At a meeting with leaders of five West African nations, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to send 220 more troops to fight growing militancy in the Sahel. The increase is unlikely to be welcomed by aid groups, which have called for civilians to be prioritized in responses, and criticized the region’s growing militarization. Meeting in the southern French city of Pau, the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreed to step up military cooperation, combining their respective forces under a single command structure, to be called the Coalition for the Sahel. (Photo: Wikipedia)
At least 25 Malian soldiers are dead and more than 60 others missing after two assaults on bases in central Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso. Jihadist forces simultaneously targeted a Malian army base and a G5 Sahel force camp. The G5 Sahel group includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, and receives logistical support from the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Malian officials say the insurgents used “heavy weapons” in the assaults, and that at least 15 militants were killed. Local reports indicate the militants were able to briefly hold the bases and capture large amounts of weapons and equipment. Mali has now launched a joint operation with Burkina Faso and French forces in the region to hunt down the militants. (Photo: UN News)
A village of semi-nomadic Fulani herders was attacked in Mali New Years Day, with at least 33 residents slain and several homes set aflame. Survivors said the attackers were traditional Dogon hunters, known as dozos. The army was rushed to Koulogon village in central Mopti region to control the situation. But the perpetrators may have been assisted by the armed forces. Dogon residents of the area have formed a self-defense militia, known as Dana Amassagou, to prevent incursions by jihadists from Mali's conflicted north into the country's central region. The militia is said to have received weapons and training from the official armed forces. However, driven by conflicts over access to land and shrinking water resources, the militia has apparently been attacking local Fulani villages. Hundreds were killed in clashes between Dogon and Fulani last year, and a Senegalese rapid reaction force under UN command was deployed to Mopti in response to the violence. (Photo of Fulani elder via IRIN)
The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s branch in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed its forces were responsible for a suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao. The suicide truck-bomb detonated in a residential area of Gao, killing three (not counting the attacker) and wounding another 30. The JNIM statement claimed the target was a base of “Crusader invaders” from the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. However, all of those killed were civilians and local Malians. Four of the wounded were foreign employees of the United Nation’s Mine Action Service, working to remove landmines in the area. A video later released by JNIM confirmed that the mine dismantling headquarters in Gao was the intended target. The video stated that “this operation demonstrates that the mujahideen are continuing upon their covenant, which they had made to their lord, until they achieve one of the two good ends, victory or martyrdom.” (Image via Long War Journal)
Thousands of women and girls who survived the brutal rule of the Boko Haram armed group have since been further abused by the Nigerian security forces who claim to be rescuing them, said Amnesty International in a new report. The report reveals how the Nigerian military and its paramilitary arm, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), have separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote "satellite camps," where they have been raped, sometimes forced to submit in exchange for food. Amnesty International has collected evidence that thousands have starved to death in the camps in Borno state since 2015. (Photo: IRIN)
Niger's army killed 14 displaced peasants who were apparently mistaken for jihadists in a "free-fire zone" in the restive southeast, where Boko Haram militants stage regular attacks.
The International Organization for Migration reports that its staff have documented "slave markets" on North African migrant routes, preying on young African men bound for Libya.
Trump has restored the CIA's authority to conduct secret drone strikes, reversing the Obama policy of transfering responsibility to the Pentagon in the interest of greater transparency.
The US is investing at least $50 million in a military air base in Niger that will be capable of deploying drones to police the greater Sahara and Sahel regions.
The Pentagon has dispatched the first contingent of a 300-strong force to northern Cameroon, where they are to provide intelligence for the regional military alliance against Boko Haram.
An Ansar Dine militant was turned over to the International Criminal Court, accused of destruction of religious monuments and other war crimes committed in Timbuktu.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and related networks are said to control Saharan smuggling routes for Moroccan hashish to fund their regional operations.