By Rida Lyammouri
June 1st, 2016
Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali remained in May aggressive and deadly throughout northern and central Mali. VEOs operational in Mali include Ansar al-Din, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) or Ansar al-Din southern brigade, 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. Improvised explosive device (IED) still the main tactic used by VEOs. However May deadliest attacks saw the use of IED followed by an ambush on MINUSMA and Malian forces. At least 22 MINUSMA peacekeepers and Malian soldiers killed in May, deadliest month in 2016.
In addition to violence related to VEOs Mopti region witnessed in May deadly inter-community clashes between Fulani and Bambara communities, at least 25 people killed. Civilians remain vulnerable against armed robberies, especially in central and northern Mali. This is largely a result of weapons availability and lack of permanent security presence. Vehicles, non-government organizations (NGO) workers, and private companies operating in central and northern Mali were repeatedly targeted by armed robbers. French private construction company SATOM was targeted near Goundam. One Orange vehicle was abducted in the same area while the driver was killed. In Ménaka, two vehicles were taken while three NGO workers were abducted before being released by six armed men. Another NGO vehicle was also taken in Gao. While main focus is to limit VEO operations in Mali these acts of armed banditry against NGO workers and vehicles will further complicate efforts to assist vulnerable population in northern and central Mali.
- Mali recorded at least 16 VEO related violent incidents in central and northern regions.
- In May MINUSMA was targeted 5 times. At least 11 peacekeepers and 3 contractors killed, and 14 injured. This number could rise after the two attacks in Gao on 31 May 2016.
- In May Malian forces were targeted 9 times. At least 11 Malian soldiers killed and 11 injured.
- IED were used in all 5 attacks against MINUSMA while 3 times IED attacks followed by an ambush.
- 3 IED out of 8 total attacks were used against Malian forces.
- IED and ambush tactic:
- All MINUSMA casualties were result of IED attacks. Also 10 out of 11 MINUSMA casualties were result of two IED attacks followed by an ambush.
- 7 out 10 Malian soldiers killed were result of an IED attack
- Two Burkina Faso police posts near borders with Mali were attacked by unknown gunmen. AQIM and allies previously conducted similar attacks in addition to kidnappings in January 2016. Short assessment on VE in Burkina here.
- Kidal Region: Ansar al-Din in collaboration with AQIM brigades al-Ansar and Youssuf Ibn Tachefin remain a major threat to peacekeeping, counterterrorism, humanitarian and development operations in the area.
- Central Mali: Ansar al-Din south or better known as the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) is a major threat to Malian and MINUSMA forces in Mopti region, but also on the borders with Mauritania and Timbuktu region near Goundam.
- Gao Region: AQIM and the remaining small brigades of MUJWA and possibly Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui men will continue to be a major concern on transit routes connecting Gao – Ansongo – Ménaka. Also these groups are increasingly becoming a serious threat to areas in Niger and Burkina Faso bordering with Mali.
- Rainy season starts in June in the area and lasts until September/October. This might limit movement of VEOs in northern and central Mali, and neighboring countries but does not indicate VEOs going to stop exploiting opportunities to carry attacks against Malian and foreign forces in the region.
Violent Extremist Organisation (VEO) Related Incidents
03 May 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED while another vehicle was set on fire at Agoufou, 25km of Gossi, Timbuktu region. Two peacekeepers injured.
03 – 04 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked Malian military post at Nampala, near borders with Mauritania. Reportedly no victims but attackers seized one Malian Army vehicle when security forces abandoned their post at checkpoint.
04 May 2016: United Nations Mine Action Services (UNMAS) discovered and destroyed an IED near Malian Army checkpoint in Ménaka.
06 May 2016: Four gunmen on motorcycles attacked Malian forces guarding Tassiga Bridge, near Ansongo. One Malian soldier, one assailant killed and one arrested while others managed to escape. MUJWA attempted to blow-up and damaged the same bridge in January 2013.
09 May 2016: Important figure of Ansar al-Din arrested. Identified as Souleymane Keïta, he was reportedly in charge of arms and other logistical support for Ansar al-Din southern brigade.
10 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked Malian Army post in Bamba, Gao region. One Malian soldier and one attacker killed.
11 May 2016: Malian Army vehicle struck an IED in Ebanguimalane, between Gossi and Hombori in Gao region. Two Malian soldiers killed and three injured, including a high-ranked Colonel.
12 May 2016: Suspected AQIM members conducted a kidnapping attempt on village chief in Farach, Timbuktu region. Reportedly, fighters of CMA clashed and repelled AQIM attempt. Two AQIM and two CMA fighters reportedly killed.
14 May 2016: Suspected jihadists assassinated Malian Military surgeon in Gao city.
14 May 2016: French forces targeted and destroyed a vehicle belonging to unknown jihadist group in Tabankort, Gao region. Three suspected jihadists killed.
18 May 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED then ambushed 15km north of Aguelhok, Kidal region. Five Chadian peacekeepers killed and three severely injured. Three civilians were arrested by Chadian peacekeepers following the attack. Reportedly one died later on after being beaten by Chadian peacekeepers while two others released.
21 May 2016: Gunmen attacked Malian Army protecting logistical site of SATOM between Goundam and Timbuktu. One soldier killed and four injured.
22 May 2016: Gunmen abducted vehicle of Orange, French network provider, between Goundam and Timbuktu. The driver/Orange employee killed.
22 May 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED then ambushed while traveling from Sévaré to Dioura, central Mali. Five peacekeepers suffered minor injuries.
23 May 2016: Local witness said unidentified gunmen attacked MNLA vehicle in Kidal. Two injured.
24 May 2016: Gunmen attacked Malian Army convoy between In-Tillit and Gao. Two suspects arrested.
24 May 2016: Citerne carrying water escorted by Malian Army struck an IED between Gossi and Hombori. No casualties reported. Source: Radio Naata
27 May 2016: Malian Army vehicles struck two IEDs then ambushed between Ménaka and Ansongo, near In-Delimane. Five soldiers killed and four injured.
27 May 2016: Civilian truck struck an IED in Ménaka city. No casualties reported.
29 May 2016: MINUSMA convoy struck an IED then ambushed 30km west of Sévaré, central Mali. Five peacekeepers killed and one severely injured.
31 May 2016: Double attacks targeted MINUSMA and UNMAS sites in Gao. First was reportedly a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack against Chinese peacekeepers post. One Chinese peacekeeper killed and two others severely injured. Almost simultaneously gunmen attacked a hotel hosting UNMAS experts. Three contractors total killed including two Malian private security officers and one French UNMAS expert.
Attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger near Malian Borders
17 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked police station at Koutougou, Soum commune near borders with Mali. Two policemen injured and despite reinforcements managed to escape and remain at large.
31 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked police station at Intangon of Oudalan, 25km from Tin Akoff, Burkina Faso. Three policemen killed. In 15 January 2016 similar attack took place when three gendarmes were killed.
23-24 May 2016: Unknown gunmen abducted NGO vehicle near Mangaize refugee camp in Tillabéry, Niger. Two NGO workers were also taken but released later on unharmed.
Violence Related to Tribal Tensions
31 April – 01 May 2016 recorded alarming violent clashes between Fulani and Bambara communities at Karéri commune, Ténenkou Circle, Mopti region in central Mali. Reportedly at least 22 killed from Fulani community when Bambara militia acted in revenge to the killing of three Bambara members, including Mayor deputy of Karéri
01 May 2016: Reportedly, at least 8 civilians killed in clashes between Fulani and Bambara communities in Mopti region, central Mali.
01 May 2016: Local witness reported three Fulani and one Tuareg killed by Bambara militia at Malemana, 40km west of Dioura, central Mali. A man identified as Bachoura Coulibaly leads the Bambara militia. During burial ceremony, same militia fired at the crowd present at the cemetery killing unknown number of civilians present at the cemetery.
11 May 2016: As a result of ongoing tensions between Fulani and Bambara communities, one armed Bambara killed by armed Fulani men at Tjikéré-Finadji, 50km west of Dioura, Mopti region.
14 May 2016: Reportedly, members of GATIA attacked a GandaIzo post at Ndaki in Gossi commune. The incident recorded three victims.
26 May 2016: Local witness reported armed men from Fulani community assassinated two Imghad Tuareg 30km south of In-Tellit.
02 May 2016: Six armed men abducted vehicle of a water supply company in Timbuktu. Driver said robbers also took his cellphone and a bottle of water. Radio Alfarook
05 May 2016: Armed men abducted vehicle of DDRG (Développement Durable de la Région de Gao), a local NGO, 5km of Tessit, Ansongo Circle, Gao Region. Radio Aadar Koukia
07 May 2016: Gunmen attacked transportation bus at Firchindi near Ansongo. Bandits robbed all passengers from their belongings before tying the driver. Radio Aadar Koukia
07 May 2016: Reportedly, two Malian soldiers killed and five injured during an accident while pursuing armed robbers near Ansongo.
10 May 2016: Armed men attacked and looted two major shops at Goundam. Three Sanili motorcycles were also taken. Radio Djimba Bodo
16 May 2016: Unknown gunmen abducted a vehicle belonging to an NGO in Gao at district 7.
16 May 2016: Civilian vehicle taken by armed men between Douentza and Bambara-Maoude. Two passengers injured and their goods were stolen.
18 May 2016: Two vehicles belonging to an NGO taken by six armed men near Ménaka, including employees of Medecin Sans Frontiere (MSF) that were released.
18 May 2016: Unknown gunmen fired at a local merchant at the main market in Kidal.
21 May 2016: Three trucks robbed by armed robbers near In-Delimane between Ménaka and Ansongo. Source: Radio Aadar Koukia
22 May 2016: Four gunmen abducted civilian vehicle arriving from Douékiré, 40km from Goundam. Armed robbers seized all goods and money from passengers and no casualties reported. Source: Radio Djimba Bodo
23 May 2016: Gunmen carried an attack on Dabi village, 20km of Niafunké. Motorcycles taken.
24 May 2016: Four gunmen robbed a truck transporting civilians 40km from Ménaka. Source: Radio Aadar Koukia
30 May 2016: Two armed robbers attempted to rob a bus transporting civilians between Ansongo and Ménaka. Passengers succeeded at disarming and killing the two bandits. Weapons were returned to Malian gendarmerie based in Ansongo. Source: Radio Aadar Koukia
Great work compiling all incidents. It would be interesting to see an organogram regarding the different VEO’s relation to each other and their leaders. I sometimes get the impression that it is all AQIM and the other named groups are sub-units but it seems not to be the case.
Thank you! I agree, an organogram will be useful and make it easy to see the connection. Indeed most of these groups are backed by AQIM, making them perceived local for recruitment and infiltration purposes as i highlighted here: http://www.thebrokeronline.eu/Articles/Trust-versus-belief
I might work on something like that soon if time allows it.
Hi. Excellent work about Mali on this blog! I’m journalist at Libération, in Paris. I would like to contact you. Possible?