Nonuplets: Malian Woman Gives Birth To 9 Babies 

One of nine babies kept in incubators, a day after the Malian woman at the clinic in the western Moroccan city of Casablanca delivered, on May 5, 2021. PHOTO: CASABLANCA, MOROCCO

 

A Malian woman who gave birth to nonuplets in Morocco is “doing well” and her nine babies are being treated in incubators because of their weight, the Moroccan clinic where she delivered said Wednesday.

Such a case of multiple births is “extremely rare, it’s exceptional”, said Professor Youssef Alaoui, medical director of the Ain Borja clinic in the city of Casablanca.

The verified world record for the most living births is eight, born to an American woman, Nadya Suleman, nicknamed “Octomum”, in 2009 when she was 33.

Alaoui said the 25-year-old Malian mother, Halima Cisse, a woman from the north of the poor West African state, was “doing well”.

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Her premature babies, weighing only between 500 grams and one kilogram (1.1 and 2.2 pounds), would be looked after “for two to three months” in incubators, Alaoui added.

Cisse was 25 weeks pregnant when admitted and medical staff had managed to extend her term to 30 weeks, according to Alaoui, until contractions started.

A medical team of 10 doctors assisted by 25 paramedics was mobilised for the deliveries of the five baby girls and four boys.

Mali’s government flew Cisse to Morocco for better care on March 30. She was initially believed, after ultrasounds, to have been carrying septuplets.

Cases of women successfully carrying septuplets to term are rare — and nonuplets even rarer.

Mali’s health ministry said Cisse had given birth Tuesday by Caesarean section.

Doctors had been concerned about Cisse’s health, according to Malian press reports, as well as her babies’ chances of survival.

Mali’s Health Minister Fanta Siby congratulated “the medical teams of Mali and Morocco, whose professionalism is at the origin of the happy outcome of this pregnancy”.

AFP

French Journalist Abducted In Mali

French journalist Olivier Dubois is photographed while reporting in Nioro, Mali, on September 14, 2020. Michele Cattani / AFP

 

A missing French journalist said he was kidnapped in Mali by a jihadist group with links to Al-Qaeda, according to a video circulating on social media Wednesday, the latest foreigner to be taken hostage in the West African country. 

The video of Olivier Dubois, who worked with several French media, could not be immediately verified independently, although Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the French government confirmed he was missing.

In the undated video, which lasts about 20 seconds, Dubois, 46, said he was abducted on April 8 in Gao, northern Mali, by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the biggest jihadist alliance in the Sahel.

He is seen seated on the ground on a green sheet, in what could be a tent, dressed in a light pink traditional gown, with his beard trimmed.

Speaking in a firm voice, he asks his family, friends and the French government “to do everything in their power to get me released”.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal confirmed Dubois’ disappearance in Mali. “I want to immediately send my thoughts to him, his family and all the publications he usually works with,” he said.

Christophe Deloire, the general secretary of media watchdog RSF, tweeted that the journalist had been reporting in Gao, but went missing on April 8.

“This experienced journalist, who usually works for Le Point Afrique and Liberation, knows this highly dangerous region well,” he said.

Deloire added: “We were informed two days after his disappearance. In consultation with the editors he usually worked for, we took the decision to not to make this abduction public, in order not to hamper any swift positive outcome.”

He urged the Malian and French authorities “to do everything to secure his freedom”.

‘Other side of the mirror’

Dubois had been writing regularly for Liberation, a left-of-centre daily, since April last year.

In a statement published on its website, the newspaper said that Dubois “now finds himself on the other side of the mirror, himself a captive.”

It said Dubois had travelled to Gao to interview a jihadist leader. He disappeared after leaving his hotel on April 8, the statement said.

“Two days later, he did not board the return flight to Bamako,” it said, referring to Mali’s capital.

A French foreign ministry official said that the government is in contact with Dubois’ family and the Malian authorities.

“We are carrying out the usual technical verifications (of the video),” the official added.

A French expert on jihadist propaganda, who declined to be named, said that the video surfaced on an Al-Qaeda-affiliated Telegram channel called Wareeth al-Qassam on Wednesday morning.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, however.

 Troubled Sahel

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency which first broke out in the north of the country in 2012 before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, while the economic impact on one of the world’s poorest countries has been devastating.

Abductions have been frequent, both of Malians and foreigners.

The last French hostage was Sophie Petronin, an aid worker in her 70s, who was freed in October last year along with Malian politician Soumaila Cisse, who has since died, and Italians Nicola Chiacchio and Pier Luigi Maccalli.

There has been consistent speculation that a ransom was paid for the four hostages, which has never been confirmed by the Malian government, along with the release of 200 prisoners, some of whom were jihadists.

In October, Switzerland was informed that the GSIM had killed an evangelical missionary who had been kidnapped in Timbuktu in January 2016.

In March, the Swiss foreign ministry said the woman’s body had been recovered and formally identified.

The shadowy GSIM group operates largely out of Mali, but fears are growing that its fighters are seeking to expand regionally.

AFP

Three Swedish Soldiers Injured In Mali Road Blast

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and the eighth-largest country in Africa
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and the eighth-largest country in Africa

 

Three Swedish members of the European special forces mission in Mali were slightly hurt late Wednesday by a roadside bomb in the east of the country, the Swedish military said.

“Two of the soldiers have returned to duty and the third is under medical observation,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

Sweden has committed 150 troops to Takuba, a coalition of European special forces that supports Mali’s beleaguered armed forces in their nine-year-old campaign against jihadists.

The Swedish contingent, backed by three Blackhawk combat helicopters, is based in Menaka, in the flashpoint eastern region of Liptako near the border with Niger and Burkina Faso.

Sweden has also deployed 215 troops with the UN force in Mali, MINUSMA.

Mali Supreme Court Drops Coup Plot Case Against Ex-PM

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and the eighth-largest country in Africa
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and the eighth-largest country in Africa

 

Mali’s Supreme Court on Monday scrapped a case against ex-prime minister Boubou Cisse which alleged that he plotted to overthrow an interim government installed after last year’s coup.

Cisse served under president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was overthrown by army officers on August 18 after weeks of protests fuelled by frustration over his failure to tackle perceived corruption and a jihadist insurgency.

In late December, a public prosecutor in the conflict-ridden Sahel state charged six prominent figures with “conspiracy against the government” and insulting the head of state, among other things.

Cisse was not formally charged but the prosecution suspected he was involved in the alleged plot, details of which remain unclear.

The Supreme Court threw out the case on Monday, after prosecutors appealed a decision by a lower court in March to drop the charges.

Five people detained in connection to the case were subsequently freed, according to an AFP journalist present at the central prison in the capital Bamako.

“This decision by the Supreme Court puts a definitive end to this sinister affair,” said Cisse, who added that the coup plot was “imaginary”.

The military officers who staged the August coup handed power to an interim government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before holding elections, after international pressure.

But many Malians are disenchanted with the interim government, which is dominated by army figures — including coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita, currently serving as interim vice president.

Mali Ex-Rebels Say Prominent Leader Shot Dead

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

 

 

A former rebel leader in northern Mali was killed in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, according to the spokesman for a militia alliance in the region.

Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati was the rotating president of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a mostly Tuareg alliance that rose up against the central government in 2012.

The report by spokesman Almou Ag Mohamed on social media was confirmed by a doctor and a close associate of Ould Sidati.

The reason for the killing in the poor Sahel country was not immediately clear.

The CMA brought together Tuareg and nationalist Arab groups — including a faction led by Ould Sidati — fighting Mali forces in the north until they signed a peace accord in 2015.

The accord, seen as crucial to ending Mali’s grinding conflict, has yet to be fully implemented in the former French colony.

Several Dozen Jihadists, Including Commander, Killed In Mali – UN

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: United Nations vehicles patrol in front of the mosque Sankore in Timbuktu on March 31, 2021. 

More than 40 jihadists, including a senior commander, were killed last week after they attacked United Nations peacekeepers in northern Mali, the UN force MINUSMA said on Monday.

A UN source previously said about 20 of around 100 assailants were killed in a three-hour counter-attack after they raided a camp of Chadian peacekeepers, leaving four troops dead.

But on Monday, MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif said a search of the battlefield on Sunday and Monday showed that the death toll among the attackers was roughly twice this number.

“As of today, we have counted more than 40 dead terrorists, including a right-hand man to Iyad Ag Ghaly, by the name of Abdallaye Ag Albaka,” Annadif told AFP.

Ag Ghaly, a veteran jihadist, is the leader of the shadowy Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) in the Sahel, affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Ag Albaka, a former mayor of the town of Tessalit, has long had a reputation for being one of Ag Ghaly’s lieutenants, entrusted with a senior military role in northern Mali, the cradle of an insurgency in 2012 that has since spread to Niger and Burkina Faso.

A UN security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ag Albaka was No. 3 in the GSIM organisation.

The attack targeted a Chadian contingent of MINUSMA at Aguelhok in northern Mali, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the border with Algeria.

The dawn raid was carried out by a mobile force on motorbikes and in vehicles.

“The peacekeepers have inflicted a serious setback on the terrorists, that’s for sure, even though we are mourning the death of four” peacekeepers, said Annadif, who is also the secretary general’s special representative for Mali.

Four jihadists were captured on Friday and handed over to Malian forces, the security source said.

The UN also said 34 of its troops had been injured. The number of wounded was previously put at 19.

MINUSMA, whose deployment to Mali began in 2013, is a 15,000-person mission, of which 12,000 are troops.

It has lost more than 140 members to hostile acts, the highest death toll of any UN peacekeeping mission. Ten fatalities have occurred this year alone.

The force has been criticised in some quarters for failing to respond aggressively to the insurgency.

AFP

French Airstrike In Mali Killed Civilians Attending Wedding Party – UN Report

A video grab made available on March 30, 2021 shows aerial images of the area around the village of Bounti in central Mali, shot in late January 2021 by the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Division of MINUSMA, the United Nations mission in Mali. MINUSMA / AFP
A video grab made available on March 30, 2021 shows aerial images of the area around the village of Bounti in central Mali, shot in late January 2021 by the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Division of MINUSMA, the United Nations mission in Mali. MINUSMA / AFP

 

A French airstrike killed 19 civilians in Mali in January, a UN report said on Tuesday, prompting a strong denial from France.

The French air force struck near the remote village of Bounti on January 3, in circumstances that sparked controversy in the war-torn Sahel state.

Residents of the village said the strike hit a wedding party and killed civilians.

In the incident’s aftermath, France’s military said it had killed jihadists, not civilians, and also denied the presence of a wedding party in Bounti.

The United Nations mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, subsequently launched an investigation.

In a report summarising the probe’s findings, the UN said Tuesday a wedding had in fact taken place and had “gathered about 100 civilians at the site of the strike”.

It added that about five armed people, who are thought to be members of the jihadist group Katiba Serma, attended the celebrations.

In Paris, the French defence ministry stood by its denial, saying it “maintains with consistency and reaffirms strongly” that an “armed terrorist group” had been identified and attacked.

It also said it had “numerous reservations about the methodology” used in the investigation.

‘Protected by law’

At least 22 people died in the French strike, of whom 19 were civilians, according to the probe. No women or children were killed.

“The group affected by the strike was overwhelmingly composed of civilians who are protected persons under international humanitarian law,” said the report.

The report also questioned whether the French military had enough time to ensure that its strike would not harm civilians.

“It appears difficult to discount the presence of civilians… in such a short period of time,” it said.

In this file photo taken on December 22, 2018 a Mirage 2000 aircraft of the French Air Force, takes off from an airbase in N'Djamena, Chad, to take part in a Barkhane mission in Africa's Sahel region. Ludovic MARIN / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 22, 2018 a Mirage 2000 aircraft of the French Air Force, takes off from an airbase in N’Djamena, Chad, to take part in a Barkhane mission in Africa’s Sahel region. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the report “raises some very significant concerns on the respect of the conduct of hostilities, including precautionary principles and the obligation by member states to do everything (they can) to verify that targets are indeed military objectives.”

The UN report constitutes a rare criticism of the actions of French forces in Mali.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency which first broke out in the north of the country in 2012 before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France, the former colonial power, intervened in Mali in 2013 to beat back the jihadists, and now has some 5,100 soldiers deployed across the semi-arid Sahel region.

Central Mali, where the strike on Bounti occurred, is an epicentre of the brutal conflict.

Confusion

The circumstances surrounding the strike on January 3 were initially confused.

Several villagers told AFP after the strike that a wedding party was attacked by a lone unidentified helicopter, for example.

But the French military denied wrongdoing and said it had “neutralised” dozens of jihadists in a precision strike.

“The reports relating to a wedding do not match the observations that were made,” an army spokesman told AFP in January.

Much of central Mali is a war zone and it is extremely hard to independently verify accusations.

Mali’s government later supported the French military’s account.

It denied that a wedding took place and added that “all information received in real time justified that the neutralised targets were confirmed military objectives”.

The strikes were carried out under Operation Eclipse, a joint operation gathering armed forces from Mali, France and the G5 Sahel, a coalition made up of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger as well as Mali.

The UN report is based on 115 individual interviews. Investigators also conducted group interviews and about 100 telephone interviews.

It recommended that “Malian and French authorities conduct an independent, credible and transparent investigation” into the strike.

Such an investigation should, among other things, establish whether armed forces had broken international law, the UN said.

The UN report also comes after another disputed French air strike in Mali last week.

Six people were killed in the northeast of the vast nation of 19 million people on March 25.

French forces say the strike targeted jihadists but local residents have alleged those left dead were young hunters.

 

AFP

10 Malian Troops Killed In Suspected Jihadist Attack

A man who fought alongside Jihadists in Central Mali and that has now left his former group, poses in an undisclosed location, on July 7, 2019 where he lives in clandestinity.
Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

Ten troops were killed in Mali’s troubled central region early on Wednesday when their camp came under attack from jihadists, security sources said.

Their position at Boni, located between Douentza and Hombori in the Mopti region, was attacked by “heavily armed individuals in armoured vehicles”, one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several soldiers were injured, the source said, an account confirmed by another security official and a local government official.

The 10 bodies had been brought back to the airport in Sevare, near the town of Mopti, by a helicopter from the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force, while the injured were taken to hospital, local officials said.

The security source said the camp had been seriously damaged and the assailants had made off with lots of equipment.

Tadayt, a propaganda outlet close to Al-Qaeda, claimed that the attack had been carried out by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), seen as the most dangerous of the many jihadist groups active in the Sahel region.

The attack is the latest in a brutal conflict that has been raging in Mali since 2012, when jihadists overtook a rebellion by mostly ethnic Tuareg separatists in the north.

The conflict, which has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians, then spread to central Mali, an ethnic powderkeg, and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Jihadist attacks in central Mali typically involve roadside bombs or hit-and-run raids on motorbikes or pickups, and the use of armoured vehicles, if confirmed, is extremely rare.

Heni Nsaibia, a researcher with an NGO project called the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED), said jihadists had seized armoured vehicles from the armed forces in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The Malian army said on social media that it had received air support from France’s anti-jihadist Barkhane mission in the Sahel.

French army spokesman Frederic Barbry said a drone, Mirage 2000 jets and two Tiger helicopters had attacked ground targets while Malian troops “made a tactical withdrawal and regrouped outside the camp,” where they called for reinforcements.

He added that “around 20” jihadists had been killed and the armoured vehicle destroyed, along with 16 motorbikes.

A Malian military official said the assailants had suffered “major casualties” but did not give details.

Central Mali has seen a string of deadly attacks since the start of the year, including a roadside bomb that killed four UN peacekeepers from Ivory Coast.

French and Malian troops have also carried out a joint mission in the area, called Operation Eclipse. According to a Malian army statement on January 26, “100 terrorists were neutralised” in the operation.

Mali Officially Disbands Military Junta

 

Mali has officially disbanded its military junta, according to a government decree seen by AFP on Tuesday, over five months after the army deposed president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The junta briefly governed the country after the August 18 coup and formally remained in place even after the putschists handed power to a civilian interim government.

More to follow . . . 

Mali Capital Bans Protest Against French Army

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

 

Mali’s capital Bamako has banned a demonstration against France’s military role in the West African country, the city’s government said Wednesday, citing health concerns.

Daniel Dembele, the chief of staff to Bamako’s governor, told AFP that the city hall did not authorise the protest planned for Wednesday “because of Covid-19 measures”.

Mali has been struggling to quell a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the country’s north in 2012, before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, first intervened in the country in 2013 to help drive back jihadist forces advancing on Bamako.

It now has 5,100 troops deployed across Africa’s arid Sahel region, as part of its anti-jihadist force Barkhane.

But France’s military presence in Mali is frequently criticised on social media and by civic leaders. Activists also stage occasional demonstrations in Bamako against French troops.

Their role was placed in the spotlight earlier this month when several residents in the village of Bounti said about 20 people in a wedding party had been killed in a strike by a helicopter.

It occurred on January 3, they said, near where French forces said they carried out an airstrike on jihadists using a fighter jet.

France’s military has insisted it struck jihadists, ruling out the possibility of any mistake.

Several organisers of Wednesday’s banned protest are members of Mali’s interim legislature, set up after the August 18 coup that toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Young military officers led the putsch after weeks of anti-Keita protests.

Under the threat of sanctions, they subsequently handed over to an interim government between September and October, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections.

Army figures retain strong influence over the interim government, however, which has stressed its committment to military cooperation with France.

Interim President Bah Ndaw thanked foreign forces in Mali during a military ceremony on Tuesday evening, for example, for “risking their lives for the liberation of our country”.

In France on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced an “adjustment” to French forces in the Sahel.

Many have interpreted his remarks as a sign that France is preparing to reduce its deployment in the region.

Mali Probes Death Of Three Jihadist Prisoners

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

 

The Malian army has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of three jihadist prisoners while they were being transferred to a military camp, Mali’s armed forces said on Saturday. 

The army’s chief of staff said in a statement that “three of four prisoners lost their lives while being transferred from Boulkessi”, where the Group of Support for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — a group close to al-Qaeda — is active, to Sevare, where the army has an important base.

The statement said the chief of staff had ordered “the opening of an investigation to determine the circumstances of the prisoners’ death. He offers his condolences to the families of the victims.”

The four militants had been captured on January 13 following fighting during a military anti-terrorist operation in a village 25 kilometres (15 miles) south west of Boulkessi near the border with Burkina Faso, the statement said.

The statement did not specify whether the incident was connected to two operations by France’s armed forces last weekend in which around 15 jihadists were killed and four arrested in the same region.

The region close to the Burkina Faso border is the epicentre of a deadly Islamist offensive that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then advanced into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.

Independent confirmation of reports in this area is difficult, given the remoteness and danger.

Last month, an exhaustive report into strife-torn Mali by UN investigators said it had garnered evidence of war crimes committed by the security forces and others, and of crimes against humanity by jihadists and other armed groups.

 

AFP

UN Says Three Peacekeepers Killed In Mali Attack

Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.
Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.

 

Three Ivorian peacekeepers from the UN’s mission in Mali were killed on Wednesday during an attack on a convoy near the central city of Timbuktu, a UN source said on condition of anonymity.

A Malian military official, who declined to be named, confirmed the death toll.

Earlier on Wednesday, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in New York that one peacekeeper had died in the attack, with another seven wounded.