Former Mali Official Charged Over Expletive-Laden Anti-Trump Tweet

 

 

 

A former Malian government official was charged on Thursday for sending embarrassing tweets from the president’s account about the US assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani a judicial source said.

The former spokesperson for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Tiegoum Maiga, later outed himself on his own Twitter account.

Keita’s official Twitter account had posted on Monday that “no one is around to tell Trump that he committed a fuck-up” by ordering the assassination of Soleimani.

Soleimani was killed on Friday in a US drone strike in Iraq ordered by President Donald Trump, triggering fears of a retaliatory strike and an escalation of conflict in the Middle East.

The Malian presidency account added that Trump “threatens world peace and has made of the US a rogue state”.

The tweets, which have since been deleted, were widely shared and Maiga was arrested.

On Thursday he was charged and “placed in detention for internet fraud and harmful data entry,” his lawyer Moussa Maiga told AFP. A judicial source confirmed the charges.

“What is serious is the use of the presidential (Twitter) account to send a message of this nature which could create problems between our two countries,” a presidential official said.

Maiga, the brother of former Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, said on Tuesday that he left his job in November but had forgotten he still had access to the president’s account.

The tweets were meant for his personal account and he had “no desire to be a nuisance,” he added.

The US also suffered a PR fiasco on Monday, when it said a draft letter describing steps to move its military out of Iraq had been mistakenly sent out.

IS Says It Caused Mali Crash That Killed 13 French Troops

A handout picture taken and released on November 27, 2019 by the SIRPA, the French army press service shows the coffins of the 13 French soldiers who died when two French military helicopters collided in Mali, two days ago displayed prior to a tribute ceremony, on November 27, 2019 in Gao.  James WILLIAM / SIRPA / AFP

 

 

The Islamic State on Thursday claimed responsibility for provoking a collision of two military helicopters which killed 13 French soldiers in Mali.

Monday’s accident was the heaviest single loss for the French military in nearly four decades. All 13 aboard the two helicopters were killed.

The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) said its fighters ambushed “a convoy of vehicles carrying Crusader French army elements near Indelimane village, in the Menaka area.

“As the Crusaders attempted to land from one of their helicopters, to descend on the position of the ambush, to support their soldiers, the soldiers of the Caliphate targeted it with medium weapons, forcing it to withdraw,” the statement on the SITE intelligence group website said.

“After staggering in flight, it then collided with another helicopter, killing 13 Crusaders.”

The accident brought to 41 the number of French troops killed in the Sahel region since Paris intervened against jihadists in northern Mali in 2013.

Since then, armed groups affiliated with the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and others have advanced into southern Mali as well as into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Black Boxes From Crashed Helicopters Found In Mali

French Defence Minister Florence Parly (C) walks with France’s chief of the Defence staff general Francois Lecointre (2ndL) as they arrive to take part in a tribute ceremony for the 13 French soldiers who died when two French military helicopters collided in Mali, two days ago are displayed prior to a tribute ceremony, on November 27, 2019, in Gao.
SIRPA / AFP

 

The black boxes from two French military helicopters that collided in Mali killing 13 soldiers have been found, a French military spokesman said Wednesday.

The crash occurred late Monday during an operation against jihadists in the Liptako region, near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger. It was the heaviest single loss for the French military in nearly four decades.

“The two black boxes from the helicopters have been recovered, they will be handed over to the relevant authorities to be analysed,” the spokesman, Colonel Frederic Barbry, told BFMTV.

Three helicopters and a squadron of Mirage jets had arrived on Monday to support ground troops pursuing Islamist extremists.

Shortly after troops engaged the insurgents, who fled on motorbikes and in a pickup truck, a Tiger attack helicopter collided with a Cougar military transport helicopter.

All 13 aboard the two aircraft were killed.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly arrived along with top military brass at the Barkhane base in Gao on Wednesday afternoon to pay homage to the dead soldiers ahead of their repatriation to France.

The chief of staff of the French armed forces, General Francois Lecointre, and the army chief of staff, Thierry Burkhard, accompanied Parly on the trip.

Parly will address the soldiers at the base to convey “the nation’s sadness, recognition and determination”, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The minister was greeted by Barkhane Force commander General Pascal Facon and her Malian counterpart, General Dahirou Dembele.

The soldiers’ bodies will be repatriated to France where President Emmanuel Macron will lead commemorations at Invalides military hospital and museum in Paris on Monday.

Barbry said no theory as to the cause of the crash had been ruled out.

The conditions for flying at the time of the crash were “extremely difficult” because it was a moonless night, the spokesman said.

The accident brought to 41 the number of French troops killed in the Sahel region since Paris intervened against jihadists in northern Mali in 2013.

Since then, armed groups affiliated with the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and others have advanced into southern Mali as well as into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

No ‘definitive’ victory possible

Lecointre warned earlier Wednesday against expecting total victory over insurgents roaming an area the size of Western Europe.

“We will never achieve a definitive victory,” he told France Inter radio, while insisting that France’s intervention was “useful, good and necessary”.

“We are producing results but we must be patient and persevere,” he said, adding that a lasting solution to the unrest in the region required “military action but also action on the development front.”

France has 4,500 troops deployed under Operation Barkhane to help local forces hunt jihadists in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

It had been hoping that a joint counter-terrorism force set up by the five African countries would gradually take over the operations.

But the G5 Sahel force has been hamstrung by a lack of manpower, funds, training and weaponry.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali MINUSMA and regional armies, meanwhile, have also suffered heavy losses in the unrest.

In some of the deadliest incidents, 43 Malian soldiers were killed in an attack in the east of the country in mid-November while Burkina Faso lost 24 troops in an assault on a base near the Malian border in August.

Despite the challenges and the growing hostility towards French troops in Mali and Burkina Faso, both former colonies, Macron’s government is adamant it has no plans to scale back operations.

France has presented the battle against the jihadists operating on Europe’s doorstep as a battle for the security both of Africa and Europe.

Former president Francois Hollande, who took the decision to intervene in Mali in 2013, on Wednesday said he stood by his decision.

“If there had not been the operation which I launched on January 11, 2013, all of Mali would have been occupied by Islamist terrorists, and not just Mali. All of West Africa would have be destabilised,” he said.

13 Killed In Mali Helicopter Collision

In this file photo taken on March 27, 2019 A French Eurocopter Tiger (Eurocopter EC665 Tigre) helicopter sits at the FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) base during the start of the French Barkhane Force operation in Mali’s Gourma region. Thirteen soldiers from France’s anti-terrorist Barkhane force in Mali were killed after two helicopters collided during an operation in the country’s north, the French presidency said on November 26, 2019. PHOTO: DAPHNÉ BENOIT / AFP

 

Thirteen soldiers from France’s Barkhane force in Mali were killed when two helicopters collided during an operation against jihadists in the country’s north, the Elysee said on Tuesday.

The accident occurred on Monday evening while the forces were engaging the fighters who have staged a series of deadly strikes in northern Mali in recent weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.

“The president hails with the greatest respect the memory of these soldiers… who lost their lives in an operation and died for France in the hard fight against terrorism in the Sahel,” it added in a statement.

Six officers and a master corporal were among the victims in the deadliest accident since France intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back an intense Islamic insurgency.

The accident brings to 38 the number of French soldiers killed in Mali since the intervention began.

France has around 4,500 troops in the country as part of its Barkhane operation, which is primarily tasked with building up and training local security forces but also participates in operations against the insurgents.

An inquiry has been opened into the cause of the mid-air collision, Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a separate statement.

Defence ministry sources said a Tiger attack helicopter collided with a larger Cougar military transport helicopter.

‘Died for France’

It was the heaviest loss for the French army since the 1983 attack on the Drakkar building in Beirut, in which 58 paratroopers were killed.

The French president “bows in front of the pain of their families and their loved ones and expresses his deepest condolences, and assures them of the unshakeable solidarity of the French nation,” his office said.

Macron also hailed the “courage of all the French soldiers engaged in the Sahel and their determination to continue their mission.”

Mali has sustained a wave of insurgency strikes on army outposts and other targets, with more than 50 killed over just a few days in early November.

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita warned after the strikes that the country’s stability was at stake, urging people to rally around the country’s besieged armed forces.

It is one of the countries in the Sahel region of Africa that has been caught in the eye of the jihadist storm since 2012, along with Niger, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

AFP

24 Soldiers, 17 Insurgents Killed In Clashes In Eastern Mali

A file photo of Malian soldiers. AFP photo.

 

 

Twenty-four Malian soldiers and 17 jihadists fighters were killed in clashes in the east of the country, the army said, as security in the West African nation deteriorates further.

Mali and Niger forces were carrying out a joint operation when a patrol was attacked Monday by “terrorists” near the northeastern town of Tabankort, the army said on social media.

According to the military, the total toll was “24 dead, 29 injured and material damage” while 17 of the jihadists were killed and a hundred more suspects captured.

The prisoners are in the hands of Niger soldiers, the statement said.

In an earlier statement, which gave a lower death toll, the army said French and Niger forces took part in a counterattack.

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Monday’s action was another heavy loss for the army, which lost a hundred soldiers in two jihadist attacks in a month in the autumn.

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

Since then, however, the border regions of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have become the theatre of repeated clashes with jihadist fighters.

Mali’s army has been struggling to contain the Islamist insurgency despite help from African neighbours, MINUSMA, the 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, and former colonial power in the region France.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in a visit to neighbouring Senegal on Monday called on all west African states to help tackle jihadist groups operating in the Sahel.

“One thing is certain: jihadist groups will benefit, as soon as they can, from our weaknesses, from our lack of coordination or from our lack of commitment or training,” said Philippe, at the opening of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security.

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to take decisions “in the coming weeks” on how France can help tackle jihadist violence in the Sahel.

He said progress had been made “on the security situation” and decisions would be announced on revamping the G5 regional cooperation force in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

France earlier this month also announced their troops had killed a top jihadist leader in Mali, described by the defence ministry as the second most-wanted terrorist in the Sahel.

Moroccan Ali Maychou belonged to the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) in Mali, which has claimed responsibility for some of the biggest attacks in the Sahel.

AFP

Seven Malian Soldiers Die In Clash With Jihadists

A group of soldiers from the Burkina Faso Army patrols a rural area during a joint operation with the French Army in the Soum region along the border with Mali on November 9, 2019.
MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

Seven Malian soldiers died Monday during fighting with suspected jihadist militants in the tense border region near Niger, the army said on Twitter.

A statement said an army patrol was engaged by “terrorists” near the northeastern town of Tabankort and suffered “seven deaths and 15 injured along with material damage.”

A counterattack was backed by troops from France and Niger, it added.

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

Since then, however, the border regions of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have become the theatre of repeated clashes with jihadist fighters.

Mali’s army has been struggling to contain the Islamist insurgency despite help from France, African neighbours and the United Nations.

Two recent attacks have claimed the lives of about 100 Malian soldiers.

AFP

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.