The town of Mopti is 450 kilometers northeast of the capital and has been the scene of growing Islamic terrorist violence since 2012. That’s when Islamic radicalism from the north began showing up in central Mali. There several pro-Islamic terrorism Islamic clerics began preaching support for Islamic terrorism. After the Islamic terrorists lost control of the north in 2013 the government sought to shut down any other pro-Islamic terror activity in the south. That included the drug smuggling and other criminal activity the Islamic terror groups use to sustain themselves. These problems are particularly acute among the Fulani people in central Mali. This is the Mopti region and that includes the market town of Mopti at the junction of the Niger and Bani rivers. Over 90 percent of Malians live south of Mopti. One of the major ethnic groups in this area are the Fulani tribes.
There are some twenty million Fulani living in the Sahel (the semi-desert area between the Sahara and the jungle) and some of those in northern Nigeria have become involved in Islamic terrorism via the local Islamic terror group Boko Haram. There are over two million Fulani in Mali and the name of a new Islamic terror group in the south (FLM for Macina Liberation Front) openly identifies with the Fulani (Macina are the local branch of the Fulani). This group became active in early 2015 and has claimed responsibility for several attacks since. 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 is composed mostly of young Fulani men and is associated with Ansar Dine (which is largely Tuareg and funded by smuggling profits). Although most Malians are Moslem, few want anything to do with Islamic terrorism and Boko Haram is seen as a major mistake and not welcome at all in Mali. But the Fulani have always seen themselves as a people apart, an attitude common with the nomadic peoples of the Sahel. The Fulani believe they originally migrated from North Africa and the Middle East. Fulai have lighter skin, thinner lips and straighter hair than other black Africans in sub-Saharan Africa and are Moslem as well. Most sub-Saharan Africans are Christian or follow ancient local religions. Fulani have also been involved with smuggling for a long time, in large part because many are still nomadic and the Fulani don’t really believe in borders.
The government believes this spread of Islamic terrorism to central and southern Mali is part of an effort to prevent the peace treaty with the separatist Tuaregs and Arab groups in the north from working. Islamic terrorism in the south is, according to al Qaeda experience, supposed to prompt the government to carry out heavy handed retaliation against prominent clerics and Moslem leaders in the north. The government is aware of this danger and striving to avoid falling into the trap. At the same time the government is under growing pressure from the population and foreign aid donors to crack down on the endemic corruption. That is proving harder to deal with than the Islamic terrorism. Part of the anti-corruption effort involves more vigorous efforts to suppress the drug smuggling that moves South American cocaine flown into countries south of Mali and then smuggled overland through Mali to the Mediterranean coast and Europe. The smugglers pay large bribes to local officials who will look the other way. That is easy money and hard to give up.
November 4, 2015: In central Mali (Mopti province) Islamic terrorists fired on a boat on the Niger River wounding one passenger. The attackers were believed to be members of the same group that lost seven dead in a battle with solders on the 28th.
October 30, 2015: The leader of Islamic terrorists group Ansar Dine distributed a new audio message on the AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) twitter feed. The message made threats to France (calling on Moslems in France to make attacks there) and rejected any chance of Ansar Dine agreeing to peace in Mali. During 2013 most Ansar Dine men fled Mali because of the French led invasion. Ansar Dine leaders are being sought by the UN for war crimes committed while Ansar Dine controlled Timbuktu in 2012. Ansar Dine has long been an ally of al Qaeda.
Denmark agreed to send 30 troops and a transport aircraft (probably a C-130) to Mali. The UN had asked for 250 troops and 30 armored vehicles.
October 28, 2015: In central Mali (Mopti province) soldiers searching the Tiebanda forest for a new Islamic terrorist base found it and the twenty or so Islamic terrorists there fought back. The army won the brief battle killing seven of the terrorists and wounding ten more. This group of Islamic terrorists were believed responsible for much of the recent Islamic terrorist violence in central Mali. The Tiebanda forest is a thinly populated area near the Burkina Faso border. The new Islamic terrorist camp was being set up about 30 kilometers from the border. The army got the general location of the camp from two teenage boys who were forced to “volunteer” to join the group but managed to escape. Across the border in Burkina Faso there are similar groups of Islamic terrorists operating, often in larger groups than in Mali.
October 24, 2015: In the north (near Kidal) two bomb (or landmine) incidents left three civilians dead and two peacekeepers wounded.
October 21, 2015: For the first time in three years schools were operating again in the north. For now it is only in parts of Kidal and less than a thousand students are involved. Most teachers are refusing to go back to work unless they have protection from threatened Islamic terrorist attacks. Groups like Ansar Dine and AQIM consider Western education un-Islamic and adults involved (especially teachers) are threatened with death.
France pledged $408 million more economic aid for Mali. About 22 percent of the aid would go to the north, where ten percent of the population lives in an area still devastated by a year of rule by Islamic terrorists. Since 2013 France has already contributed $340 million in aid. Algeria and other Western countries have also pledged aid.
October 20, 2015: In the north peacekeepers are lifting a security zone extending 20 kilometers outside the city of Kidal. The zone involved more patrols and checkpoints. The zone was imposed on August 20th in an effort to curb fighting between rival tribal militias in the area. In October these militias signed a peace deal, which everyone appears to be observing. So the security zone is no longer needed and hundreds of peacekeepers can be assigned elsewhere.