While most global attention has been focused on Nigeria, Mali has been West Africa’s other insurgent hotspot in recent years.
It is threatened by various armed groups – from Ansar Dine, which is linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to Touareg separatist rebel groups. The lawlessness in Libya after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 led to a spread of weapons across the Sahel region of northern Africa, which fell into the hands of such groups and fuelled unrest in the region. In 2012 the handling of the Touareg rebellion prompted some army factions to stage an uprising, sparking a civil war. Jihadist groups took advantage of the situation and took control of the north of the country, imposing strict Islamic law.
The resulting fighting needed the intervention of French forces to push away the militants and regain much of northern Mali. But the jihadists are still active and have carried out numerous attacks across the country.
The most prominent group is Ansar Dine, led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. The group is linked to AQIM and has vowed to destabilise the Sahel region. Ghaly recently called for attacks on France and its interests in Mali. The group implemented Sharia law in towns it captured during the 2012 uprising, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. A new jihadist group known as Macina Liberation Front (FLM) has recently emerged in central Mali.It is linked with Ansar Dine and just last week, carried out an attack on a military checkpoint in the region of Djenne, a town 500km (310 miles) north-east of the capital Bamako. Its leader has called for continued attacks on the government. Last week, the Malian authorities said that information from members of the public had led to the arrest of one of the group’s leading financiers during an army operation in the central region of Mopti. Read more…
By Tomi Oladipo
BBC Monitoring Africa security correspondent
20 November 2015