There are still 3,200 French troops in northern Mali, and because of the recent terrorist activity France is halting withdrawals of those troops in order to crush revived terrorist organizations in northern Mali.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) has apparently survived furious French attacks and an internal split and has taken credit for several recent suicide bomb attacks. Moreover, AQIM is not alone.
Some AQIM dissidents went off to found Al Mourabitoun earlier this year. This dissidents merged with MOJWA (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, largely composed of black African Islamic radicals and led by Mauritanians) to form Al Mourabitoun.
MOJWA is unique among Islamic terrorist groups because its leadership is black African, and the merged unit is led by Arabs. Then there is Islamic terror group Ansar Dine (which controlled Timbuktu in 2012) which is from Mali and led by Tuareg Islamic radicals who are still in the north and operating near Timbuktu and Kidal. Al Mourabitoun appears to be operating outside Mali (in Niger and Libya) but AQIM and Ansari Dine are still in northern Mali and French troops are looking for them.
The Islamic terrorists in northern Mali are suffering from a shortage of competent bomb makers, which was obvious from the crude construction of the terrorist bombs used in the north over the last month. These bombs often do not go off at all or explode prematurely. This has led to the accidental deaths of several terrorists and the failure of some attacks. There appears to be no shortage of manpower for AQIM and Ansari Dine, and the French are pressuring Mali to make a satisfactory peace deal with MNLA so that these Tuareg tribesmen can help in the hunt for Islamic terrorists.
MNLA means (in French) “Liberation Army of Azawad.” That is the Tuareg term for their homeland in northern Mali, and until the June 18 agreement its capital was Kidal. The Mali government was upset that MNLA men controlled most of the rural (and very thinly populated) areas in the north for over a year. France is having a hard time convincing black African politicians from the more populous southern Mali that it’s worthwhile making concessions to MNLA. The French point out that the Tuareg rebels have been defeating black African troops from the south for generations and there’s no quick fix for that. The more immediate threat are the Islamic terrorists, and Tuareg cooperation is essential for dealing with the likes of AQIM and Ansar Dine. The Islamic terrorists are largely Arab and Tuareg, and their goal, for all intents and purposes, is to enslave the majority black African population of Mali by imposing a religious dictatorship. Black Africans in general do not want to be ruled by Arabs, who look down on black Africans and have been enslaving and exploiting them for over a thousand years. Many Malians understand what the Arab Islamic terrorists are up to here, but the Mali leadership is distracted by power struggles and getting rich (via corruption). It’s a sad situation with no easy solution.
October 8, 2013: Islamic terrorists tried to blow up two small bridges crossing the Niger River near the northern city of Gao. The older bridge was heavily damaged while the other one was not. Outside Gao some Islamic terrorists fired several mortar shells into the city, wounding seven people. There had not been an attack like this in five months.
October 5, 2013: In the north Tuareg MNLA rebels agreed to return to peace talks after staying away for a week because they did not believe the government was bargaining in good faith.
In the northern city of Timbuktu, Islamic terrorists detonated a car bomb outside a military barracks. Four of the attackers were killed, along with two civilians, while six soldiers were wounded.
October 3, 2013: The president dissolved the military reform committee, led by former coup leader Amadou Sanogo, because the group was not producing anything useful.
October 1, 2013: In the north French troops encountered ten Islamic terrorists and, after a brief gun battle, all ten were dead. There were no French casualties.
September 30, 2013: In the northern city of Kidal, French soldiers found explosives and several assembled bombs in an unused warehouse. Elsewhere in Kidal Mali soldiers and MNLA gunmen fired at each other in the streets. That fighting was only halted when French troops arrived. Two days of this violence, near a bank guarded by Mali troops, wounded three people and was caused by hostility between the MNLA and the Mali military.
In the south several dozen soldiers demonstrated outside the headquarters of the military reform committee, fired weapons into the air, and took the army chief of staff prisoner for several hours. The army is still poorly led, trained, and equipped. Senior officers are often corrupt and steal money meant for the troops (pay and benefits). Morale is low and reforms are badly needed but hard to implement.
September 29, 2013: In the northern city of Kidal, a suicide bomber accidently triggered his explosive vest and killed only himself. The explosion took place in an unused warehouse, and because of that, nearby warehouses were all searched. Elsewhere in Kidal Mali soldiers and MNLA rebels exchanged gunfire near a bank.
September 28, 2013: Outside the northern city of Timbuktu, Islamic terrorists set off a car bomb outside an army camp killing two terrorists and two civilians. In the northern city of Kidal, someone threw two grenades at some soldiers, wounding two of them.
September 27, 2013: Al Qaeda announced a replacement for the deceased (in February) head of their forces in northern Mali. The new leader is an Algerian (Said Abou Moughatil).