Tag Archives: Mali

Mali Suffers String of Attacks Targeting UN Mission

Posted on in Mali title_rule

Over the past week, the United Nations mission in Mali has suffered three attacks, resulting in several deaths and growing concerns that jihadists operating in the region are once again gaining strength.

On Monday, UN officials in Mali reported that a driver was killed in an ambush on a peacekeeping supply convoy in northern Mali in what is the third deadly assault on the mission in less than a week. A statement released by the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission indicated that the civilian contractors were targeted at 11:30 AM, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Gao, adding “initial reports indicate that at least one driver was killed, his truck was later set on fire.”

MINUSMA chief Mongi Hamdi has condemned the attacks, stating that the UN “…will adjust our security arrangements so that such crimes are not repeated. MINUSMA cannot tolerate this.” He has called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and has urged the Malian military and police to increase security in the area. It was not immediately clear how the victim was killed however Monday’s attack comes just days after two drivers were shot dead as a MINUSMA supply convoy was ambushed nearby.

On Saturday, the UN reported that two drivers have been shot dead after a peacekeeping supply convoy was attacked in northern Mali. According to a statement released by MINUSMA, two assailants stopped the convoy some 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the main city of Gao and “coldly killed two drivers” in the attack which occurred late Friday. They later set the vehicles on fire. Officials have disclosed that a third person was wounded in the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, however the incident comes just days after an attack on the UN peacekeeping base in the same region as Gao, in which three civilians were killed and sixteen people were wounded. Al-Mourabitoun has claimed responsibility for that attack.

A suicide bomber attacked a UN barracks in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing three civilians and wounding sixteen people, including several peacekeepers. According to UN officials, the militant was attempting to drive into a camp used by the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Ansong, in the northern region of Gao, when the explosives went off. A statement released by MINUSMA disclosed, “the attack left nine injured, two seriously, among the peacekeepers from the Niger contingent. In addition, the explosion has killed at least three civilians. Seven (civilians) were also injured.” The UN mission in Mali has not disclosed whether the bomber was acting alone or if there were others in the vehicle.

In a recording released Friday, an al-Qaeda-linked group, led by Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide attack that targeted the UN mission in Mali on Wednesday. In an audio message that was sent to Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar, which frequently publishes statements attributed to extremist groups that operate in the region, Belmokhtar’s al-Murabitoun group indicated that it had carried out the attack. The group disclosed that it had targeted Nigerien nationals because their president, Mahamadou Issoufou, had taken part in the mass Paris rally over the jihadist attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January. They further added that the attack was also an act of revenge for Niger allowing French and American troops on its soil, and described Wednesday’s attack as “the second operation to avenge insults against the Prophet,” referring to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon depictions of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. While the Malian government had initially reported that a civilian MINUSMA worker and a child were killed in the attack, adding that the suicide bomber was also killed and 21 people, including several peacekeepers, were wounded, al-Murabitoun has denied that any civilians were killed, arguing that this would not have been possible “given the distance between the camp and the town.”

It appears that al-Murabitoun is increasingly gaining strength and ability to carry out deadly attacks in Mali, with the militant group most recently claiming responsibility for the 7 March attack on a Bamako nightclub. Al-Murabitoun was formed in 2013 from the merger of Belmokhtar’s Signatories in Blood group and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Belmoktar, a former al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) chief, is wanted by the security services of several countries after allegedly masterminding a siege in January 2013 of an Algerian gas plan, in which thirty-eight hostages were killed. He is also believed to have been behind twin car bombings that occurred in Niger in May of that year and which killed at least twenty people. Belmokhtar, who is thought to be based in Libya, has been designated a foreign terrorist by the United States, with the State Department offering a US $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Militants operating in northern Mali have staged a number of deadly attacks on UN forces, with at least 35 peacekeepers killed and over 140 wounded since MINUSMA was deployed in July 2013. The camp targeted on Wednesday is situated near the scene of the killing of a Red Cross worker two weeks ago. That attack was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Last month, a Chadian peacekeeper and two children died when militants fired more than thirty rockets at a UN barracks in the northern city of Kidal.

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Hostage Rescued After Nearly Four Years in Captivity

Posted on in Burkina Faso, Mali title_rule

On Monday, French Special Forces rescued a Dutch civilian who was kidnapped nearly four years ago in Mali by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants.

France’s defense ministry confirmed Monday that Sjaad Rijke, 54, who was kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, was freed during “military action carried out by the French army’s Special Forces,” adding that “this combat action has also led to the capture of several individuals.” Rijke was freed in a pre-dawn raid. He was temporarily transferred to a base in Tessalit before arriving in the Malian capital Bamako on Tuesday. Sources close to the case have disclosed that the operation occurred near Tessalit, in Mali’s far north region near the border with Algeria. According to Lieutenant Colonel Michel Sabatier, a spokesman for Barkhane, which is France’s counter-insurgency operation in the region, French forces killed two militants and captured two others in the operation.

Gunmen had stormed into Rijke’s hotel in Timbuktu in 2011, capturing him along with a South African and a Swedish national, both of who are still being held. Rijke’s wife managed to escape the attack. In November 2014, AQIM released a video of Rijke, making a statement on the 1000th day of his captivity.

Romanian National Kidnapped in Burkina Faso

On Saturday afternoon, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer from a manganese mining project in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali’s northern desert region.

According to security officials, the kidnapping took place at the Tambao project. Souleymane Mihin, Burkina Faso managing director for Pan African Minerals, confirmed the incident, stating “there was an attack on one of our patrols. They kidnapped the Romanian leading the patrol. The driver was wounded in the foot. A gendarme was seriously injured.” Late Saturday, the Romanian foreign ministry issued a statement confirming the kidnapping of a Romanian national and disclosing that a crisis cell has been set up in order to handle the case.

A Burkinabe security source has revealed that five gunmen were involved in the attack and that they, along with the hostage, were heading towards the nearby border with northern Mali. This has resulted in Burkinabe authorities indicating that they are planning to cross into Mali and Niger in search of the kidnappers. A Burkinabe minister disclosed Sunday “search operations are continuing. We are talking to our neighbours Mali and Niger to obtain rights to their territory in order to get our hands on the kidnappers. This is an area which borders the two countries, so the sweep will roll out in both directions.” Burkina Faso’s Regiment of Presidential Security, which is an elite secret service that specializes in anti-terrorism, has been deployed to Tambao in a bid to strengthen an army detachment, which arrived in the town on Saturday. Residents in Tambao have disclosed that security forces have begun “intensive searches” of vehicles in towns across the north, adding, “police are systematically searching vehicles.”

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Tuaregs Call for Further Talks After Initially Rejecting Peace Agreement

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Mali’s Tuareg-led rebels have called for a meeting with mediators just one day after they rejected the United Nations-brokered preliminary peace agreement.

On Monday, the Tuareg-led rebels called for a meeting with Algerian mediators in a bid to “improve” a proposed peace agreement signed with the government in the capital city Bamako. After meeting for days in order to discuss the agreement, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), which represents five rebel groups, had initially rejected the accord, stating that it was “fundamentally flawed.” They later released a “final statement,” which has called for further talks, stating that the document was a good basis for further discussions, however noting that it did not reflect the aspirations of their people and that it must now be improved in the interests of peace. The statement indicated that “according to the views expressed by the various communities of Azawad, it appears that the draft agreement did not take into account essential elements of the legitimate aspirations of the people of Azawad,” adding that the CMA” reiterates its firm commitment to pursue the aegis of international mediation.” The statement went on to say that “the CMA believes that the document produced by the mediation constitutes a good basis for work that needs to be improved in the best interests of peace… Therefore, it requests a meeting with the mediation and international partners in order discuss the progress of the process.”

The Algiers Agreement, which is the product of over eight months of negotiations, aims to bring a lasting peace to the northern desert region, which the rebels refer to as “Azawad.” The agreement was signed by the Malian government and several smaller groups however the Tuareg-led rebels had requested additional time in order to consider the offer.

Mali’s desert northern region has struggled for stability since the West African nation gained independence in 1960. Since 1962, the Tuareg movement has launched four uprisings in a bid to fight Mali’s army over the territory, which they claim is their homeland. Ministers and various rebel groups, composed of Arab organizations and the Tuaregs, are now seeking to resolve the decades-old conflict. A coup in Bamako in March 2012 enabled the Tuaregs to seize Mali’s vast northern region however the separatist uprising was later taken over by al-Qaeda-linked militants who took over the region. In early 2013, French troops forced the militants out of their strongholds and into the desert and mountains however recent attacks on bases and the targeting of convoys has raised fears that the militants are once again gaining strength.

While the UN has urged the rebels to sign the proposed deal protests have broken out in Kidal, which is the rebel stronghold in northern Mali, against the agreement.

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Renewed Violence in Northern Mali

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Security sources disclosed Wednesday that an attack overnight in northern Mali by a pro-government armed group using suicide bombers, killed a dozen people. According to a military source, “GATIA fighters, accompanied by suicide bombers, attacked a rebel Tuareg and anti-government Arab position in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday near the town of Tabankort. There were a dozen deaths in total.” A security source from the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, also confirmed the death toll, adding that two fighters blew themselves up while a third was killed before he was able to detonate his explosives. The overnight attack comes as renewed violence has once again affected the northern region of the country.

Over the past several days, tensions have been rising across the country as protesters have demanded that the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali withdraw. Tensions have risen in the wake of a UN military mission last week, which targeted rebels near Tabankort. Furthermore, the signing of an agreement over the weekend to create a “temporary security zone” in the Tabankort district of the region of Gao, has resulted in demonstrations, with protesters calling for the UN mission to leave.


On Tuesday, three people were killed in northern Mali after a second day of demonstrations against the UN military missions. On the ground sources have described how a large crowd of angry youths threw stones and attempted to storm the MINUSMA headquarters in Gao in protest at the UN taking control of a troubled area north of the city. An official in the ministry for security and civil protection confirmed the deaths, adding that the situation in the area remained “very tense.” According to Arnaud Akodjenou, deputy representative of the MINUSMA force, “our officers were besieged by protesters this morning, but I can tell you that no one from MINUSMA fired on the demonstrators. Absolutely no order was given to use weapons,” adding “we are in very close contact with the Malian authorities.” A youth leader in Gao however has rejected this statement, instead blaming UN troops for the deaths of the demonstrators. According to Ousmane Dicko, of the Youth Collective activist group, “MINUSMA shot at us. MINUSMA killed civilians. We demand the departure of MINUSMA from Mali.”

Demonstrators in Gao are protesting an agreement to create a “temporary security zone” in the Tabankort district of the region of Gao. The agreement, which was reached between MINUSMA and three rebel groups – the High Council for the Unity of Azawad, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and an anti-government wing of the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) – places the zone under the exclusive control of UN troops and guarantees “the free movement of people and goods.” The area is controlled by pro-government militias who have in recent weeks clashed with armed rebels, leading to the deaths of both civilians and fighters. According to a local government source, the creation of the zone “will force loyalist armed groups to disarm or abandon their posts.” Sources have reported that loyalist armed movements, including the Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group, as well as a pro-government wing of the MAA and various vigilante groups, “strongly encouraged” the demonstration.

The latest violence comes over a week after MINUSMA helicopters destroyed a rebel vehicle near Tabankort, north of Gao, in what MINUSMA officials have maintained was in “self-defence.” The attack on 20 January followed what MINUSMA described as “direct fire with heavy weapons” on its peacekeepers. Rebel groups however have indicated that the action, which killed seven militants and left twenty wounded, violated UN neutrality. The strikes sparked demonstrations hostile to MINUSMA in the northeastern rebel stronghold of Kidal.


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Ebola Situation Report (17 December 2014)

Posted on in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, United States, West Africa title_rule

In the days leading up to 14 December, there has been a total of 18,603 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) that have been reported in five affected countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and the United States; and three previously affected countries: Nigeria, Senegal and Spain. There have been 6,915 reported deaths. Reported case incidence in Guinea is fluctuating and is on the decline in Liberia. In neighbouring Sierra Leone, there are signs that the increase in incidence is beginning to slow. The case fatality rate in the three intense-transmission countries remains at 70%.


In the week leading up to 14 December, a total of 76 new confirmed cases were reported. Since September, the national trend in case reporting across Guinea has been fluctuating, with between 75 and 148 confirmed cases reported each week. World Health Organization (WHO) officials have reported that currently, there is no clear upward or downward trend in national case incidence.

Transmission remains high in the capital city of Conakry, which reported 18 confirmed cases in the week leading up to 14 December. EVD transmission remains high in the neighbouring district of Coyah, with 14 confirmed new cases. South of capital city, in Forecariah, officials have reported a surge in new cases, with 13 new confirmed cases in the past week. The district had reported its first case 12 weeks ago and until now, had reported no more than 4 confirmed cases each week.

Transmission remains persistent in the eastern district of N’Zerekore, with 6 new confirmed cases reported in the week leading up to 14 December. The district of Dubreka reported 3 confirmed cases, while new cases continue to be reported in the outbreak’s epicentre of Gueckedou (2 confirmed cases); Kerouane (5 confirmed cases) and Lola and Kouroussa (2 confirmed cases in each district). In the past week, Macenta reported only three confirmed cases, a sharp decline from the 15 cases that were reported in each of the two previous weeks. WHO officials however have warned that it remains too early to draw conclusions whether this decline in reporting in this district will be sustained. After reporting last week its first case since June, Telimele reported 5 new confirmed cases. While the districts of Kindia and Faranah did not report any new confirmed cases, officials in these two districts reported 21 and 12 probable cases respectively. The northern district of Siguiri reported 4 probable cases. This area requires continued vigilance, particularly due to its proximity to Mali.

Officials in the Guinean capital of Conakry have banned all public Christmas and New Year celebrations in a bid to curb the spread of EVD. A statement issued by Conakry governor Soriba Sorel Camara on 16 December indicated that “large-scale gatherings in public places are suspended for the moment,” adding “beaches will remain closed” and firecrackers and fireworks will also be banned. The capital city’s governor has appealed to residents to “refrain from anything” that would compromise efforts to contain the spread of Ebola. This means avoiding “all gatherings in markets, bus stations, ferry landing stages, hospital and the airport.”


At the national level, case incidence in Liberia has been on the decline, with 6 districts reporting new confirmed or probable cases in the week leading up to 14 December.

Transmission remains intense in Montserrado, which includes the capital Monrovia. The district reported 3 confirmed cases and 9 probable cases. Grand Bassa experienced a decline in cases, reporting only one confirmed case after having reported 7 in the previous week. The other districts to report confirmed cases during this period included Bong (1 confirmed case); Grand Cape Mount (2 confirmed cases) and Marigibi (1 confirmed case). In the northern region of the country, Lofa reported no cases for the seventh consecutive week. This is likely due to the strength of response efforts being carried out across the district.

Sierra Leone

EVD transmission across Sierra Leone remains intense, with the country reporting 327 new confirmed cases in the week leading up to 14 December. While WHO officials have reported that there are signs that the increase in case incidence has slowed, and that the incidence may no longer be on the rise, the country reported the highest number of confirmed cases in epidemiological week 50.

EVD transmission remains most intense and persistent in the western and northern districts of the country. The capital city Freetown accounted for 125 of all new confirmed cases. Other western districts that reported new confirmed cases include Port Loko (56 cases); Western Rural Area (52 cases); Bombali (23 cases) and Kambia (11 cases).

In the country’s eastern region, the district of Kono, which has experienced high transmission over the past five weeks, reported 12 confirmed cases in the week leading to 14 December. The neighbouring district of Koinadugu in the northeast reported three cases. Although transmission has been intense in Tonkolili for the past three weeks, in recent weeks the number of new weekly cases has declined from a peak of 56 four weeks ago to 14 cases over the past week. In the southern region of the country, the district of Bo continues to report a high number of new cases, with 24 confirmed cases in the week leading up to 14 December. By contrast, the south-eastern districts of Kenema and Kailahun reported 1 and 3 new cases respectively. Only two districts in Sierra Leone did not report any new cases during this reporting period: Bonthe and Pujehun.

Officials in Sierra Leone have banned any public Christmas celebrations in a bid to halt the spread of EVD. According to the government’s Ebola response unit, soldiers will be deployed across the country throughout the holiday period to ensure that all residents remain indoors. Officials in Sierra Leone have also imposed a two-week lockdown on the eastern diamond-mining district of Kono. The lockdown will effectively limit residents’ movements until 23 December.

Countries with an Initial Case/Cases or with Localized Transmission

Five countries: Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States of America; have reported a case or cases of EVD imported from a country with widespread and intense transmission.

In Mali, a total of 8 cases (7 confirmed and 1 probable) including 6 deaths (5 confirmed and 1 probable) have been reported. The most recent seven cases were reported in the Malian capital Bamako and are not related to the country’s first EVD case, which was reported in Kayes on 24 October. The last confirmed case tested negative for the second time on 6 December and was discharged from hospital on 11 December. All identified contacts of both the initial case and the outbreak in Bamako have now completed the 21-day-follow up. If there are no more reported cases of EVD in Mali, the West African country will be declared Ebola-free by the WHO in mid January.

In the United States, there have been four confirmed cases of EVD and 1 death. All contacts in the country have now completed the 21-day follow-up period. If no further cases are reported in the US, the country will be declared Ebola-free at the end of December.

Nigeria, Senegal and Spain have all been declared Ebola free by the WHO.

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