Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
September 12, 2012: Chaos and disunity reigns in the north (held by various Islamic terror and tribal separatist groups) and the south (run by a temporary government and army officers who want to run the country and openly disagree with the civilian government). Islamic terrorists, many affiliated with al Qaeda, control most of the large cities and towns in the north and have been enforcing Islamic law. That means no secular music, outside work for women, no school for girls, and lashings and amputations for criminals. Short on fighters, the Islamic terrorists are recruiting (sometimes by force) teenage boys, while older people are secretly forming resistance groups. In the countryside up there the Tuareg rebel groups are in control and are starting to raid into the south as well.
In the south the government has called for foreign troops to help deal with the Islamic terrorists, who have begun advancing into the more populous (and less arid) south. The army threatens to block foreign troops but is willing to accept weapons, logistical aid (transports and helicopters), and cash. Few people, inside or outside Mali, trust the leadership of the Mali army (which only consists of about five thousand troops). The army is currently more concerned with growing competition (independent militias training and arming to retake the north) and regaing control of the government than they are with fighting up north.
The Islamic terror groups in the north are also driving non-Moslems out of the area. Some 200,000 Mali Christians have fled the north to Algeria and Mauritania. Meanwhile the senior Moslem clerics of Mali, especially those from the south, have opened discussions with the Islamic radicals who have taken over up north. This is unlikely to do much good since the Islamic radicals back a severe form of Islam that is not popular with most Mali Moslems (who are 90 percent of the population).
While the takeover in the north has disrupted the economy, it has not stopped merchants in the south, and neighboring countries, from moving in food and other goods. As long as Malians can pay, there will be food. But the Islamic terrorists have destroyed the tourist trade (a big business in some cities) and shut down some businesses. As more people have less money, they will have less food. The Islamic terror groups have been involved with moving drugs north into Algeria and thence to Europe and this will continue. The Islamic groups also smuggle weapons and people. There will still be jobs in the north, just more dangerous ones. In response to all this, hundreds, if not thousands of northerners are forming resistance groups. The Tuaregs up north are particularly angry at how the Islamic terror groups, which contain many foreigners, turned on the native Tuareg separatist militias that have been fighting southern control for decades and led the rebellion in the north earlier this year. Now the better armed and more fanatic Islamic terror groups control the cities, while the Tuareg rebel militias wait in the countryside, and plan their counterattack. The Islamic terrorists are trying to negotiate a long-term peace with the Tuareg but this is not going well. The Tuareg are well and truly pissed.
September 8, 2012: Soldiers guarding a road near 400 kilometers northeast of the capital (near the border with northern Mali) opened fire on several vehicles, killing sixteen pro-government Islamic clerics, including many from neighboring Mauritania (whose government threatened military retaliation if the guilty Mali soldiers were not punished). The clerics were members of the moderate Dawa sect and were headed for a conference in Mali (where many members of Dawa live). The army initially announced that their troops had killed 16 Islamic terrorists but are now trying to figure out a way to apologize without punishing the guilty (which would be bad for morale).
September 7, 2012: ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) is blocking the movement of a shipment of weapons to Mali. These weapons were ordered before the army coup last March but the loyalty of the army is questionable. ECOWAS, and many in Mali, do not trust the Mail army.
September 4, 2012: France insists that Mali government officials want foreign troops to liberate the north. Apparently the Mali officials fear retaliation by their own army if they say that openly.
September 1, 2012: The Mali government backed away from its earlier request for five battalions (about 3,500 troops) of infantry to help regain control of the north. Apparently under pressure from the Mali army, the government now announced that it just wants logistical and other support, including trainers to prepare more Malians to do the fighting. ECOWAS is stalled by this lack of unity within the Mali government.
Al Qaeda forces in northern Mali killed an Algerian diplomat they had been holding for ransom when the Algerian government refused to release Islamic terrorists from its prisons. The Algerians knew that giving in to the terrorists would mean more terrorists could operate and more Algerians would be kidnapped.
Islamic terrorists drove into the southern town of Douentza (800 kilometers north of the capital) and drove away a local militia. This town is just across the unofficial border between the north and south.
August 20, 2012: A new interim civilian government was finally formed. Five of the 31 ministers are allies of the rebel army officers, who backed off from running the government after the north fell to Tuareg rebels and Islamic terrorists. The army rebels are down but not out.