Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
November 22, 2012: West African mediator Burkina Faso has been holding talks with MNLA (Tuareg rebels) representatives and members of Ansar Dine, another al Qaeda-linked Islamist group (composed of Tuaregs) occupying parts of Mali's north, as it seeks to negotiate an end to separatist rule in the north. Groups that come to a negotiated deal would be spared from the planned African offensive against MUJWA and AQIM (al Qaeda's North African wing which it operates alongside). The Tuareg groups want al Qaeda out of northern Mali and don’t consider any of that negotiable. MUJWA and AQIM threaten “another Iraq” (in terms of terror attacks) if the planned international force invades northern Mali. That invasion is supposed to happen before next May. MNLA and Ansari Dine have offered to work with the Mali government to destroy al Qaeda control of the north in return for autonomy for the Tuareg tribes that predominate up there and the continued use of Sharia (Islamic) law. The southerners are willing to discuss the former but are hostile to the latter. Meanwhile MNLA and Ansari Dine are finding that they lack the firepower to defeat al Qaeda. Meanwhile the UN insists it’s still possible to settle all the problems in northern Mali through negotiation.
November 21, 2012: France confirmed that one of its citizens had been kidnapped the day before in southwestern Mali, shortly after crossing the nearby Mauritanian border. This was supposed to be a safe part of Mali but al Qaeda has made it known to gangsters throughout the region that they will pay substantial amounts of cash for kidnapped Westerners. Al Qaeda then gets a much higher ransom from Western governments, especially the European ones. While all Western governments admit that paying these ransoms only makes the terror groups stronger and encourages more kidnappings, local politics in Europe usually forces the payment to be made, often clandestinely. There are currently six French citizens being held by al Qaeda in the region and the new victim makes that seven.
November 19, 2012: In the northern Mali tribal (MNLA), Islamic radicals were driven out of their last urban stronghold (the town of Menaka) in a battle with foreign Islamic terrorists (MUJWA, affiliated with al Qaeda). The town is about a hundred kilometers from the Niger border and members of MNLA had controlled it since last May. It was MNLA, a local Tuareg group that seized control of northern Mali last April, that was supposed to run northern Mali after the takeover. But their more radical foreign allies (MUJWA and AQIM - al Qaeda's North African wing) brought in more foreign gunmen who turned out to be more effective than the Tuareg fighters. This led to Tuareg fighters being forced out of northern cities and towns after the resisting al Qaeda insistence that a foreign (Saudi Arabian) form of Islamic conservatism be imposed on the population. The MNLA was not destroyed but fled to the countryside, regrouped and have been waging a guerilla war against the al Qaeda fighters.
November 16, 2012: In the northern city of Gao, al Qaeda gunmen defeated an attempt by Tuareg Islamic radicals (MNLA) to retake the city (which they lost control of last June). Al Qaeda, in other parts of northern Mali, sent several hundred gunmen to reinforce the Goa garrison.
November 15, 2012: In the northern city of Timbuktu, al Qaeda gunmen arrested several dozen women for refusing to cover their faces. The women were locked up in an unused bank (Western style banks are considered un-Islamic) until they changed their attitudes.
November 11, 2012: ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) formally approved the plan to send a force of 3,200 African peacekeepers, along with at least several hundred Malian soldiers, into northern Mali and destroy Islamic radical and Tuareg tribal militias that have controlled the area since last April.