May 31, 2015: Strategy page
Disagreements over a proposed peace deal in the north have led to more violence from factions that disagree with the deal that most northern rebels are willing to accept. The violence has forced over 60,000 civilians to flee their homes. Most of the violence is between the holdout rebels and Mali troops or local pro-government militias.
The UN sponsored peace talks hosted by Algeria produced a peace deal in March that most northerners agreed was workable and was signed on May 15th. But not all those who were supposed to sign actually did. The UN persuaded those willing to sign to go ahead and do so and negotiations would continue with those who were not satisfied. The holdouts are radical factions of the rebel alliance that insist on more autonomy than the government is willing to provide. If the additional talks fail everyone who did sign agreed to outlaw the holdout factions. Some of these dissident factions are believed responsible for the upsurge in violence in the north during May, although some of the attacks are Islamic terrorists still operating up there. Between these holdouts and the active Islamic terrorists it is obvious that for a significant minority of northerners the war for independence (or global Islamic conquest) is not yet over. Some of these separatists are seeking a religious dictatorship. This is definitely not wanted by the majority of northerners. Most of the holdouts want more autonomy and money, which is more popular up north but unthinkable to the 90 percent of Malians that live in the south.
At least 49 peacekeepers have been killed since they began operations (mostly in the north) during mid-2013. Currently there are 11,500 peacekeepers in Mali, most of them in the north. The Mali peacekeeping force, is composed of about a thousand French and (mainly) African troops and is suffering a death rate of 240 per 100,000 per year (a standard measure of such things.) That’s higher than the 2013 rate (200) in Afghanistan. That was down from 587 in 2010, which was about what it was during the peak years in Iraq (2004-7). The action in Mali is less intense than in Afghanistan or pre-2011 Iraq. Total casualties since mid-2013 are only about 200 dead and wounded. Most of the Islamic terrorists from Mali moved to bases in southern Libya and are now regularly moving south to carry out operations in northern Mali. All this is possible because Libya is undergoing a civil war, mainly up north along the coast and no one bothers with Islamic terrorists who only kill across the border in Mali. There is a similar problem in Afghanistan with Islamic terrorists operations from several sanctuary areas in neighboring Pakistan and Iran.
A Tuareg separatist group (CMA or Coordination des Mouvements de l'Azawad) is believed responsible for most of the recent violence in the north. Even as peace talks continued CMA kept carrying out attacks, often in revenge for past defeats or (real or imagined) “atrocities” by Mali troops from the south or local pro-government militia. Groups like CMA want more Tuareg autonomy and especially want control over the growing mining operations in the north and the cash they generate. The majority in the south and central government is definitely not willing to do that.
May 30, 2015: In the north (Gao) a rocket was fired into a peacekeeper camp but there were no injuries.
May 28, 2015: In the north (Timbuktu) a peacekeeper vehicle was attacked, leaving three peacekeepers wounded.
May 25, 2015: In the capital peacekeepers clashed with unidentified armed men and one peacekeeper was killed and another wounded.
May 23, 2015: In the north (Gao) CMA rebels temporarily captured a rural town (Tessit), looted the place and kidnapped some people before they withdrew the next day (to avoid the expected counterattack).
May 21, 2015: In the north (Gao) there were more clashes between CMA rebels and local pro-government militias. Some Mali troops were also involved and CMA claimed the soldiers executed six civilians. That claim is still being investigated. The violence in this area has been going on for three days. One of the civilians killed was a local employee of a foreign aid group, which then announced it was shutting down operations in the area until the violence died down.
May 20, 2015: In the capital someone fired on a compound used by peacekeepers. Two grenades were also thrown but failed to explode. A civilian guard was wounded and it is still unclear who was behind the attack.
May 18, 2015: In the north (Kidal) French commandos carried out a raid that left four Islamic terrorists dead. These included senior leaders of AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and Ansar Dine (a largely Malian Islamic terror group). AQIM operates throughout North African (which Arab speakers call the Maghreb) but is currently suffering heavy losses as many personnel defect to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). 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. This particular raid was very important for France has the two Islamic terrorist leaders were believed responsible for the murder of two kidnapped French journalists in 2013. France made it clear that this raid was part of the ongoing operation to capture or kill those responsible for killing those two French citizens and that France had a long memory. This was meant to dissuade future attacks on French civilians.
Later in the day CMA rebels ambushed Mali troops near Timbuktu and killed three soldiers.
May 15, 2015: The government signed a peace deal with Tuareg rebels in the north. These Tuareg rebels and Islamic terrorists (from Mali and neighboring countries) took over most of northern Mali in 2012 and remained in control until a 2013 French-led invasion restored government control. Most of the Islamic terrorists were killed or fled to Libya and Niger but the local Tuareg rebels stayed. Algeria beefed up its security on its Mali border and hosted several rounds of peace negotiations between the Mali government and the rebels. Not all rebels signed the peace deal and some are still fighting. Meanwhile there were celebrations in the south and in the capital over 200,000 people demonstrated in favor of the peace deal. In the north there was fear of more violence. Hours after the peace deal was signed CMA gunmen clashed with pro-government militias in the north. The CMA decision to continue fighting is not popular in the north either and that is who CMA is fighting with other tribal groups up there that want peace more than the degree of autonomy CMA is demanding.
May 14, 2015: Islamic terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a founder of Islamic terror group Al Mourabitoun has apparently been replaced as leader of Al Mourabitoun. This group has long been responsible for terror attacks in northern Mali, especially against peacekeepers. The departure of Belmokhtar as leader of the group probably won’t change that especially since Al Mourabitoun recently announced it was joining ISIL and that Internet announcement was followed by one from Belmokhtar disagreeing with the decision to leave AQIM for ISIL. But the ISIL move was later confirmed and so was the fact that Belmokhtar was no longer in charge at Al Mourabitoun, which is currently based in southern Libya. Belmokhtar is the Algerian Islamic terrorist responsible for the January 2013 natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers killed. Al Mourabitoun was formed in August 2013 when two Islamic terrorist factions merged and pledged allegiance to AQIM. For a while Al Mourabitoun operated in northern Mali and Niger. Belmokhtar was number two or three in AQIM but formed his own splinter group in late 2012. The French and American pressure in Mali and the Sahel left Belmokhtar short of cash and prospects, so returning to AQIM in early 2013 was a way to remedy those problems. Al Qaeda has always had access to more cash and other resources than most other terrorist organizations and that’s why it remains such a visible player. Belmokhtar denounced ISIL as being religiously unfit, but he might also be concerned about that fact that ISIL is in a much more precarious financial position than AQIM. The switch to AQIL will probably mean that Al Mourabitoun will be more active in trying to kidnap foreigners in northern Mali and hold them for ransom.
May 11, 2015: In the north (Timbuktu) CMA rebels ambushed an army supply convoy killing nine troops, wounding twelve and getting away with some of the vehicles. Elsewhere in the north (Gao) a Dutch armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb but none of the Dutch peacekeepers were injured. The 450 Dutch troops are in Mali mainly to operate and maintain four helicopter gunships and three transport helicopters.