNIM did not absorb all of AQIM or al Mourabitoun, just local groups that had long been identified with al Qaeda. Al Mourabitoun is believed to have largely rejoined al Qaeda but some small Al Mourabitoun factions remain independent.

Internal politics for Islamic terror groups is a lot messier than these religious zealots like to admit. That’s mainly because each group believes they are uniquely qualified to be the supreme leader of all Islam. Coping with this aspect of Islamic radicalism has proved burdensome and ultimately becomes a major reason for Islamic terror movements failing and fading away (via desertion and other forms of self-destruction). The new JNIM is more heavily influenced by its Fulani component and that is another reason for more attacks in central Mali, which has long been the scene of conflict with Fulanis. Largely because of the Fulani and JNIM there has been more Islamic terrorist activity since 2017 and that has impeded reconstruction and foreign aid efforts. Add to that the existing culture of corruption, especially in southern Mali and you have an atmosphere that is hostile to good government, national unity or economic growth.

January 25, 2019: In central Mali (Mopti), a land mine was encountered by a peacekeeper convoy, killing two peacekeepers and wounding four. The day before another peacekeeper convoy was hit in the same way and one peacekeeper was wounded.

January 20, 2019: In the northeast (Kidal), near the Algerian border Islamic terrorists, arriving in about twenty vehicles attacked a peacekeeper base and killed ten and wounded 25 defenders. The attackers had the element of surprised but were repulsed, leaving three dead and one captured behind while taking their other dead and wounded with them. JNIM took credit for the attack against a base staffed by peacekeepers from Chad and said the attack was in response to Chad recently resuming diplomatic relations with Israel (that had been severed in 1972). JNIM had a more practical reason for attacking this particular peacekeeper camp because the Chadian troops were particularly effective at tracking down and killing small groups of Islamic terrorists in this semi-desert area, which is similar to what is found in Chad. Worse, the Chadians hold grudges and now JNIM has a blood feud with Chad.

Israel has been helping Chad with counter-terrorism even before diplomatic relations were resumed. Now that the Arab League (which Chad is a member of) considers Israel an ally (against Iran and Islamic terrorism in general) there is less hostility to resuming relationships with Israel. The Islamic terrorism situation is mainly about Europe (where most of the drugs and illegal migrants are headed). But the money JNIM and other Islamic terror groups making protecting and participating in this smuggling effort aids Islamic terrorism in general and that is an issue Israel is involved with.

January 15, 2019: In the northeast (outside Menaka), Fulani and Tuareg continued attacking each other with dozens of Fulani gunmen on motorbikes attacking two villages and killing over 30 Tuareg civilians. This is a repeat of December attacks that left at least 40 dead, most of them Tuareg civilians killed by Fulani raiders on motorbikes. Since early 2018 nearly 500 have died so far in this violence. Fulani are the major component of an ISIL faction that operates on both sides of the nearby Niger border as the ISGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara). Most of this violence is also about who controls fertile land and water supplies.

January 10, 2019: In central Mali (Mopti), a French airstrike at a target identified by Mali troops left at least 15 Islamic terrorists dead.

January 5, 2019: In the north (the Algerian border), Algeria has increased security at border crossings and heavily used smuggling routes in an effort to block the growing number of illegal migrants, especially Syrians. Algeria has found some Islamic terrorists among the Syrian illegals and is turning all Syrians back, no matter what passport they might be carrying. The Syrian accent, as with most Arab dialects, is distinctive. Most other illegals can get through if the smugglers bringing them to pay the right bribes to the right people. Algeria rarely interferes with the smugglers as long as the illegals are headed elsewhere (usually to Europe).

January 1, 2019: In central Mali, fighting continued between Fulani herders and local Dogon farmers. The current incident has left about 37 dead, most of them Fulani civilians. This violence has become more frequent since late November 2018. In the last few years the rise of Islamic terrorist groups JMIM, with Fulani comprising most of the membership, has caused more friction with the Dogon people who, while Moslem, are hostile to Islamic terrorists. In the last year, over 500 civilians have died in central Mali because of the Fulani-Dogon feud.

December 28, 2018: Qatar has airlifted 24 Qatari made Storm 4x4 armored combat vehicles to Mali. These are basically four ton militarized Toyota Land Cruisers. They are bulletproof, carry eight personnel, have some firing ports and a machine-gun mounted on the roof via an opening in the roof with a ring mount and bulletproof shield facing front. These vehicles are a gift from Qatar to Mali.

December 26, 2018: In central Mali, just across the border in Burkina Faso, JNIM killed ten Burkina Faso police. In response, the government declared a state of emergency in parts of the north near the Mali border where most of this Islamic terrorist violence was taking place. Burkina Faso also has trouble with tribal violence, but most of that is in the center of the country while in the north it is mainly about Islamic terrorists.


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