By Rida Lyammouri

May 1st, 2016

Background: Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali remain determined to disrupt efforts by Malian government and its partners to stabilize the country. VEOs currently operational in Mali include Ansar al-Din, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA or MUJAO). The Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), French, and Malian forces remain the main target. However civilians remain vulnerable against armed robberies, especially in central and northern Mali.

Key Takeaways and Stats for April 2016:

  • 20 VEO related incidents took place in Mali.
  • Similar to first three months of 2016, Ansar al-Din was responsible for most of VEO attacks conducted in Mali.
  • 1 incident likely conducted by MUJWA occurred on the Nigerien soil on the borders with Mali.
  • At least 10 armed robberies in northern and central Mali including vehicles of individuals, of non-government organizations (NGOs), and of private company. This disrupts movement of people and goods in remote areas in the region.
  • April 2016 was highlighted by the kidnapping of four members of International Community for the Red Cross (ICRC). Fortunately were all released unharmed.
  • Three French soldiers killed after their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED) near Tessalit.
  • French forces are increasing pressure on AQIM and Ansar al-Din in the extreme north of Kidal Region on the borders with Algeria.
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Four ICRC employees kidnapped and released by Ansar al-Din. Source: Twitter

Additional Comments:

  • On 14 April 2016 Ivorian interior minister stated that a total of 83 suspects tied to Grand Bassam hotel attack been arrested since then. Also said that 16 of them had direct involvement with the attack while ongoing search for other members is taking place in Mali.
  • Local witness reported that on 13 April 2016 a civilian taken by Ansar al-Din 30 March 2016 30km north of Kidal was released.
  • Sahara Media reported that on 03 March 2016 French forces clashed with suspected members of Ansar al-Din / AQIM in Boughessa, Kidal region. Five militants reportedly killed while vehicles and weapons seized during the operation. French forces have been conducting in recent weeks important counterterrorism operations in the north of Kidal near borders with Algeria. For more on the importance of Kidal Region to AQIM and Ansar al-Din see here and here.
  • Insecurity in Timbuktu region persists despite the presence of French, MINUSMA, and Malian forces. Concern is not only about AQIM and allies but there is an increase in armed banditry in the area, especially between Timbuktu and Goundam. This is having an impact on local economy while merchants are traveling less due to insecurity.
  • Malian security forces reported on 22 April 2016 to have arrested AQIM man who masterminded Radisson Blu and other attacks. The suspect was identified as Fawaz Ould Ahmeida, an unknown member of the group of Mauritanian nationality.

Chronology of AQIM, Ansar al-Din and VEO Related Incidents

01 April 2016: Ansar al-Din launched rockets on MINUSMA camp in Aguelhoc, Kidal Region. Ansar al-Din claimed responsibility.

04 April 2016: Two gunmen targeted Douentza deputy. The assassination attempt failed but one civilian killed.

07 April 2016: Reportedly, French forces killed five militants from an unknown group in Boughessa area on the borders with Algeria. The area is an Ansar al-Din and AQIM brigade al-Ansar stronghold.

07 April 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED between Taghlit and Igheghar, Kidal region. Ansar al-Din claimed the attack.

08 April 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED near Taghlit. Ansar al-Din claimed the attack.

10 April 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked MINUSMA convoy of seven vehicles on Timbuktu – Bambara Maoudé – Douentza transit route. Three civilian contractors [drivers] reportedly injured and three vehicles burned.

12 April 2016: Three French soldiers killed after their armored vehicle struck an IED while traveling from Gao to Tessalit, Mali. Ansar al-Din claimed responsibility.

12 April 2016: Three mortars fired at MINUSMA camp in Ansongo. Reportedly mortars missed target and no physical or human damages recorded.

12 April 2016: unknown gunmen ambushed Chadian soldiers of MINUSMA in Aguelhoc. No casualties reported.

12 April 2016: Civilian vehicle struck an IED in Aguelhoc. One civilian killed.

12 April 2016: A young kid of 13 years old lost his arm when remaining of explosives exploded in his hand in Tessalit.

11-12 April 2016: French forces of operation Barkhane clashed with suspected jihadists near Boughessa. Two vehicles belonging to AQIM or Ansar al-Din recovered. Note: This incident could be related to 07 April incident when French forces reportedly killed five suspected members of Ansar al-Din or AQIM.

13 April 2016: Suspected members of the MLF carried an attack on Malian forces checkpoint in Boni, central Mali. Ansar al-Din spokesman claimed the attack and stated that at least five Malian soldiers killed and others injured. Malian security sources said on the other hand one attacker killed and five arrested.

12 April 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED on Tessalit – Aguelhoc transit route. Local witness said two killed and one injured.

15 April 2016: French forces and Ansar al-Din clashed in Abeibera, Kidal region. An Ansar al-Din member identified as Atta Ag al-Mehdi was reportedly killed.

15 – 16 April 2016: Ansar al-Din kidnapped four ICRC local staff. One was released immediately and the three others freed on 22 April 2016.

22 April 2016: A MINUSMA driver died from sustained injuries from a previous IED explosion last week. Radio Aadar Koima

23 April 2016: Two Malian soldiers killed and one injured in an ambush on Timbuktu – Goundam route. Ansar al-Din claimed responsibility.

26 April 2016: Mortars fired at MUNISMA camp in Kidal. Ansar al-Din claimed responsibility.

28 April 2016: Suspected MUJWA members attacked Nigerien forces on the borders with Mali north of Tahoua region. One gendarme killed and two injured.

29 April 2016: Local witness reported armed men attacked NGO workers near Doro, 45km south of Gao. Two injured during the attack, the supervisor is still missing, and two vehicles burned.

Chronology of Key Arrests and Other Notable Violent Incidents

04 April 2016: Reportedly members of Ganda Izo and Ganda Lassal Izé exchanged fire near Bourem. Two reportedly killed.

04 April 2016: Malian forces arrested a Nigerian citizen suspected to be a member of an unidentified VEO operating in central Mali. The suspect was identified as Nazim Abou, an engineer with possession of compromising documents.

07 April 2016: Reportedly, Malian forces arrested seven individuals suspected to be members of an unknown jihadist group at Haboité village, on the borders with Mauritania. Important ammunition and arms supposedly also recovered. Comment: Reportedly, two of the suspects killed when the eight escaped from custody. The remaining six were re-captured.

07 April 2016: Allegedly, Malian forces killed and arrested unknown number of suspected jihadists in Gao region. The operation was conducted jointly with French forces.

11 April 2016: Members of the platform allied with the Malian government exchanged fire with members of the CMFPR2 of the CMA. Causes of the incident are unclear but this indicates the difficulty to control armed members from both sides.

20 April 2016: Reportedly, one killed and one injured in armed assault in Dioura, Tenenkou commune, Mopti region. Radio Kounari de Sévaré. Local witness reported to be ethnic tensions between Bambara and Fulani members and that casualties was higher than what was reported, seven.

Chronology of Armed Banditry and Other Security Incidents

04 April 2016: Three gunmen seized ambulance that belongs to community health center (CSCOM in French) in Timbuktu.

10 April 2016: Unknown gunmen assassinated son of former Tessalit deputy, Hamdy Ag Baye in Borj Badji Mokhtar, Algeria. The son was identified as Aziz Ag Baye Hamdy, his father was also assassinated in January 2015 that AQIM claimed responsibility for.

13 April 2016: Local witness reported unknown gunmen killed two Tuareg civilians returning from local market 60km of Gossi, central Mali.

16 April 2016: Armed bandits targeted school director and abducted his motorcycle before letting him go. The incident took place between Ansongo and Tessit, the victim is director of local school at Temera, and the attackers allegedly were speaking Fulani. Radio Aadar Koukia

17 April 2016: Vehicle of SATOM abducted by unknown armed men on Goundam – Timbuktu route. Radio Bouctou

19 April 2016: Dozens of armed bandits robbed a local merchant between Dogofri and Léré, central Mali. Bandits seized unknown amount of fuel, seven solar panels, cash, and one cellphone. Radio Issa Ber

20 April 2016: Four armed men attacked and robbed CSCOM at Garbakoira village, 35km from Diré. The attackers looted the pharmaceutical depot. No victims or injuries reported. Radio Alfarook

21 April 2016: A civilian traveling on a camel killed by two unknown gunmen in Goundam. Radio Djimba Bodo  

24 April 2016: A member of unidentified group killed while trying to plant an IED on Gao – Ansongo route. The individual supposedly mishandled the IED. Radio Aadar Koukia

26 April 2016: Two vehicles taken by two armed bandits found at Inekar, near Ménaka. Drivers rescued by locals while bandits escaped when both vehicles got stuck in sand. The two vehicles belong to Gaakoy Company. Source: Radio Koukia