2018/01/31 – Mali will deploy additional troops to its central region in a bid to halt an escalation of Islamist militant attacks as pressure mounts to stabilize the West African nation before elections later this year.
Militant groups, in particular the al-Qaeda-backed Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, appear to have expanded their area of operations, the UN said in December. More attacks occurred in the central Mopti and Segou regions during the last three months of 2017 than in the five northern regions combined. Last week, 21 soldiers were killed in four separate attacks across the country, and 26 civilians died when their bus hit a landmine near the town of Boni.
The militants are known to recruit young men and have even ordered the closure of dozens of schools in Mali’s central region, where the state and military had little presence, Traore said.
“They’ve been trying to fill the power vacuum and turn young people against the central authority of the state,” he said. “It’s in the small isolated places that they began to infiltrate the local population to impose their ideas.”
Presidential elections are scheduled for July, with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita expected to seek a second five-year term. Local and regional votes, initially set for December 2017, have been postponed to April.
Militants were probably responsible for a series of attacks last week in response to the start of the deployment of a regional stabilization force known as G5 Sahel, according to Traore. The Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims claimed responsibility for two attacks that took place on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, Al-Akhbar, a private Mauritanian news agency, reported on Tuesday.
“We’re boosting the strength of the G5 Sahel and it’s going to frustrate them,” Traore said. “That’s why the armed groups are trying to send a message. They’re fearing the deployment.”
Source: Bloomberg / Photo: Malian anti-terrorist special forces arrive at a tourist resort after an attack in Bamako on June 19, 2017 / Photographer: Habibou Kouyate/AFP/Getty Images