Mali is limping into the New Year, still beset by corruption and Islamic terrorism. Corruption is the larger problem and less easily solved. The Islamic terrorism is one of the side effects of the corruption but is less widespread and does a lot less damage. But the Islamic terrorists get the headlines more often than the corruption. But most of the economic, political and social problems are caused by corruption.
One form of economic activity that is thriving is drug smuggling from the south via Mali and into Algeria. Without this drug smuggling Islamic terrorists would not bother with such an out-of-the way place. It’s all about money, which even Islamic terrorists need to survive. Mali is a key component of a smuggling route from central Africa to Europe. The 2012 Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali triggered an international peacekeeping response in 2013 that made moving the drugs north more difficult and, for a time, nearly impossible. The Islamic terrorists operating in northern Mali must maintain access so they can enter and move through Algeria, to the coast and thence to Europe. Doing this is a major source of income for Islamic terrorist groups who will also use this network to move weapons and Islamic terrorists. Normally bribes would work to safely get through but the Islamic terrorism angle in northern Mali means that fewer military or police officials will accept the money and the smugglers have to rely on skill and luck or firepower to get through. That often isn’t enough, as can be seen by the constant clashes on the border areas of northern Mali.
Another form of profitable smuggling is moving illegal migrants through Mali to Algeria. Other smugglers take these migrants to the Mediterranean coast and then to Europe. In December at least a thousand Syrians were noted travelling from the Mauritanian border north to Algeria. Business is booming for people smugglers in 2015 and these criminal gangs are believed to have made over a billion dollars in the last year getting Syrian and other Middle Eastern, African and Afghan migrants to Europe. It takes the efforts of multiple gangs to move these illegal travelers from their home country via many borders and physical obstacles to Europe,
In October schools began operating again in October for the first time in three years. But nearly 400,000 children still don’t have a school to go to because several hundred schools destroyed or damaged by Islamic terrorists or clan fighting have yet to be repaired. Many teachers are refusing to go back to work unless they have protection from threatened Islamic terrorist attacks. Groups like Ansar Dine and AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) consider Western education un-Islamic and adults involved (especially teachers) are threatened with death.
December 24, 2015: In the north a pro-government militia accused French troops of killing four of their members during a recent operation near the Niger border that left ten Islamic terrorists dead. It is unclear how accurate the militia claim is.
December 23, 2015: In the capital government officials called for peacekeepers to disarm the independent pro-government militias in the north. These militias tend to do as they please and ignore government directives. The peacekeepers would like to disarm the militias but at the moment the remaining Islamic terrorists up there are a more immediate threat.
December 22, 2015: The government declared a ten day state of emergency to deal with potential violence during Christmas or Prophet Mohammed birthday events.
December 20, 2015: Near the Niger border French troops tracked down and fought with Islamic terrorists over the last two days, killing ten of them and recovering weapons, equipment, vehicles and documents. The Islamic terrorists apparently belonged to al Mourabitoun, the group responsible for the November 20 hotel attack in the capital.
December 17, 2015: In the north (Timbuktu) a gunman killed three Christians standing outside a Christian radio station. It is unclear if this attack was carried out by Islamic terrorists.
December 16, 2015: France warned its citizens visiting Burkina Faso to stay away from areas near the Mali border because it was believed groups of Islamic terrorists from Mali were operating there and seeking to kidnap foreigners for multi-million dollar ransoms. Several foreigners have been kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Burkina Faso since 2001.
December 15, 2015: In the capital the 170 room hotel that suffered a terrorist attack on November 20 reopened.
December 14, 2015: In the north (outside Gao) Islamic terrorists fired four mortar shells at a peacekeeper base but none hit the base.
December 13, 2015: In central Mali (Segou) someone fired on a police checkpoint wounding one policeman.
December 5, 2015: AQIM released a video claiming partial credit for the November 20 hotel attack in Mali. A faction of AQIM, al Mourabitoun, earlier took primary credit for the attack. There are so few attacks like this that often groups that had little or nothing to do with it will claim credit in an effort to get media attention. This is a big help in recruiting and fund raising.