Despite the presence of 3,000 African and French peacekeepers in the north small numbers of Islamic terrorists are getting from camps in southern Libya to central and southern Mali, or are they. These groups have made credible claims for some recent attacks in southern Mali but another source of these Islamic terrorists are the southern neighbors of Mali. French and American intelligence analysts are still studying the evidence to get a better idea of there the Islamic terrorists are coming from. There are still plenty of Islamic terrorists in southern Libya, but getting through the north undetected is difficult. Some individuals will make it, usually unarmed, but the attackers in the south have weapons and explosives. That is believed to be from drug money. AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and other Islamic terrorist groups control a lot of the drug smuggling from Central Africa to the north. That cash buys access as well as weapons and useful helpers.
A spectacular August 7th attack in central Mali was claimed by a group known to be operating in Libya and constantly watched and attacked by American counter-terror forces. This effort has had mixed results. Thus on June 17th Al Qaeda announced that their second-in-command in Libya, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was not killed by a recent American air strike. Mokhtar Belmokhtar (the planner of the January 2013 natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers killed) has survived several attempts to kill him and has a reputation for being elusive. He survived such attacks in 2013 and 2014. Belmokhtar is elusive within AQIM as well. He split from the organization in 2012 and founded another Islamic terrorist group (Al Mourabitoun). After about two years of this he rejoined AQIM but did not disband Al Mourabitoun which he apparently still leads. For over two years al Mourabitoun has been using bases in southern Libya and found operating in northern Mali and Niger. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information that would lead to the death or capture of Belmokhtar. AQIM admitted the deaths of seven Islamic terrorists during the American attack in June and named them. In Libya anti-Islamic terrorists groups cooperated with Americans to confirm if Belmokhtar was alive or dead and that effort has so far not come up with any proof. Belmokhtar has not been seen alive since June and the August 7 attack in Mali was claimed by his organization, not by Belmokhtar himself. Al Mourabitoun continues to survive in Libya because the place has been in chaos (and now outright civil war) since a 2011 revolution overthrew a decades old dictatorship. The newly liberated Libyans found they could not agree on how to rule themselves and while that is being sorted out the country has become a sanctuary for all manner of gangsters and Islamic terror groups.
Meanwhile the Islamic terrorists also have to contend with budget problems. AQIM has long been the most active terror group in the north but is now showing up in the south, mainly to deal with the growing drug smuggling operations. This is the major source of income for Islamic terrorists in the region and even Ansar Dine is getting involved. For over a decade the main product being moved north was cocaine from South America, but now opium and heroin from Afghanistan is showing up. There is also a lot of locally produced cannabis and hashish that is also sold locally and in North Africa. AQIM has come to dominate the drug smuggling because of their ruthlessness. To deal with AQIM and their drug smuggling, an international counter-terrorism operation in Sahel (the semi-desert area just below the Sahara, mainly Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso) was created after 2013. Led by France and the United States and working closely with local forces the pressure has forced Islamic terror groups to concentrate more on raising money and avoiding detection and destruction. While some purist Islamic terrorists disagree with this approach, most Islamic terrorists understand that without cash their numbers would be a lot fewer and there would be fewer weapons and other essential items (like explosives for bombs) available. The Islamic terrorists appear to have got their drug smuggling operations and budget problems under control because more attacks are being organized, paid for and carried out.
August 11, 2015: The UN complained to Mali about the recent peace deal with Tuareg rebels in the north. As part of the deal 44 Tuareg and other northerners were released from jail while the rebels set free 45 civilians and Mali soldiers they were holding. The UN was upset because 24 of the men let out of prison were, by UN standards, war criminals and subject to UN prosecution. Mali ignored the UN complaint.
August 9, 2015: In the north (near Timbuktu) gunmen attacked a village twice in the last two days leaving ten dead (including one of the attackers). The violence was not apparently related to Islamic terrorists but rather to local bandits.
August 7, 2015: In central Mali, some 600 kilometers northeast of the capital Islamic terrorists attacked the Byblos Hotel, an upscale place popular with foreigners. Over the next 24 hours there was a siege and then an assault. In the end nine civilians, including five UN employees were killed along with four soldiers and four attackers. Al Mourabitoun, an Islamic terror group based in southern Libya claimed credit for the attack.
August 3, 2015: In central Mali, some 600 kilometers northeast of the capital Islamic terrorists used a roadside bomb to kill three soldiers. Al Mourabitoun also took credit for this attack and it is unclear if the same Islamic terrorists who attacked a nearby hotel on the 7th were responsible. The soldiers killed had been called by local villagers who had seen strange men in a nearby forest. Despite a later search these men were never found.
In the north (outside Timbuktu) Islamic terrorists from AQIM attacked an army base leaving eleven dead. The attackers did some looting and then fled. Eventually five men suspected of participating in the attack were found and arrested.
In neighboring Mauritania the government released Sanda Ould Bouamama, a much wanted (by Mali and the UN) leader of Islamic terror group Ansar Dine. The Mauritanians had been holding Bouamama since 2013, when many Ansar Dine men fled Mali because of the French led invasion. Mauritania never admitted holding Bouamama and it is still unclear why they did that and why they quietly let him go. The UN wants to prosecute Bouamama for war crimes committed while Ansar Dine was in control of Timbuktu in 2012. Bribery and corruption is suspected, as the Islamic terrorists have access to a lot of drug money.
August 1, 2015: In the south, near the Mauritanian border gunmen ambushed an army convoy killing two soldiers and wounding three others. The attackers appeared to be from the local Peuhl tribe, which contains a number of armed opposition groups.
July 22, 2015: In the south, near the Ivory Coast border, Mali Army search operations found and destroyed three Islamic terrorist camps set up in remote areas. The Islamic terrorists are apparently coming in via Ivory Coast and providing bases for attacks in southern Mali.