Up north Tuareg rebel group MNLA, which signed a peace deal in June 2015, is still at war with its former ally Ansar Dine and AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). MNLA and Ansar Dine are largely Tuareg but Ansar Dine refuses to make peace and continues fund Islamic terrorist operations with drug smuggling profits. MNLA gave up drug smuggling and cooperation with Islamic terrorists when it agreed to the peace deal. The continued smuggling explains Ansar Dine involvement with the new Islamic terror group FLM (Macina Liberation Front). This group claimed involvement in the November 2015 hotel attack in the capital. FLM openly identifies with the Fulani (Macina are the local branch of the Fulani) tribe. There are some twenty million Fulani living in the Sahel 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 FLM became active in early 2015 and has claimed responsibility for several attacks since. Some FLM were formerly with Islamic terror group MUJAO (basically a Mauritanian faction of AQIM). FLM 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. That probably means some association with AQIM as well because AQIM is still something of an umbrella organization for Islamic terrorists in the region. 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 in a region where most of the locals 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.
Although the government has peace deals with all the Tuareg rebel groups in the north there are still a lot of unresolved differences between the many pro-government and former rebel tribes and clans up there. These feuds are proving more difficult to solve and are causing enough anarchy to give the Islamic terrorists opportunities to move around and carry out attacks and keep their drug smuggling enterprise running. The local squabbles also interfere with the peacekeepers and French counter-terror forces, which also aids the Islamic terrorists and smugglers.
January 12, 2016: Mali officials believe AQIM affiliate al Mourabitoun was mainly responsible for the November hotel attack. Al Mourabitoun and AQIM continues to survive in Libya because of the chaos there. Using bases in southern Libya Al Mourabitoun carries out operations in Mali and Niger. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information that would lead to the death or capture of Al Mourabitoun founder and leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The government also revealed that it had identified (using surveillance video) two men associated with the November 20 hotel attack and arrested them in December. These two have now been indicted for assisting the attackers. It was also revealed that one of the two known attackers who were killed inside the hotel carried a piece of paper with the names of two al Mourabitoun men who are in prison (one in Mali and one in Niger). It is believed that the two gunmen hoped to take hostages and hold out in the hotel long enough to demand and obtain the release of these two men. That did not happen because troops were sent in immediately to protect the guests and staff and that resulted in the two gunmen quickly being killed. So far it appears that this was an AQIM operation carried out by al Mourabitoun with the help of some local Islamic terrorists.
January 8, 2016: In the north (Timbuktu) a Swiss missionary was kidnapped, apparently by Islamic terrorists. The woman (Beatrice Stockly) was a longtime resident of the area and had been kidnapped in 2012 but released a week later. This time it is believed that Islamic terrorists will try to get a multi-million dollar ransom for her.
January 5, 2016: Germany has agreed to send over 600 combat troops to Mali to serve as peacekeepers in the north (near Gao). The main job of the German troops will be reconnaissance and surveillance. This will involve patrols on the ground as well as extensive use of UAVs. Gao has been quiet recently and the Germans are to keep an eye on the situation and provide some advance warning of trouble returning. There has not been any violence in the area since May 2015.
December 31, 2015: The government extended the state of emergency for three months. This makes it illegal for crowds to assemble and demonstrations to take place without permission. The security forces can ignore some legal procedures when making arrests and holding people in custody. The state of emergency was first enacted, for ten days at a time, after the November 20 attack in the capital.
December 25, 2015: In the north (Kidal) Ansar Dine Islamic terrorists ambushed a convoy of MNLA gunmen and killed four of them. The MNLA was moving in reinforcements to help find the Ansar Dine men who attacked an MNLA facility in the area two days ago and killed six men. That attack was to free several Ansar Dine men being held captive.