Africa
Mali

Mali massacre: jihadism or ethnic war?

Scores of Malians demonstrated in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three villages over the past days. The massacres in the localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. Fulani were also targeted in an April 2022 massacre attributed to Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group. (Map: PCL)Afri

Africa
niger

French forces out of Mali, into Niger

Lawmakers in Niger have approved a bill that clears the way for more foreign troops to be deployed in the country, which is fighting several jihadist insurgencies. The move comes as French and European forces withdraw from neighboring Mali, having fallen out with the ruling junta there. Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum had already announced plans in February to absorb some of the departing soldiers. But passing the bill through parliament formalizes the decision, amid rising anti-French sentiment in the country and the wider region. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Mali

‘False flag’ plot behind Mali mass grave?

The junta in Mali is accusing France of spying after the French military used a drone to film footage that Paris says shows Russian mercenaries burying bodies in a mass grave near a military base. The French government says the bodies were buried outside the base at Gossi, Tombouctou region, in a scheme to falsely accuse its departing forces of leaving behind mass graves. Video from the drone was released after pixelated images appeared on social media of corpses being buried, with text accusing France of atrocities in Mali. France claims the bodies were brought to Gossi from Hombori, a town to the south, where Malian troops and Russian mercenaries have been carrying out an operation against jihadi insurgents. The junta acknowledges that numerous militants were killed in the operation. (Map: PCL)

Africa
EUTM

EU ends Mali training as junta turns to Russia

The European Union announced that it is halting its military training mission in Mali, citing the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are said to have committed a slew of abuses in recent weeks alongside the Malian armed forces. The training mission, known as EUTM Mali, was launched in 2013 to help restore state authority after much of the country’s north had been captured by jihadist and separatist rebels. Thousands of Malian troops benefited from courses, although the soldiers were not vetted for involvement in rights abuses before their training, or monitored for violations after. The EU was therefore accused of supporting an army that has killed more civilians than jihadists in some years. The EUTM suspension comes two months after France announced the withdrawal of its counter-jihadist forces in Mali following its feud with the country’s ruling junta. Humanitarian needs are deepening amid the diplomatic and security shifts, while rights abuses have exploded since Wagner Group’s arrival. (Photo of Malian troops with EU advisors via EUTM Mali)

Africa
Mali

Russian mercenaries accused in Mali massacre

Malian armed forces and associated foreign soldiers are believed to have summarily executed an estimated 300 civilian men in a town they occupied in late March, Human Rights Watch says in a new report, calling it “worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict.” The men were detained at a marketplace in the central town of Moura, Mopti region, during a military raid. Army troops and foreign soldiers—identified by several sources as Russians—are said by witnesses and survivors to have broken the detainees up into small groups and marched them to an area outside town before putting them to death. The Malian regime is battling an insurgency by jihadist militants linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda with the help of private military contractors from Russia’s Wagner Group. (Map: PCL)

Africa
mali-hunger-displacement

Mali: crisis deepens as foreign forces withdraw

France and allied European countries are withdrawing their military forces from Mali after diplomatic relations broke down with the ruling junta that came to power in last year’s coup d’etat. The junta has meanwhile reportedly welcomed in hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group. The diplomatic crisis has overshadowed a worsening humanitarian emergency that has seen severe hunger hit the highest level since 2013, when the seizure of large parts of the country by jihadist rebels prompted the French intervention. Over 350,000 people have now fled violence linked to jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State—a nearly 70% increase from early 2020. (Photo of Mali displaced persons camp: The New Humanitarian)

Africa
jihadis

Russian mercenaries to Mali?

France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa’s Sahel nations, criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali’s transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed its “firm opposition” to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (Photo: FIDES)

Africa
Sahel

Mounting massacres across Africa’s Sahel nations

The tri-border region where the Sahel countries of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together is the scene of fast-mounting massacres by presumed Islamist militants. Attacks on civilians and security forces alike have left hundreds dead this month. In Niger, peasants were gunned down while working their fields in Banibangou village—an attack attributed to a local ISIS franchise. In Mali, ongoing deadly attacks have caused a massive population exodus in several regions of the country, including Menaka, Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu and Sikasso. “Violence is spreading so rapidly across Mali that it threatens the very survival of the state,” said UN human rights expert Alioune Tine after a visit to the country. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Sahel

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said there would be a “profound transformation” of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane’s 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

Outrage over French air-strike in Mali

A French airstrike killed 19 civilians attending a wedding celebration in a remote Malian village, according to an investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA. The report based its findings on hundreds of interviews, satellite images, and evidence gathered from a trip to Bounti, the village hit by the January strike. The French defense ministry rejected the report, maintaining the casualties were Islamist militants. French troops were hailed as heroes by many Malians when they drove out militant groups from the country’s desert north in 2013. But criticism has grown as a 5,000-strong regional counterinsurgency force—called Operation Barkhane—has failed to prevent militants from regrouping and expanding across West Africa’s Sahel. Despite recent battlefield gains, the operation is drawing increasing comparisons to the US war in Afghanistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Africa
Dirkou

US steps up drone ops as Sahel violence flares

In the latest outbreak of fast-escalating violence across Africa’s Sahel, gunmen in Niger killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy of four commercial transport vehicles carrying local civilians from a weekly market, and attacked nearby villages. The passengers were summarily executed, and homes and granaries put to the torch in the villages. The attacks took place in the Tillabéri region, near the flashpoint “tri-border area” where Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together. Militant groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda cross between all three countries. The CIA is stepping up drone surveillance flights from a base it has established at Dirkou, in Niger’s Agadez region. MQ-9 Reapers are stationed at the base, and armed strikes on militant targets are said to be under consideration pending a review by the Biden administration. (Photo: Airman Michelle Ulber via Israel Defense)

Africa
Mali

UN to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed “war crimes,” while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated “crimes against humanity.” The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. But the recommendations are being met with some wariness in Mali. The opposition Rally of Patriotic Forces demands that foreign militaries operating in the country be covered in the scope of the investigation—including France. (Photo via Andy Morgan Writes)