February 7, 2016:
In the north the CMA (a former Tuareg rebel group) and pro-government Tuareg militias signed a peace treaty in October 2015 that was supposed to be the key to peace in the north. The CMA/militia deal was necessary because otherwise the battles between the rival Tuareg groups would leave blood feuds in their wake and that would lead to years, if not generations, of killings to avenge past murders. The key isn’t working. Although the peace treaty is signed it is not being observed by many Tuareg groups. The main reason is money. The north has always been poor and banditry was seen as an acceptable career choice, especially if they found outsiders to rob and left the locals unharmed. The many convoys carrying aid are too tempting and some of the clans are now fighting over who is “entitled” to make attacks where.
While the peacekeepers and Mali security forces have, since 2013, made the north inhospitable for Islamic terrorists (who have moved south or to neighboring countries) there is still a lot of lawlessness. There are still a few Islamic terrorists operating in the north but they appear to be outnumbered by the local gunmen looking to make some money. All this unrest has made it difficult to get the economy going or, in too many cases, just deliver food and other aid. As a result extreme poverty is still common in the north and over a million people are short of food on a regular basis. The 2015 peace deals were supposed to settle things down in the north but there are still some groups unhappy with the peace terms or simply willing to use force to survive. As a result most (over 60 percent) of the 11,000 peace keepers are forced to spend their time guarding aid (mainly food) convoys. These convoys are often attacked anyway, usually by roadside bombs or landmines. Since 2013 53 peacekeepers have been killed in the north.
A major part of the problem is the historical tensions between the various Tuareg tribes (or clans, as they are often called) in the north. The 2012 Islamic terrorist led rebellion in the north was not backed by all the clans and after the 2013 French led operation defeated the rebels the “pro-government” Tuareg clan militias expected some changes in the power relationships up north. The rebel clans don’t agree with that and this has led to violent disputes. There is much to fight over. Some of the clans made a lot of money smuggling and now they are fighting loyalist clans for control of prime smuggling routes. There are also disputes over land and political influence in towns and cities. The year of Islamic terrorist rule in the north upset a fragile structure of agreements and traditions that had kept the peace. Putting all this back together is taking longer, and involves more violence, than anyone expected.
Then there is the larger, nationwide problem; incompetent government. France and foreign aid donors are pressuring the government to face the fact that the endemic corruption, and resulting poverty, mismanagement and unemployment makes it impossible to eliminate the current outbreak of Islamic terrorism.
Meanwhile Islamic terrorists from AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), the local Ansar Dine and several new (and quite small) Islamic terror groups in central and southern Mali are still operational. Not spectacularly active but still at work, mainly raising cash to organize and carry out many more large scale attacks.
February 5, 2016: In the north six AQIM men attacked an empty police building (once used by peacekeepers) and took possession after first setting off a car bomb at the entrance to the compound. Troops and police soon arrived and eventually killed four of the Islamic terrorists while losing one police commander.
January 28, 2016: In the north (near Gao) an army truck was hit by a roadside bomb, killing three soldiers. The troops were escorting an aid convoy. Elsewhere in the north (near Timbuktu) one soldier was killed and another wounded when they were attacked while at a checkpoint.
January 27, 2016: In Senegal police arrested over 500 Islamic terrorism suspects. This was in response to the recent attack in neighboring Burkina Faso. Nearly as many people were simply questioned and released. The police were rounding all the usual suspects, which meant mostly known criminals who could be expected to share anything they knew about Islamic terrorists in the area in return for being let go.
January 25, 2016: Germany extended its peacekeeping presence (currently 650 troops) in Mali for another year, to February 2017. Earlier in January Germany agreed to send another 500 troops to Mali to help the French forces that have been fighting Islamic terrorists there since early 2013. The German troops will be helping with the peacekeeping in northern Mali and will mainly work with the 11,000 (mostly African) peacekeepers already there. The German troops are better trained and equipped than most of the peacekeepers already there and will be able to provide emergency combat support that is currently provided by French troops are mainly involved with actively seeking out the remaining Islamic terrorists.
January 24, 2016: AQIM released a “proof of life” video of the Swiss missionary they had kidnapped in the north (Timbuktu) on the 7th. The captive (Beatrice Stockly) was a longtime resident of the area and had been kidnapped in 2012 but released a week later. This time she spoke in the video, which largely consisted of AQIM boasting of how righteous and powerful it was. AQIM is trying to get a multi-million dollar ransom for her but Switzerland has a policy of not paying ransoms. Moreover the government had warned Stockly not to return to Mali but she insisted it was her religious duty to do so. AQIM considers Stockly guilty of trying to convert Moslems to Christianity. To AQIM (and many Moslem countries) this is a capital crime and the punishment is death.
January 20, 2016: In central Mali (south (near Mopti, 450 kilometers northeast of the capital) gunmen ambushed a police patrol and killed three policemen.
January 17, 2016: The government signed an agreement with Burkina Faso to share intelligence on Islamic terrorists as well as coordinate security operations along their mutual border. The success of the 2013 French-led offensive into northern Mali drove thousands of Islamic terrorists into neighboring countries and that’s when the Islamic terror problem in Burkina Faso went from troublesome to terrible. Burkina Faso is, like Mali, landlocked and has 17 million people (about 20 percent more than Mali). Burkina Faso also lacks the troublesome Tuareg/Arab minority in the north. Because Burkina Faso is south of Mali it also lacks the semi-desert north in Mali. That is where the Tuareg/Arab minority live. Burkina Faso also has more religious diversity with a quarter of the population being Christian and 60 percent Moslem. Moreover the Moslem population consists of several different “schools” of Islam, some of them quite hostile to Sunni Islamic terrorism as practiced by al Qaeda and ISIL.
January 16, 2016: Across the border in Burkina Faso Islamic terrorists kidnapped an elderly Australian doctor and his wife. This comes after France, in December 2015, warned its citizens visiting Burkina Faso to stay away from areas near the Mali border because it was believed groups of Islamic terrorists from Mali were operating there and seeking to kidnap foreigners for multi-million dollar ransoms. Several foreigners have been kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Burkina Faso since 2001 and more are being sought now because the Islamic terrorists need the cash to finance more mayhem.
January 15, 2016: In the north gunmen attacked an aid convoy but were driven away by the army escort. Four attackers were killed and three wounded. Two soldiers were also killed. The attackers were believed to be bandits not Islamic terrorists.
Further south (near Mopti, 450 kilometers northeast of the capital) gunmen attacked a village, killing one person. The attackers soon left.
In neighboring Burkina Faso Islamic terrorists attacked two hotels in the capital killing 27 people (mostly foreigners from seven countries) and wounded more than fifty.