Mali : a worrying escalation of terrorist attacks

In Mali, the north and center were the scene of three terrorist attacks, leading the Prime Minister to end a field visit he began on November 3. A tangle of violence that recalls the volatile security context in which the country is preparing to hold local and regional elections.

On Sunday, November 5, 2017, the Malian army announced that it had destroyed a base of terrorist groups in Kouakourou, a locality in the Mopti region where Malian Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa began a field visit on the same day November 3, to meet the people as well as the administrative authorities with whom «he discussed the difficulties related in particular to security, reconciliation, regional and local elections», says a member of the delegation. This field visit could not continue on Monday, November 6. While the government delegation was expected in Soumpi, 35 km from the Niafunké circle, in the Timbuktu region, a vehicle of the Malian army jumped on a mine.

According to a local source, the incident caused three injuries, who were admitted to the Niafunké health center. Other discovered mines were quickly neutralized. Some Malian security sources see behind this incident «an attempt to sabotage» Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga’s visit. It was this Tuesday that he was able to go to Soumpi aboard a helicopter of the army. This locality underwent, on October 14, an attack of armed men. «It was around midnight, says a resident of Soumpi. They came aboard a 4×4 and took all the relay fuel from the Orange Mali antenna before sabotaging the network, and communication was no longer possible».

Hardly worries faded that another incident was reported, the same Monday. East of Konna, where Operation Serval’s intervention was launched in January 2013 to halt the advance towards the south of terrorist groups in the north, «a mission of the Malian national guard intervention group, escorting trucks containing equipment for the German contingent (Minusma, ed.) for Gao was the target of an ambush by attackers on a motorcycle», said the Malian Ministry of Defense and Veterans. The report mentions two slightly injured guards, one killed apprentice and two trucks burned by rockets. Previously, it was an incident that occurred around 7 am which was the starting point of this tangle of violence. In Lelehoye, a village 10 km from Ansongo, in the Gao region, a minibus going for the fair jumped on a mine, killing four fairground people and injuring others who were transported to the Ansongo health center. according to the Malian Ministry of Defense.

In all these attacks, suspicions converge on terrorist groups, which scour the center and the north, remaining true hotbeds of instability. In Bamako, the capital, some did not hesitate to call it «black Monday», referring to this succession of tragic events.

This escalation of attacks comes as Mali prepares to hold regional and local elections on December 17. They will be linked to the partial communal elections, which could not be held in 59 localities in the north and center, on November 20, 2016, due to insecurity. The volatile security environment is mentioned by some to ask for a postponement. Asked by an international radio about this, in early October, Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly, Malian Minister of Territorial Administration, was clear: «Everyone is talking about the security risk. Are we going to give reason to the terrorists by deciding ourselves to sit on our elections because we believe there is a threat? No. The government will continue to organize wherever elections are to be held. And if, my faith, we have obstacles, well we will start again until there are no more obstacles».

Nevertheless, these polls are seen as a test before the 2018 presidential election. Yet, according to a Malian security source, these attacks «are cause for concern and increase the security risks regarding the organization of elections in the areas where these groups operate».

Sidi Ahmed S.