On Friday, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar warned the United Nations that the failure to fully implement a nationwide peace accord was helping al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS)-affiliated groups spread their influence in the West African country.
Speaking at a high-level meeting on Mali at the annual UN General Assembly, President Keita stated, “we have to admit that several factors are contradicting our will and effort,” adding, “in particularly the extension of terrorism and banditry and security of neighbouring countries because of the desire of terrorist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda and Islamic State seeking to expand.” The president further disclosed that Islamists were using the slow implementation of peace accords in order to “manipulate” and “destroy” links between different ethnic groups in Mali. One incident, a clash in the north that erupted earlier this week between pro-government Gatia milita and the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad movements, has highlighted the fragility of the UN-backed deal, which was singed last year between the Malian government and northern armed groups. That agreement is meant to end a cycle of uprisings. Also speaking at the meeting was Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, whose country is leading mediation efforts in Mali. Lamamra disclosed, “we must redouble our efforts,” adding, It’s terrible that signatories of the accord are involved in the fratricidal killings.” Meanwhile French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose country has thousands of troops deployed across West Africa in a bid to hunt down militants, disclosed that the security situation was “in general satisfying despite asymmetric attacks.”
UN peacekeepers are deployed across northern Mali with the aim of stabilizing the vast region, which was occupied by separatist Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist militants in 2012, before France intervened the following years. Tit-for-tat violence between rival armed groups however has distracted the West African nation from fighting Islamist militants. Furthermore, the country has become the deadliest place for UN peacekeepers to serve. On Thursday, the international mediation team, which includes the UN, Europeans Union (EU), African Union (AU) and regional bloc ECOWAS, disclosed that it believed the situation could not continue without compromising the agreement. The international mediation team also threatened international sanctions on those responsible for blocking the deal’s implementation.
As of 4 September 2016, the Malian army has regained control of the central Malian town of Boni, which on 2 September was briefly held by a hardline-armed group. According to United Nations and Malian security sources, the fighters have allegedly left the town with a local official they were keeping hostage. The town was seized by the group on 2 September (Friday) and held until around 8 AM 3 September (Saturday).
While the town is now back in the hands of Malian officials, the incident exemplifies the ongoing security threats in the country and the apparent ease in which militants can capture land in the country. It currently remains unknown which group is responsible for this attack and further similar incidents may occur in the weeks to come.
MS Risk continues to closely monitor the situation in Boni and across Mali and we will issue further updates as more information becomes available. We are ready to assist with the following: Evacuation advice and coordination, this includes reception and coordination for any evacuees; liaison with local authorities; disseminate urgent risk assessments and contingency planning.
An elected official and a security source reported on 2 September 2016 that the central Malian town of Boni, in the region of Mopti, is under suspected jihadist control after administrative buildings were attacked and the Malian army was driven from the area.
Boni, which is located around 90 kilometres (56 miles) from Douentza, is home to several thousand people and at nightfall, it remained under the control of an unidentified armed group who fired on administrative buildings and burnt down the mayor’s office.
Since early 2015, jihadist groups operating in the region have launched a number of attacks in central Mali, as well as in the northern region of the country. More recently, the tempo of attacks has increased, with militants launching attacks in the capital Bamako, as well as in other regions of the country, including near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and Niger. Militants have also targeted United Nations peacekeepers and Malian troops. The capture of Boni is likely to further undermine the security situation in the country and is a direct threat to the southern region of the country. Mali is currently under a state of emergency after attackers stormed an army base in the central town of Nampala, killing 17 soldiers and leaving a further 35 wounded.
MS Risk is closely monitoring the situation in Boni and across Mali and we will issue further updates as more information becomes available. We are ready to assist with the following: Evacuation advice and coordination, this includes reception and coordination for any evacuees; liaison with local authorities; disseminate urgent risk assessments and contingency planning.
According to a memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service, Ghana and Togo are the next targets for Islamist militants following high-profile attacks that occurred in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast this year.
The memo calls for better border protection, in what is the latest sign of a heightened government response to the threat to West Africa by militants based in northern Mali, who in the last year have increased their campaign of violence. The memo also states that the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has evidence from neighboring Ivory Coast from the interrogation of a man suspected of orchestrating an attack on 13 March in which 19 people were killed. The memo, which is dated 9 April and which was published by Ghanaian media, states that “intelligence gathered by the …NSCS indicates a possible terrorist attack on the country is real….The choice of Ghana according to the report is to take away the perception that only Francophone countries are the target.” The memo ordered immigration agents on the northern border with Burkina Faso to be extra vigilant and disclosed that patrols should be stepped up along informal routes between the two countries.
In an interview on state radio’s Sunrise FM on Thursday, President John Mahama asked for public vigilance and stated that Ghana was also at risk from home grown militants. He further noted that countries in the region share intelligence on militant threats. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for attacks on a hotel in the capital of Mali last November, a restaurant and hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital in January and the Ivory Coast attack in March. In all, more than 65 people have died, many of them foreigners.
In the wake of the 13 March deadly terror attack in neighbouring Ivory Coast, Ghana’s government has put the nation on high alert. The terror alert is a first for the West African country.
On 16 March, Ghana’s national security chiefs disclosed that they have intelligence of a credible terrorist threat in the country. The announcement was made on Wednesday following a meeting with Ghana’s President John Mahama to review their readiness. In a statement, the government called on Ghanaians to pay attention and report anything unusual to security agencies.
The alert comes as the United Kingdom has also advised its citizens in Ghana to be cautious. The United States has also restricted US service members’ travel to five West African countries, citing recent militant attacks in the region. On 16 March, the Pentagon issued the move, which effectively limits unofficial travel by US military personnel to Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Ghana. US Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, has disclosed that the order will remain in effect until 30 June and does not restrict official travel to the countries involved, adding, “given the recent attacks in Western Africa, we felt it prudent to make this decision at this time in an effort to ensure the safety of our personnel.” According to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for US Africa Command, “its just vigilance given the recent events that have happened in the area of the world.” US Africa Command has between 1,000 and 1,2000 forces on the continent at any one time, mostly in training and support roles to help local security forces combat militants.
Since November 2015, al-Qaeda militants have attacked hotels in two other regional capitals, Bamako (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), and a beach resort located outside Abidjan (Ivory Coast).