France still has 2,300 troops in northern Mali and they are kept busy hunting down the last few active Islamic terrorists there and trying to find out more about Islamic terrorists in neighboring Libya and Niger that appear to be intent on supporting more attacks in Mali. The French don’t see any major threat to Mali, largely because Islamic terrorists in the region are preoccupied with offensives against Islamic terrorists in Libya, Syria and Iraq. For Islamic terrorists Mali is nor forgotten but it is low on the list of priorities.
The Mali government is confident they can work out a peace deal with the Tuaregs (and the smaller number of Arabs) in the north because both groups want nothing more to do with Islamic terrorists. When the Islamic terrorists were dominant in the north during 2012 the local Tuaregs and Arabs soon found themselves in a very antagonistic relationship with the largely foreign Islamic terrorist groups. These religious fanatics were more concerned with expanding their power and conquering the world than in addressing the more mundane economic and administrative problems of the local Tuaregs and Arabs. As a result the northerners have become very hostile to the Islamic terrorists and want to do what they can to keep these thugs out of Mali.
August 16, 2014: In the north (60 kilometers east of Timbuktu) a suicide car bomber attacked a peacekeeper base. This left one peacekeeper dead and five wounded. Attacks like these have become quite rare, with a few such incidents in the north each month. It’s just enough to keep the counter-terrorism forces of their alert and focused on finding the few Islamic terrorists still active in the area.
August 14, 2014: In the last few days two peacekeeper vehicles were damaged and three peacekeepers wounded when the vehicles set off mines planted by Islamic terrorists in the north.
August 13, 2014: Algeria will again host, on September 1st, peace talks between Mali and the Tuareg rebels of northern Mali. This is a continuation of the negotiations begun on July 24th. For any peace deal to work the Islamic terrorists have to be kept out of northern Mali and this requires some military help from Algeria. For decades the main source of Islamic terrorists in North Africa has been Algeria. Thus both countries want their mutual border to be an effective barrier to Islamic terrorists and smugglers. Mali has cooperated in securing the border.
August 10, 2014: In the north (west of Timbuktu) French troops raided a suspected Islamic terrorist hideout and captured three men believed responsible for several terrorist attacks over the last three months. This raid was part of a larger operation that involved air strikes on four Islamic terrorist targets in the same area.
August 5, 2014: Islamic terrorist leader (of
Ansar Dine) Iyad Ag Ghali released a 24 minute video on the Internet in which he called for attacks on France and other Western nations that participated in the defeat of Islamic terrorists in northern Mali. Ag Ghali also called for continued efforts to establish an Islamic dictatorship in northern Mali and adjacent areas where Tuaregs live. The video gave no indication where Iyad Ag Ghali was but he is believed to have taken refuge outside of Mali, either in Libya or Niger. Ag Ghali has not been seen in public for two years and his Islamic terrorist operation seems to have disappeared in early 2013.
During 2012 Ansar Dine controlled Timbuktu and was unique in that it was the only Islamic terrorist group from Mali and was led by Tuareg Islamic radicals (who were formerly secular rebels). In contrast MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) which controlled Gao was from neighboring Mauritania. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has members from all over North Africa, but mostly from Algeria. MUJAO (also known as MUJWA) is basically a Mauritanian faction of AQIM and there was always some tension between the two groups. AQIM had the most money and weapons and used this to exercise some control over the other two radical groups (who outnumbered AQIM in Mali). Both these groups are sometimes at odds with Ansar Dine, which felt it should be in charge because it was Malian.
Until late 2012 all three groups cooperated in order to maintain their control of the north. Then Ansar Dine began negotiating with the Mali government for a separate peace and some kind of compromise over Tuareg autonomy in the north. In part this was because MUJAO and AQIM were bringing in reinforcements from Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen, Nigeria, and Sudan and threatened to reduce the area Ansar Dine controlled. Ansar Dine saw itself as the only Malian group in the Islamic radical government up north and was determined to defend Tuareg interests against the many foreigners in MUJAO (which also has Malian members) and especially AQIM (which wanted to run everything). Ansar Dine saw AQIM as 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, which Iyad Ag Ghali sometimes handled the negotiations for). All this cash gave AQIM a lot of power, both to buy weapons and hire locals. With the high unemployment in the north and the impressive image of Islamic warriors, working for AQIM was an attractive prospect for many young men.
Most of those new recruits deserted as their employers fled the advancing French in early 2013. Some of the surviving Islamic terrorists accuse Ansar Dine of betraying the cause because of the Ansar Dine attempt to negotiate a peace deal and because most Ansar Dine members were locals and some switched sides. After the French came north in January 2013 the Tuareg members of MUJAO and Ansar Dine were able to find locals in the north willing to shelter them while the foreigners (mainly from AQIM) had to flee because they were too easily spotted by Mali civilians and pointed out to the French, Malian and other African troops. In the first six months of 2013 all three groups suffered heavy losses in Mali, either from deaths or desertions. Many non-Mali Islamic terrorists fled and sought new groups to join. There was some good hiding places in the far north, near the Algerian and Libyan borders and this is where the French have been looking intently since late 2013.
August 2, 2014: In the north (between Gao and the Burkina Faso border) the investigation and collection of bodies and wreckage for the July 24th airliner crash has concluded. It will be months before the analysis of all this material is finished and conclusions about what caused the crash can be reached. It appears that Islamic terrorism was not involved.