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A group called the "al-Sahel Media Center" announced its creation, saying it will serve as the "podium of jihad and the mujahideen in Azawad and Mali." ECOWAS and the African Union are trying to get help from the UN and the European Union so that a rapid response standby force with "lift capacity" can be formed. Nearly two years after Islamists seized much of northern Mali, there are still 217,811 displaced persons in the country and another 167,000 in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Belgian Hercules Takes Dutch Weapons to Mali

Africa a 'hothouse' for extremist groups: US

France revises counter-terrorism strategy in Africa

Tough road for Sahel security

In an operation north of Timbuktu that involved aircraft and over 100 troops, French forces killed 11 suspected Islamist militants and seized large quantities of weapons and ammunition, as well as equipment, including mobile phones. The commander of Malian military forces in the region said al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa are operating in the Ifoghas mountains; patrols are currently underway in the area.

French forces launched two nighttime raids in northern Mali against Islamist fighters linked to the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Mokhtar Belmokhtar's Those Who Sign in Blood Brigade; the two groups united in August to form the al-Murabitoon Brigade. Over 100 French troops took part in the recent operations near Timbuktu and in the Ifhogas mountains. The UN Security Council today urged member states to support the full deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, which is currently at less than half strength, and warned that terrorists have regrouped in Mali and regained the ability to operate.

German Military Faces a Difficult Year in Africa and Afghanistan

France to bolster military presence in Africa

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali said five of its troops were injured when their vehicle ran over a land mine 20 miles outside of Kidal. A 395-member contingent of Chinese troops has arrived in Mali to join the UN mission.

Desert gives al Qaeda refuge after Mali defeat

Sahel military forces train together

Security forces in Timbuktu have arrested Houka Houka Ag Alfousseyni, who served as an Islamic judge for Ansar Dine in the area. The UN's Mali envoy warned that security in the country remains precarious, evidenced by an upswing in terrorist attacks in late 2013. The UN mission in Mali is currently at only half of the planned 11,200 troops, and less than a quarter of its police element is in place.

From Falluja to Maghreb, a new, diffuse al Qaeda

France in Mali: A year of hunting jihadists in West Africa

Al-Qaeda hasn't gone away, and is gaining

The French air force has performed its first operational flight using an A400M tactical transport, delivering 22 tonnes of supplies for Operation Serval in northern Mali. On the same flight was French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who warned that although Mali was almost secure, continued vigilance was needed. He said France would continue to back up Malian and MINUSMA forces "for as long as it takes" and that "we are all preparing to move towards a regional approach" as "the threat of destabilization is everywhere." He plans to return on Jan. 20 to sign a military accord between France and Mali.

Record number of UN peacekeepers fails to stop African wars

Al Qaeda documents show obsession with keeping receipts, down to a $0.60 cake

The UN said French and Chadian troops have destroyed almost six tonnes of explosives and weapons that they found recently in two caches located about 95 miles southwest of Tessalit. In September nearly a tonne of explosives was found near Anefis.