Results tagged “Mali”

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A suicide car bomb attack on French troops patrolling in the Al Moustarat region north of Gao killed one French soldier and wounded at least six others. In a goodwill gesture ahead of peace talks between the Malian government and separatist rebels in the north, 41 Tuareg prisoners were exchanged for 45 soldiers held by rebels. A message purportedly from Hamaad bin Muhammad al-Amin al-Shinqiti, former head of the sharia judiciary in Gao, expressed his approval of the Islamic State; the message was titled "Azawadi Support for the Islamic State."

French Foreign Minister LeDrian announced the end of Operation Serval in Mali and the commencement of a new counterterrorism operation called Operation Barkhan, which will see 1,000 French soldiers left in Mali and 3,000 more deployed to Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. The operation, which will be based in Chad and employ drones, helicopters, fighter jets, transport planes, and armored vehicles, aims to prevent the Sahel region from becoming "a highway ... where jihadist groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild themselves."

A MINUSMA force vehicle carrying Burkinabe peacekeeping troops was hit by a roadside bomb near Goundam, about 30 km west of Timbuktu; one peacekeeper was killed and six others injured, three of them seriously. On June 25, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Mali for another 12 months, but downsized the maximum military personnel level from 7,137 to 5,437. The current civilian, police, and military force is now at about 75% of the target levels. The UN Secretary-General said security in northern Mali has deteriorated since the beginning of 2014.

A suicide car bombing near the entrance to a camp in Aguelhok that houses MINUSMA and Malian forces killed at least four Chadian soldiers and injured 10 more troops, including four Malians. It is the first major attack in the Kidal area since a ceasefire was reached between the government and three separatist groups in May. Yesterday the three groups - the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) - pledged support for the reconciliation process and issued an ultimatum to other armed groups in the region (including Ansar Dine, MUJAO, and a dissident separatist group led by Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh) to join the three Azawad groups within 30 days.

Nigeria has withdrawn all of its peacekeeping troops from Mali due to the challenges of battling the Boko Haram insurgency at home. On June 2, the UN added three related Mali-based terrorist groups to its al Qaeda sanctions list: al Mouakaoune, al Moulathamoun, and al Mourabitoun. The latter, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was formed in 2013 by a merger of al Moulathamoun and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and is associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The first two groups were formed by Belmokhtar in 2012, and the US designated all three as terrorist entities in December 2013. A video showing French hostage Serge Lazarevic pleading for his release from his AQIM captors was published last week.

Three Tuareg separatist groups, including the MNLA, accepted the offer of a ceasefire, but a spokesman said rebel forces would remain in their positions. The MNLA reportedly controls at least seven towns in the north as well as Kidal, and its forces are also said to be near Gao. The government has alleged that the Tuareg fighters are backed by al Qaeda-linked forces.

The separatist Tuareg MNLA beat back an attempt by the Malian army to recapture Kidal, and claimed to have taken the town of Menaka as well. Members of Islamist groups are also said to have participated in the fighting, in which two MNLA fighters and at least a dozen Malian soldiers are said to have been killed. Both the Malian government and the UN called for a ceasefire. France said it would deploy an additional 100 troops in Mali.

France decided to postpone the transfer of Operation Serval to a Sahel-Sahara French force in other locations after the resurgence of violence in northern Mali. Mali's foreign minister asked the UN Security Council to create a commission to investigate the recent attack in Kidal. The Malian army has retaken strategic points in Kidal but has not recovered a military camp and the governor's compound from the insurgents.

Malian troops were deployed to retake Kidal from militants who killed eight soldiers, kidnapped 30 civil servants, and seized government offices two days ago. Prime Minister Mara said yesterday that terrorists have "declared war on Mali." Defense Minister Maiga said the militants are members of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) who are "supported by members of terrorist groups." A MINUSMA spokesperson said the 30 kidnapped civil servants were released today. The US warned that Mali might slip back into conflict; France said it will not intervene in the separatist issue and was only in Mali to fight "armed terrorist groups."

Tuareg MNLA separatists killed six government officials and two civilians during an assault on the regional governor's office in Kidal. The militants also kidnapped 30 civil servants. The regional governor said 23 Malian soldiers were wounded in clashes with the MNLA that broke out shortly before Prime Minister Mara's visit to the city. The defense ministry claimed that 28 of the attackers were killed.

Three UN peacekeepers were wounded when their vehicle hit a land mine near their base in Kidal. A French soldier was killed in northern Mali by an IED on May 7. Sources said that Abu Bakr Al-Nasr, called "the Egyptian," a logistician and heavy weapons specialist who was a top aide to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was killed by French forces in Mali in early April.

Military sources said French special forces killed Haroun Said, a deputy of Ansar Dine head Iyad Ag Ghaly, during operations in north Mali last week in which a number of insurgents, including two child soldiers, were arrested. One report said he and two of his children were killed by an airstrike on his vehicle. Armed groups in northern Mali, including the MNLA, HCUA, CPA, and MAA, rejected the government's latest reconciliation offer.

The UN's Special Representative for Mali, who heads the MINUSMA peacekeeping force, warned that the "window of opportunity" for peace in Mali may close, given the resumption of terrorist activities in the north, and MINUSMA's low level of force generation and lack of military transport helicopters. A security source said that the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, which recently claimed the killing of a French hostage, is returning to the Gao region.

A spokesman for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) said that French national Gilberto Rodrigues Leal, held hostage in Mali since late 2012, has died. Security sources said French forces have killed 30 Islamist militants in northern Mali in April; reportedly among them is Abou Ourabe, an Algerian commander in al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. His death has not been confirmed.

In a military operation today, French troops freed five aid workers in Timbuktu who were kidnapped in February in the north by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants affiliated with the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). The five, all Malian nationals, are said to be in good health.

President Keita warned that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the wanted jihadist leader who is said to have set up operations in Libya, constitutes a threat to peace in the region. Keita also said Mali is willing to enter reconciliation talks with rebel groups such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) so long as there is "total and unequivocal preservation of our territorial integrity." A French soldier was slightly wounded when a his vehicle encountered a roadside bomb in Tessalit on April 12. A Chadian military official in Kidal said al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has laid a number of mines in the area.

Islamists from Al Mourabitoun, a group formed by the merger last year of Mokhtar Belmokhtar's group and MUJAO, released a video showing an Algerian diplomat who has been held hostage since April 2012. Al Mourabitoun also denied reports that wanted terrorist Oumar Ould Hamaha was killed last month in Mali by a French airstrike.

A fire destroyed Bamako's main market, burning down 2,000 shops yesterday. On March 20, the French military claimed to have killed about 40 Islamist militants, including some senior commanders, in Mali in recent weeks.

French and Malian sources reported that wanted MUJAO commander Abou Dardar surrendered on March 15 to French troops, who briefly interrogated him and then turned him over to Malian security forces. He had reportedly taken refuge in Gao after the French military invention began in early 2013. Four Chadian soldiers in the MINUSMA force were injured by a land mine in northern Mali.

Recent French military operations have killed a number of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb fighters, including Redouan Abou el Achbal a.k.a. Aboubakr Benabdellah, an Algerian who was a top operative in Timbuktu and Kidal; and Mauritanians Oumar Ould Mohamed Ghoulam a.k.a. Al Ghallawi and Mohamedou Khoubeib, who were killed in Timbuktu. A Malian military source said Libyan Islamists have set up two bases in Mali's northeast. The UN estimates that its peacekeeping mission in Mali will reach 80 percent of its authorized strength this month and full strength by midyear. Only of half of the authorized 12,640 troops and police are currently in place.