November one of the most active periods of 2017 in terrorist hotbed Mali

At least 26 al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and its bordering countries occurred over the last three weeks, making it one of the most active periods of 2017 in the unstable terrorist hotbed.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 244 attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger linked to al Qaeda according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Twenty of the 26 attacks since Oct. 26 occurred in Mali, although northern Burkina Faso nearby continues to face a rising jihadist threat.

The majority of these recent attacks took place in the central portion of Mali, with a handful taking place in the north. That figure included two clashes near Ansongo between the Malian military and suspected militants from al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). The first of which happened on Nov. 11, which was claimed by JNIM, and the second on Nov. 13.

JNIM also claimed six attacks in central Mali, which includes an attempted assassination on the Malian High Court of Justice’s president on the Dia-Diafarabe axis in the central Mopti region on Oct. 31. In that assault, JNIM killed five Malian soldiers and one civilian who were part of the president’s convoy.

The UN’s forces in Mali were targeted at least five times since Oct. 26. Only two of those were claimed by JNIM, which included the Nov. 9 improvised explosive device ambush on UN troops between Simbi and Boni in the Mopti region. In addition, civilians were targeted by suspected jihadists at least twice. The UN noted two events, an IED in Ansongo that killed five civilians and an ambush that killed four civilians, both occurring on Nov. 6.

In Burkina Faso, suspected Ansaroul Islam members continued to terrorize the northern Sahel region. On Oct. 31, three Burkinabe soldiers were wounded by an IED near the town of Ariel. According to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal, there have been at least five IED attacks in Burkina Faso since the first reported instance in the country on Aug. 17. On Nov. 3, suspected Ansaroul Islam militants targeted the police station in the town of Koutougou.

A few days later, a Burkinabe gendarmerie post near Bourzenga was assaulted by suspected jihadists from Ansaroul Islam. On Nov. 9, Burkinabe troops clashed with militants from Ansaroul Islam, which reportedly left four militants dead. Ansaroul Islam is a Burkinabe jihadist group that is linked to JNIM and is likely within its hierarchy.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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