The Fulanis: Spotlight On Mali’s Jihadist Insurgency

 

For centuries, the Fulani people trod the paths of the Sahel with their cattle, largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Today, the world’s attention has turned to this ancient herding community as many of its members have been ensnared in a deadly jihadist insurgency spreading from Mali’s restive north to its centre.

In the Mopti region, the Fulani — also called Peuls — are the biggest ethnic group and the most numerous recruits to Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist cells, such as the notorious Katiba Macina.

The group’s Fulani leader Amadou Koufa has called on his “brothers” throughout West Africa to join his holy war against “non-believers”.

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The deep poverty and isolation of the Fulani people have made many vulnerable to the siren call of the jihad — an appeal that today is disseminated at lightning speed on WhatsApp and Facebook.

The herders’ prominent role in the jihadist revolt has ignited long-standing rivalries, based on access to land, with farmer groups.

The conflict has turned a once-peaceful tourist region into a no-go area for visitors, its highways sown with roadside bombs, and swathes of the countryside are littered with abandoned burned-out villages.

Hundreds have been killed and the situation is getting worse by the day — the number of people who have fled their homes in Mopti has quadrupled over the last year to 70,000, according to the UN.

The violence in Mali, in turn, has spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, stirring anxiety among the coastal states of West Africa that they could be next in line.

IED Kills Two Soldiers In Mali

 

Two Malian soldiers were killed and another six injured when their armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, the army said Sunday.

“A vehicle of the Malian armed forces hit an improvised explosive device” near the central town of Bandiagara, the military said in a tweet.

It was the latest in a string of attacks underscoring the fragility of an area straddling several West African countries which is battling a surge in jihadist violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

An attack on a military base on Friday left 49 Malian soldiers dead in the eastern Menaka region near the border with Niger.

On Saturday, a French soldier died in the same region after his armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for both attacks.

AFP

IS Claims Responsibility For Deadly Attack On Mali Army

 

The Islamic State group Saturday claimed responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks in years against Mali’s military, which the army said killed 49 soldiers the previous day.

The strikes underscored the fragility of an area straddling several West African countries battling increasing jihadist violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Friday’s assault on a Malian military outpost at Indelimane in the eastern Menaka region near Niger killed 49 soldiers, wounded three and left 20 survivors, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) said Saturday.

“Soldiers of the caliphate attacked a military base where elements of the apostate Malian army were stationed in the village of Indelimane,” the IS said in a statement on its social media channels.

On Saturday, French corporal Ronan Pointeau, 24, died after an armoured vehicle in which he was travelling hit an improvised explosive device (IED) near the city of Menaka, a French defence ministry statement said.

The IS late Saturday also claimed responsibility for that, saying its fighters had “detonated an explosive device on a French army convoy in the Indelimane area”.

Pointeau and his colleagues were escorting a convoy between the cities of Gao and Menaka.

“This insidious attack shows the importance and bitterness of the fight against armed terrorist groups” in the border region straddling Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the French defence ministry said.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said she would be “visiting Mali very soon to hold discussions with Malian authorities.”

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Pointeau and expressed solidarity with the French and African troops fighting in the region.

The Malian government initially said 53 people died in what it described as a “terrorist attack” at Indelimane.

An army officer said troops arrived at the outpost around 5:00 pm on Friday and “took back control of our positions.

“The terrorists carried out a surprise attack at lunchtime. Army vehicles were destroyed, others taken away,” he told AFP.

The attacks came a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso. Several sources have said the real death toll was higher.

MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali, condemned the raid and said its peacekeepers were helping Malian troops secure the region.

‘We can resist’ 

“This bloodshed that Mali has been living through cannot go on,” imam Mahamound Dicko, an influential religious leader in Mali, said.

“Do you want us to resign ourselves to this suffering? We can resist,” he added.

Rights activist Alioune Tine, from Mali’s western neighbour Senegal, called for action across Africa to tackle the threat.

“If Africa does not mobilise for Mali and Burkina (Faso), it won’t be spared the bushfire that is quickly catching West Africa’s coastal countries, the next chosen targets” of the jihadists, he said.

The violence has also spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger where extremists have exploited existing inter-communal strife, leaving hundreds dead.

In Mali, the attacks have spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and explosive region.

The recent assaults are a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force — a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries created a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force — and for former colonial ruler France, which is helping to bring security to the fragile region.

Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012.

A French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back a year later.

But the jihadists have regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.

AFP

Update: 35 Soldiers Killed On Attack In Mali Military Post

 

Thirty-five soldiers were killed Friday in a “terrorist attack” on a Mali military post in the northeast of the country, the army said.

“The provisional death toll has risen to 35 deaths,” it said on Facebook late Friday, adding that the situation is “under control”.

An investigation into the attack on the outpost in Indelimane in the Menaka region is ongoing, it said.

The attack came a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso, one of the deadliest strikes against Mali’s military in recent Islamist militant violence.

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No group immediately claimed responsibility for Friday’s assault.

The Malian government earlier condemned the “terrorist attack,” saying it had left numerous dead or wounded but without giving a precise toll.

It said reinforcements had been rushed to the area to boost security and track down the attackers.

Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012. A French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back a year later.

But the jihadists have regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.

The violence has also spilt over into Burkina Faso and Niger where militants have exploited existing inter-communal strife.

AFP

15 Soldiers Killed After Attack On Mali Military Post – Army

 

Fifteen soldiers were killed Friday in a “terrorist attack” on a Mali military post in the northeast of the country, the army said.

The attack on the outpost in Indelimane in the Menaka region left 15 troops dead according to a provisional death toll, the army said on Twitter.

The attack came a month after two jihadist assaults killed 40 soldiers near the border with Burkina Faso, one of the deadliest strikes against Mali’s military in recent Islamist militant violence.

Friday’s attack resulted in “injuries and material damage” to the camp and reinforcements have been dispatched to the Indelimane area, according to the army.

Some Malian soldiers were also declared missing during the attack, a military source told AFP.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a rebellion there in 2012. A French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back a year later.

But the jihadists have regrouped and widened their hit-and-run raids and landmine attacks to central and southern Mali.

The violence has also spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger where militants have exploited existing inter-communal strife.

Six Killed As Gunmen Attack Pro-Government Forces In Mali

 

 

Six people were killed late Friday when unknown assailants attacked a post held by armed pro-government groups in strife-torn northeastern Mali, the groups said in a statement.

Four more people were missing after the attack in Aguelhok, an alliance of pro-government forces calling itself Platform of the June 2014 Movements said.

The security situation in Mali has been deteriorating steadily with separatists, salafists and jihadists mounting deadly insurrections since 2012.

No military or political solution appears in sight for Mali, despite the deployment of French, African and UN troops in the country.

Northern Mali came under the control of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists after Mali’s army failed to quash a Tuareg rebellion in 2012.

The following year, a French-led military campaign was launched against the jihadists, pushing them back.

But the jihadist regrouped and widened their trademark hit-and-run raids and roadmine attacks to central and southern Mali and from there into Burkina Faso and Niger where they often fan existing inter-communal strife which has left hundreds dead.

Armed Forces Deploy 57 Officers, Soldiers To Mali

 

The Nigerian Armed Forces has deployed 57 officers and soldiers to Mali on a peacekeeping mission.

Drawn from the Army, Air Force and Navy, the troops are expected to depart Nigeria for Mali in a couple of days.

Addressing them on Friday during their passing out ceremony from the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre, Jaji, Kaduna State, the Commander of the Army Infantry Corps, Major General Stevenson Olabanji who represented the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, warned that the Nigerian Army will not tolerate any act of cowardice or professional negligence while carrying out their operations in the West African country.

He also advised the contingent to abide by the rules of engagement, exhibit braveness as professionals and to also respect the cultural sensitivity of the people of Mali.

Beyond that, he reminded them of the United Nations’ zero tolerance on drug trafficking and human rights abuse.

UN Peacekeeper Killed, Five Wounded In Mali

In this file photo taken on September 26, 2019, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita speaks during the 74th Session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York. PHOTO: JOHANNES EISELE / AFP

One peacekeeper was killed and five others were wounded on Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded in strife-torn northeastern Mali, the UN mission MINUSMA said.

The peacekeepers were carrying out a security patrol near the town of Aguelhok when the device detonated, spokesman Olivier Salgado said on Facebook.

In January, 11 Chadian members of MINUSMA were killed in an attack by jihadists in Aguelhok.

That attack was claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, “strongly condemned the recent increase in these kinds of attacks, especially in the centre” of the country, the UN mission said.

MINUSMA has lost more than 200 peacekeepers since it was set up in 2013, according to its website.

Salgado said unidentified gunmen on Sunday targeted UN peacekeepers near the central town of Bandiagara in a separate attack, with no casualties.

Northern Mali fell into the hands of jihadists in 2012 before the militants were forced out by a French-led military intervention.

But much of the region remains chronically unstable and jihadist-led violence has spread to the centre of the country, often sparking bloodshed between ethnic groups.

AFP

Mali Declares National Mourning After Jihadists Kill 25 Soldiers

A file photo of Malian President, Ibrahim Keita.

 

 

Malian troops backed by foreign allies on Wednesday launched a hunt for scores of soldiers listed as missing after one of the deadliest attacks in a seven-year-old jihadist insurgency.

At least 25 troops were killed after militants aboard heavily-armed vehicles raided two military camps at Boulkessy and Mondoro near the border with Burkina Faso, according to a provisional toll.

Fifteen jihadists were killed in the raids, according to government figures, which began early Monday and were quelled more than a day later.

Around 60 soldiers were listed as missing — 78, according to a security source — but late Wednesday the Malian army said 11 had returned to their base.

It is unknown whether the others have been killed or captured.

“Operations to secure the area are underway with Mali’s partners,” a Malian military source said.

“Our objective is to consolidate our presence in Boulkessy and to focus on soldiers of whom we are currently without news.”

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita declared three days of national mourning would begin on Thursday, according to a government statement.

Hundreds of angry youths and wives of soldiers demonstrated outside a military camp in the capital Bamako late Wednesday.

Some demonstrators burned tyres to block off the avenue.

“We came here because the government is not telling the truth about the number of dead,” a woman demonstrator told AFP.

“It’s our husbands, the red berets, who are at Boulkessy.”

“My father is a soldier, he’s at Boulkessy, and I haven’t any news of him,” said 15-year-old Ali Oumar Diakite. “They’re lying to us. The army is under-equipped.”

– Blow –

The losses are a crushing blow to Mali’s armed forces, which are flailing in the face of a jihadist revolt that has spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and volatile region.

The operation is also a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force — a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries decided to create a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force — and for France, which is committed to shoring up the fragile region.

The losses symbolise “the escalating activities of violent extremist groups (in the Sahel) with more and more ambitious targets,” said Baba Dakono of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a think tank based in Senegal.

The attacks were eventually subdued with the help of Malian special forces and foreign allies, including French warplanes and helicopters.

The jihadists made off with a large number of arms, ammunition and equipment — local media stated about 20 vehicles were captured, including some mounted with machine-guns.

But French Defence Minister Florence Parly hailed the Malian army for quickly dispatching units to regain control of the camps.

“The determination of these units has helped restore a delicate and compromised situation and inflict losses on terrorists,” she said.

According to an army report seen by AFP, two army helicopters and about a dozen vehicles were burned in the attack on Boulkessy.

The camp there — which housed a Malian battalion that was part of the G5 Sahel — was destroyed.

The G5 Sahel secretariat said the assailants were members of Ansarul Islam, a jihadist group accused of multiple attacks in northern Burkina Faso.

Other sources were unable to confirm this.

– Fragile centre –

Jihadists lost control of northern Mali after French military intervention but regrouped to carry out hit-and-run raids and road mine attacks — classic tactics by a mobile guerrilla force.

They have also moved on to the country’s central region, where they have inflamed long-standing resentments between ethnic groups, analysts say.

On March 17, the Malian army lost nearly 30 men in an attack on a camp in Dioura, also in the troubled central region.

That assault came on the heels of a massacre of 160 Fulani (also called Peul) villagers — a bloodbath that led to a military reshuffle and the government’s resignation.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has been pounding the drum for help for Sahel states, among the poorest in the world, in their struggle against the mobile, well-armed and ruthless jihadists.

On September 14, the West African regional group ECOWAS announced a billion-dollar plan to help fund the military operations of the nations involved. Full details will be presented at a summit in December.

25 Soldiers Killed, 60 Missing In Mali Jihadist Attacks

 

Malian troops backed by foreign allies on Wednesday launched a hunt for scores of comrades listed as missing after one of the deadliest attacks in a seven-year-old jihadist insurgency.

At least 25 troops were killed after militants aboard heavily-armed vehicles raided two military camps at Boulkessy and Mondoro near the border with Burkina Faso, according to a provisional toll.

Fifteen jihadists, according to government figures, were killed in the raids, which began early Monday and were quelled more than a day later.

But around 60 soldiers are listed as missing — 78, according to a security source — with no details as to whether they have been killed or captured.

“Operations to secure the area are under way with Mali’s partners,” a Malian military source said.

“Our objective is to consolidate our presence in Boulkessy and to focus on soldiers of whom we are currently without news.”

Hundreds of angry youths and wives of soldiers demonstrated outside a military camp in the capital Bamako late Wednesday.

Some demonstrators burned tyres to block off the avenue.

“We came here because the government is not telling the truth about the number of dead,” a woman demonstrator told AFP.

“It’s our husbands, the red berets, who are at Boulkessy.”

“My father is a soldier, he’s at Boulkessy, and I haven’t any news of him,” said 15-year-old Ali Oumar Diakite. “They’re lying to us. The army is under-equipped.”

Blow

The losses are a crushing blow to Mali’s armed forces, which are flailing in the face of a jihadist revolt that has spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and volatile region.

The operation is also a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force — a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries decided to create a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force — and for France, which is committed to shoring up the fragile region.

The losses symbolise “the escalating activities of violent extremist groups (in the Sahel) with more and more ambitious targets,” said Baba Dakono of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a think tank based in Senegal.

Only 13 soldiers emerged unscathed from the attacks, which were eventually subdued with the help of Malian special forces and foreign allies, including French warplanes.

The jihadists also made off with a large quantity of arms, ammunition and equipment — local media say about 20 vehicles were captured, including some mounted with machine-guns.

According to an army report seen by AFP, two army helicopters and about a dozen vehicles were burned in the attack on Boulkessy.

The camp there — which housed a Malian battalion that was part of the G5 Sahel — was destroyed.

The G5 Sahel secretariat said the assailants were members of Ansarul Islam, a jihadist group accused of multiple attacks in northern Burkina Faso.

Other sources were unable to confirm this.

Fragile Centre

Jihadists lost control of northern Mali after French military intervention, but regrouped to carry out hit-and-run raids and roadmine attacks — classic tactics by a mobile guerrilla force.

They have also moved on to the country’s central region, where they have inflamed long-standing resentments between ethnic groups, analysts say.

On March 17, the Malian army lost nearly 30 men in an attack on a camp in Dioura, also in the troubled central region.

That assault came on the heels of a massacre of 160 Fulani (also called Peul) villagers — a bloodbath that led to a military reshuffle and the government’s resignation.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has been pounding the drum for help for Sahel states, among the poorest in the world, in their struggle against the mobile, well-armed and ruthless jihadists.

On September 14, the West African regional group ECOWAS announced a billion-dollar plan to help fund the military operations of the nations involved. Full details will be presented at a summit in December.

Two Killed As Terrorists Attack Mali Military Posts

 

Suspected jihadists staged twin attacks Monday on two Malian military posts near the border with Burkina Faso, killing two civilians and burning 22 vehicles, local officials and the army said.

The camps at Mondoro and Boulkessy in central Mali “were attacked this morning… by terrorists”, the Malian armed forces said in a tweet.

“Armed jihadists came at night to Mondoro. They went to the command post of the camp… and fired. The army withdrew. The jihadists’ fire killed two civilians and wounded three,” a local official said.

“The assailants made off with two vans filled with ammunition, two camels and 12 cows,” the official added.

The other camp at Boulkessy — run by the Malian army and G5 Sahel, a five-nation joint taskforce created in 2014 to try to tackle jihadist violence in the region — was attacked by suspected members of the Ansarul Islam outfit, the G5 said in a statement.

They came on “several vehicles loaded with heavy arms and on motorbikes,” it said, without giving any casualty figures.

The attackers burnt 22 vehicles, nearly half of the automatic weapons in the camp and a large cache of ammunition, a military source said.

Northern Mali fell into the hands of jihadists in 2012 before the militants were forced out by a French-led military intervention.

But much of the region remains chronically unstable and jihadist-led violence has spread to the centre of the country, often sparking bloodshed between ethnic groups.

In addition to its own armed forces, the fragile country hosts France’s mission in the Sahel, UN peacekeeping troops as well as contingents from a five-nation anti-jihadist group.

Neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger have also been infiltrated by insurgents, at the cost of hundreds of lives.

AFP

Seven Troops Killed In Mali ‘Terrorist’ Ambush

 

Seven troops have been killed in terrorist ambush in Mali, the army authorities said on Thursday.

A unit escorting a convoy of trucks laden with fertiliser struck a mine on a highway between Douentza and Sevare before being attacked by gunfire, it said.

“Seven (armed forces) members were killed,” it said, adding that “terrorists” — a term typically denoting jihadists — were responsible.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Northern Mali fell into the hands of jihadists in 2012 before the militants were forced out by a French-led military intervention.

But much of the region remains chronically unstable and jihadist-led violence has spread to the centre of the country, often sparking bloodshed between ethnic groups.

In addition to its own armed forces, the fragile country hosts France’s mission in the Sahel, UN peacekeeping troops as well as contingents from a five-nation anti-jihadist group.

Neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger have also been infiltrated by insurgents, at the cost of hundreds of lives.

AFP