Although the most serious problems facing Mali are economic and political what tends to get the most media attention is the continuing Islamic terrorist violence. There is no chance Islamic terrorists will again take control of any part of the country but they can be disruptive. The main source of this violence is AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) which has, so far this year, carried out at least 205 attacks in Mali and neighboring countries. AQIM was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. AQIM now operates throughout northern and west-central Africa. Because AQIM leadership still contains a lot of Algerians the Algerian government has been helpful to African nations where AQIM is operating. AQIM now spends most of its time smuggling drugs, people and whatever else pays (like kidnapping Westerners).
Two of the most active AQIM affiliates are in Mali, mainly because the government there has not yet solved the ethnic feuds that have been a problem since the nation was formed in 1960. The oldest AQIM affiliate in Mali is Ansar Dine which was formed in the north near Timbuktu (because many of its leaders and members came from the area). Ansar Dine was unique in that it was the only Islamic terrorist group from Mali and was formed in 2012 by Tuareg Islamic radicals who were formerly secular rebels. Ansar Dine always saw itself as the only Malian group in AQIM, which many Malians consider a bunch of gangsters, dependent on its relationship with drug gangs (al Qaeda moves the drugs north to the Mediterranean coast) and kidnappers (who hold Europeans for multi-million dollar ransoms). All this cash gave AQIM a lot of power, both to buy weapons and hire locals. After France chased most Islamic terrorists out of the north in 2013 Ansar Dine became the main AQIM representative in Mali because it was not considered foreign and thus able to survive among kinsmen.
In central Mali the FLM (Macina Liberation Front) was created in 2015 with the help, and example, of Ansar Dine. FLM is composed mostly of young Fulani men. The Fulani tribes of central Mali are producing a growing number of recruits for Islamic terrorists. FLM openly identifies with the Fulani (Macina are the local branch of the Fulani). FLM became active in early 2015 and since then has claimed responsibility for a growing number of attacks. It started out with calls for Fulani people to live according to strict Islamic rules. That in turn led to violence against tribal and village leaders who opposed this. That escalated to attacks on businesses and government facilities. FLM considers Ansar Dine their friend and ally mainly because Ansar Dine was inspired by al Qaeda but was always composed of Malians, mainly Tuareg, northern Arabs and some Fulani. Although most Malians are Moslem few want anything to do with Islamic terrorism. But the Fulani have always seen themselves as a people apart, an attitude common with the nomadic peoples from the Sahel (the semi-desert area between the Sahara and the much greener areas to the south). That makes joining FLM more attractive to young men, especially since the Fulani have also been involved with smuggling for a long time and that is seen as an acceptable profession. Another thing that sets the Fulani apart is that still think of themselves as nomadic and thus don’t really believe in borders.
November 8, 2016: In the northeast, across the border in Niger, several dozen gunmen from Mali attacked a military base in Banibangou. Five soldiers were killed and four wounded while the attackers were repulsed with two dead and 26 captured.
November 6, 2016: In the north (near Timbuktu) Ansar Dine attacked an army camp. Although the attackers lost one man dead and several wounded they managed to steal five vehicles (some with weapons in them), set fire to another six vehicles and get away.
In central Mali (Mopti province) Ansar Dine gunmen attacked a convoy and killed a Togo peacekeeper and two civilians. Seven other peacekeepers were wounded.
In the south (150 kilometers north of the capital) MLF gunmen raided the town of Banamba. The MLF attacked police stations while also freeing 21 prisoners from a jail and robbing a bank. Apparently the two prisoners the Islamic terrorists were after had recently been moved and there wasn’t much cash in the bank. The gunmen did steal some vehicles and equipment from the police and no one was killed (although the Islamic terrorists claim to have killed a policeman).
November 4, 2016: In the north (outside Kidal) an Ansar Dine mine killed a French peacekeeper when his vehicle was hit.
In the capital officials from Mali and Algeria signed 13 economic cooperation agreements. Many of these involve northern Mali, which has a population (Arab and Tuareg) and economy similar to southern Algeria. At the same time Algeria is also helping Mali create a new constitution, which incorporates elements of the Algerian laws that better deal with the Tuareg and other tribes.
November 3, 2016: AQIM released a video showing two Tuareg tribesmen in the north being accused of spying for the government and then executed.
November 1, 2016: In the north (near Gao) German peacekeepers began using their leased Israeli Heron I UAV (similar to the American Predator). The first mission lasted nearly six hours. Peacekeepers in Mali have found Israeli UAVs very useful for keeping an eye on large, thinly inhabited, areas.
October 31, 2016: In the north (outside Kidal) Ansar Dine Islamic terrorists used a roadside bomb to attack a French convoy but caused no casualties.
October 29, 2016: In the north (outside Kidal) Ansar Dine Islamic terrorists fired several rockets at a peacekeeper base. There were no casualties but two Bangladeshi helicopters were damaged.
October 17, 2016: In the south the air force received the first of two
H215 Super Puma
transport helicopters bought from AirBus. The second one will arrive by the end of the year. The H215 is similar to the American UH-60 and Russian Mil-17.
In the northeast, across the border in Algeria near the area where the Algerian, Niger and Mali borders intersect, Algerian troops intercepted a four-wheel drive vehicle and found a machine-gun, ammo, satellite phone and some hashish (cannabis resin). The men in the vehicle insisted they were smugglers, not Islamic terrorists and that turned out to be true as three more vehicles were soon seized in the same area carrying 220 kg (484 pounds) of hashish as well as over 10,000 bottles of alcoholic beverages. A lot of these contraband items get into Algeria via Mali. That’s one reason Algeria is so interested in helping Mali gain more control of its northern areas and the borders with Algeria and Libya.
October 14, 2016: In neighboring Niger gunmen kidnapped an American aid worker after killing his bodyguard and housekeeper. The kidnappers were last seen fleeing into Mali and have not been heard from yet. The victim has been working in Niger since 1992 and was well liked by the locals.
October 12, 2016: In the south, just across the border in Burkina Faso three soldiers were killed and one wounded when a group of heavily armed men attacked a base five kilometers from the Mali border. Islamic terrorists are suspected because of a similar attack in the same area last June. Because of violence like this in January 2016 Mali signed an agreement with Burkina Faso to share intelligence on Islamic terrorists as well as coordinate security operations along their mutual border. The success of the 2013 French-led offensive into northern Mali drove thousands of Islamic terrorists into neighboring countries and that’s when the Islamic terror problem in Burkina Faso went from troublesome to terrible. Burkina Faso also still hosts 33,000 refugees, nearly all of them from Mali. Burkina Faso is, like Mali, landlocked and has 17 million people (about 20 percent more than Mali). Burkina Faso also lacks the troublesome Tuareg/Arab minority in the north. Because Burkina Faso is south of Mali it also lacks the semi-desert north in Mali. That is where the Tuareg/Arab minority live. Burkina Faso also has more religious diversity with a quarter of the population being Christian and 60 percent Moslem. Moreover the Moslem population consists of several different “schools” of Islam, some of them quite hostile to Sunni Islamic terrorism as practiced by al Qaeda and ISIL.
October 11, 2016: In central Mali (Mopti province) Ansar Dine gunmen attacked an army base killing 12 soldiers.
In the north (near Timbuktu) an Ansar Dine suicide bomber attacked a patrol of Swedish peacekeepers but failed to injure any of the soldiers.
October 6, 2016: In neighboring Niger gunmen Islamic terrorists from Mali attacked a refugee camp hosing Malians who fled the violence in northern Mali. The battle left 22 Niger soldiers dead.