April 13, 2016:
So far this year Islamic terrorists have killed 17 Malian soldiers and seven peacekeepers, mostly in the north. There has been some Islamic terrorists activity in the south but that has died down because of increased counter-terrorism efforts and most of the population becoming actively hostile to the terrorists.
Hundreds of Islamic terrorists survive in the north because there are not enough troops (Malian or foreign) to patrol the entire countryside, especially in the thinly populated north. While most of the northern locals are hostile to Islamic terrorists there are enough who can be coerced, convinced and/or paid to provide shelter and support. To help this along Islamic terrorists often brought useful gifts like medicines or needed parts for a water pump or generator to rural communities. All this makes the remaining Islamic terrorists hard to find and enables them to continue making attacks.
In Mali and neighboring states most of the Islamic terrorists belong to AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). This includes local affiliates like Ansar Dine and several new (and quite small) Islamic terror groups in central and southern Mali. AQIM operates throughout North Africa (which Arab speakers call the Maghreb) but is currently suffering losses as personnel defect to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), especially in Libya. This sort of thing is happening all over the Islamic world as the more fanatic Islamic terrorists seek to identify with what appears to be the most successful Islamic terrorist group at the moment. Given the many setbacks ISIL has suffered in the last year and small number active in North Africa (except for Libya) AQIM is holding its own in Africa but the two groups are trying to outdo each other in gaining media attention. This is done by launching attacks on Westerners, especially hotels where foreign journalists live. That guarantees massive headlines and lots of young Moslem men, especially in the West, encouraged to become active supporters.
In Mali this means raising cash and seeking recruits to organize and carry out attacks in the more populous, and more hostile to Islamic terrorism, south. In the north the French led counter-terrorism operation has created a very hostile atmosphere for the remaining Islamic terrorists. But the north is where the money is and the easiest area to survive in. The main source of cash for Islamic terrorists is still smuggling, especially drugs. But just about any source of income will do and that includes theft, extortion and kidnapping. France has over 3,000 troops in the north, many of them concentrating on finding and destroying the remaining Islamic terrorists in the north. That is proving difficult as the Islamic terrorists look like the locals and are good (at least the surviving ones) at adapting to French search methods. On the plus side part of that adaption is being nice to civilians and avoiding deaths among the locals.
The Invisible Killer
There’s another outbreak of Ebola in neighboring Guinea. The government is ready to close its borders again if necessary. So far there have been only a dozen confirmed cases, nearly all of them in Guinea. But the disease has apparently spread to Liberia via a visitor from Guinea. In January 2015 Mali declared the country free of Ebola. This came after 42 days in which there were no reported cases of the disease (which takes 21 days to show up in an infected person). Between October 2014 and the end of the year seven Malians died from Ebola but the government took prompt, aggressive and effective measures to treat those who were infected, isolate them to prevent further infection and effectively monitor the borders to keep any more cases out. The 2014-15 Ebola outbreak infected over 21,000 people (mostly in West Africa) and killed over 8,000 of the infected during the this outbreak, which was declared over by the end of 2015. There is now a vaccine for Ebola which makes it easier to contain an outbreak.
April 8, 2016: In the north (outside Gao) a French soldier was killed when his vehicle encountered a landmine. Three other soldiers were wounded. The vehicle they were in was part of a supply convoy. These convoys need armed escorts to avoid attack by bandits or Islamic terrorists. France has lost fifteen soldiers since arriving in Mali in early 2013.
April 4, 2016: The government announced a ten day state of emergency because of increased threat of Islamic terrorist attacks. Many of the Islamic terrorists are based in northern Mali and southern Libya.
March 31, 2016: France is sending about a hundred counter-terrorism commandos of the GIGN (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) to Burkina Faso to serve as a rapid reaction force for most of West Africa. Burkina Faso is south of Mali and east of Niger, two countries that have had a lot of trouble with Islamic terrorists recently especially ISIL. The GIGN are ideally suited for this sort of work.