maandag 3 maart 2014

Mali in the Press (March 2014)

On this page citations from press reports (mostly in English) on developments in Mali in March 2014. The focus this month is on: Malinese red berets, border controls between Algeria and Mali, U.S. Policy, Azawad fractions, examples of news on gold digging in Mali, etc etc.

General and broadly reported questions are not included. Where possible a link is added.

Earlier Mali in the press blogs on:
January, February, April, May, June July,

March 31

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) - Hundreds of Malians are gathering in the northern desert town of Timbuktu this week in an attempt to reconcile wounds in this country, which was divided in two for nearly a year by Islamic extremists who amputated the hands of suspected thieves and whipped women for going out in public without veils.
After the militants were chased from the cities by French troops, Malian soldiers killed civilians suspected of having links to the jihadists on the mere basis of their ethnicity, prompting a mass exodus of Arab and Tuareg residents who fled for their lives. More than a year later, some 200,000 have yet to return from refugee camps in neighboring Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
The talks in Timbuktu are being held to try to get all Malians to reconcile.
"There will be representatives from all the communities in the region, and we will be highlighting the reasons for the crisis and what can be done to advance reconciliation and the return to peace to Mali," said Oumou Sall Seck, the mayor of Goundam, who is attending this week's talks. "But it's a long process of reconciliation that starts today."
The fabled town of Timbuktu fell under the control of al-Qaida militants and other jihadists in early 2012, who soon began imposing a harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah law. A French-led military operation ousted the militants from power in January 2013, though the area has remained roiled by insecurity. Remnants of the radical Islamic groups have attempted suicide bombings and other attacks in recent months.
And amid the insecurity, there has been little movement made toward seeking justice for the Arab and Tuareg victims who were killed in reprisal attacks after the Islamic militants fled.
"Malian refugees are still afraid of coming back because of the insecurity and the Malian army thinks they are rebels," said Hamata El Ansary, who is representing the Malians still in Burkina Faso. "The state should understand there is no problem between the communities, but there is a problem between them and the government, and between the communities and armed groups in the area."
In addition to talks on reconciliation, this week's conference also will discuss ways to promote development in northern Mali, where a lack of economic opportunity over generations helped foment the rebellion. And organizers hope the talks will allow communities to share their opinions with Mali's government on how to proceed with reconciliation.
The top issue remains stalled negotiations with the ethnic Tuareg rebels who have long sought independence for northern Mali, which they call Azawad. In January, the rebels withdrew from peace talks with Mali's government, saying they were intended to emphasize reconciliation without addressing the group's political grievances including their push for autonomy.
"The state is going to listen to local groups and take their requests into consideration. It's on this basis that the government is going to sign agreements with the armed groups who claim to represent Azawad," said Chirfi Moulaye Haidara, who is representing the Malian government at this week's meetings.
The conference will give people a chance to talk, said Silvia Chiarelli from the Center For Civilians in Conflict, which is taking part in the discussions.
"It's a good starting point for a discussion," Chiarelli said, "but putting it into action will be another thing."
Timbuktu hosts reconciliation meetingsfor Mali, Associated Press International, March 31, 2014


US defence services provider and equipment manufacturer Dyncorp International and its partner OTT Technologies Mozambique have rolled out the first 16 of 115 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) for use by African Union peacekeepers in Mali.

OTT Technologies Mozambique is a subsidiary of South African defence equipment manufacturer OTT Technologies, which produces the M26 and M36 variants of the Puma mine-resistant armoured vehicle, several other APC models and military trucks.
The 16 Puma 36 4x4 vehicles were assembled in the southern city of Matola and driven to the port of Maputo for shipment to Mali two weeks ago. (…)

March 28

Action on Resolution on Assistance to Mali in the Field of Human Rights
In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.33) on assistance to Mali in the field of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council decides to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali with a view to assist the Government of Mali's efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights. The resolution requests the Independent Expert to work closely with all United Nations bodies, the African Union, the Economic Community of West Africa, as well as any other international organizations and Malian civil society, and to report to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-eighth session. The resolution encourages all relevant international actors, including United Nations Member States, United Nations agencies, international financial institutions and other international organization in Mali, to provide technical assistance and support for capacity building in order to promote respect for human rights and reform the justice sector.
Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group in introduction of the draft resolution on assistance to the Republic of Mali in the field of human rights, said the resolution reflected the commitment of the Government of Mali to promote and protect human rights and its efforts to restore peace and stability and the significant improvement in the security situation in Mali. The mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali would be extended for another year.
Italy, speaking on the behalf of the European Union in a general comment, fully supported the resolution, and thanked the African Group for the text. The European Union believed that the situation in Mali had much improved over the previous year, and some positive developments had taken place, including presidential and parliamentary elections in satisfactory conditions. However, human rights violations continued to be committed in Mali, and the European Union was calling on the authorities of Mali to decisively combat impunity.
Mali, speaking as the concerned country, said that the draft text was of fundamental importance to the country. Its aim was to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert for human rights in Mali. As the Minister of Justice had stated, Mali fully subscribed to the re-appointment of the Independent Expert for a further year. As in the past, Mali wished to count on the support of the Members of the Council to ensure adoption by consensus of the draft text. Mali reiterated its gratitude to the entire international community for its constant support.


Defensie stuurt toch helikopters mee met de troepen naar Mali. 3 Chinook transporthelikopters van de Koninklijke Luchtmacht gaan mee naar Afrika om de medische evacuatiecapaciteit te garanderen.
Dat heeft minister Hennis-Plasschaert vandaag laten weten aan de Tweede Kamer. Aanvankelijk zouden de Nederlanders gebruik maken van de helikopters van andere VN-partners en civiel ingehuurde heli’s. Omdat met die constructie de medische evacuatiecapaciteit niet gegarandeerd kon worden, worden de Chinooks nu alsnog meegestuurd. ‘De risico’s van een ontoereikende medische evacuatiecapaciteit hebben het kabinet doen besluiten alsnog drie Chinook transporthelikopters aan het Nederlandse contingent voor MINUSMA toe te voegen’, aldus Hennis. Door de inzet van de Chinooks wordt de troepenmacht uitgebreid met 70 militairen. Ook moet de infrastructuur van het kamp aangepast worden. De toestellen zullen daarom pas naar verwachting in oktober volledig inzetbaar zijn.
Chinooks voor medische evacuatie naar Mali, Defensiekrant, 29 maart 2014 

March 27

March 26
APUTO, March 26 -- South African company OTT Technologies on Tuesday admitted breaking customs regulations in the import of components for the UN armored cars assembled in its factory, and apologized for the confusion it has caused to the Mozambican public, according to the state news agency AIM.
The vehicles bearing the UN logo arrived in the capital city of Maputo last week, causing speculations that the vehicles were to be used in ending the conflict between Mozambican government forces and the opposition Renamo gunmen in central Mozambique.
The Mozambique Tax Authority (TA) announced on Monday night that the factory, which assembled these cars in the southern Mozambican city of Matola, had broken fiscal rules, since some of the components it imported did not obey customs procedures.
The factory, OTT, is the local subsidiary of the South African company OTT Technologies, AIM said.
Apart from the neglect of fiscal rules, OTT also admitted in its statement that they did not receive "prior authorization from the Ministry of Defense for the circulation of these vehicles," thus causing a public panic.
The Mozambican government had to explain that the vehicles were not intended for operations inside Mozambique, but were to be exported.
Now all the vehicles have been seized by the tax authorities. Six are in Maputo port, and the rest are on the OTT premises, where they are awaiting total regularization of their tax and customs situation.
The report said the vehicles are intended to join the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA).
The operation is funded by the United States. The U.S. government has agreed to buy armored cars, and other crucial equipment from seven African countries, including Mozambique, at a cost of 173 million U.S. dollars, for use by MINUSMA. (PNA/Xinhua)


(...) For FY13, several units below division-level were assigned or allocated to Combatant Commands. The 48th Infantry BCT, Georgia Army National Guard, is aligned with U.S. Southern Command and has deployed teams to several Central and South American countries. The 2d Armored BCT, 1st Infantry Division (2-1), currently allocated to the United States Army Africa Command, is the first brigade task organized to the RAF mission. Since March 2013, they have conducted 71 missions in 35 countries. For example, 2-1 helped train a Niger infantry battalion which was selected to participate in the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). Elements of 2-1 have also recently deployed to Juba, South Sudan to provide embassy protection.(...)


Action plans for economic and trade cooperation were signed by the Moroccan exports center "Maroc Export", Casablanca fairs and exhibitions office (OFEC) and Mali's trade and industry chamber (CCIM), following the visit by HM King Mohammed VI to Mali in February 2014.
According to a joint statement, the objective of the agreement, signed by Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy and the Malian trade minister, is to enable Morocco and Mali benefit from synergy of efforts made to promote exports and sectoral strategies.
It also provides for strengthening institutional cooperation and developing promotional activities to boost trade relations between the Moroccan companies and their Malian counterparts, in order to facilitate the mutual development of their business, the source added.
Two follow-up meetings to give concrete substance to this agreement were held, in this regard, in Casablanca in February and March between Maroc Export, the OFEC and the CCIM to set their 2014-2016 action plan.
This plan provides for the collaboration of both parties for the organization of the Bamako International Fair to be held in September 2014, where Morocco will be the guest of honor, said the same source, noting that this collaboration will also involve the organization, in 2015, of Moroccan B to B missions to Mali for the sectors of construction, ICT, and textile and leather, while the food processing and energy sectors will benefit from similar missions in 2016. 
Morocco : Morocco, Mali Sign Action Plans For Economic And Trade Cooperation, TendersInfo, March 26, 2014 (see)
(…) Beyond U.S. participation in EU missions, U.S. personnel and forces have worked hand-in-hand with EU counterparts to address crises around the world, particularly in Africa.
Mali: U.S. engagement with the EU Training Mission (EUTM Mali) has been important in the development of U.S. security sector reform planning for Mali and will enhance our mutual efforts to sustain the Malian armed forces’ efforts to combat terrorist elements in the country.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: In addition to contributing to the EU Security Sector Reform (EUSEC DRC) mission, the United States has also collaborated with the EU on a logistics training center for DRC security forces.
Somalia: From 2010 to 2013, the United States and the EU Training Mission (EUTM Somalia) partnered to provide military training in Uganda to Somali National Security Forces, with the United States providing logistical support to Somali trainees, in support of the then-Somali Transitional Federal Government’s efforts to fight al-Shabaab. Through the provision of several million dollars of U.S. assistance, the Ugandan military with EU advisors trained several thousand Somalis. The EU training continues in Mogadishu without the need for additional U.S. logistical aid. (...)
 Washington: FACT SHEET: U.S.-EU Cooperation on Common Security and Defense Policy, US Official News, March 26, 2014, For more information please visit:
March 25

Gelijktijdig met de NSS is het JIVC bezig met de inzet voor de Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali. Het het Joint IV Commando (JIVC) levert zowel tijdens de opbouwfase als de missie zelf ondersteuning. Kapitein Peter Visser is daarvan de uitvoerend projectleider en zorgt dat alle verschillende componenten in één systeem aan elkaar worden gekoppeld en via een satelliet in verbinding staan met het datacentrum van het JIVC in Stroe. ‘Tijdens de opbouwfase gebruiken we daarvoor mobiele satellietsystemen.’ Hij wijst de relatief kleine zwarte schotels aan, die in een handzame koffer passen. ‘Als de missie van start gaat, vervangen we die door 4 grote satellietsystemen met bijbehorende pantsercontainers. Daarin staat alle apparatuur in een constante temperatuur, vrij van stof en weersinvloeden beschermd ingebouwd.’ De systemen ondersteunen zowel in Bamako als Gao een gerubriceerd en ongerubriceerd netwerk. Daarmee kunnen de militairen via 400 telefoons en 440 laptops zowel geheime als ‘open’ informatie met elkaar delen.’
Beide operaties kennen, zoals de meeste, een half jaar voorbereiding vanaf de ontwerp- tot de testfase. Dirksen: ‘Elke opdracht heeft zijn specifieke wensen en eisen en geeft ons daarmee steeds nieuwe uitdagingen. We leveren maatwerk dat ons keer op keer scherp houdt.’
Jopke Rozenberg-van Lisdonk, Digitalesnelweg voor NSS en missie Mali, materieelgezien nr. 2, 2014

(…) Today, most of northern Mali is back under state control - at least as much as it ever was - and a recent defection by prominent a MNLA leader has left many wondering if the group is on brink of internal collapse. What a difference two years, an Islamist takeover, and a French-led intervention make. (...)
Tuareg Fractures Widen As TalksContinue to Stall, ThinkAfricaPress (London), March 25, 2014 


DAKAR (Reuters) - The leader of a new armed group in Mali's troubled north said the central government in Bamako could face another uprising of his Tuareg people if it resists pressure to launch long-delayed talks on the region's future.
Mali exploded into violence when Tuareg separatist fighters tried to take over the north in early 2012. Islamist militants eventually occupied the region, triggering a French military intervention last year that drove most of the militants out.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, elected in August 2013, is now trying to rebuild Mali, a vast, landlocked former French colony of 16 million people, with the help of billions of dollars in Western aid.
But critics say Keita's election promise to build a strong, united Mali is being undermined by his failure to start talks with the Tuaregs, a nomadic people in the north who have rebelled four times since 1960.
The light-skinned Tuaregs say black African governments in Bamako have consistently excluded them from power.
"We would like to give talks a chance and we are asking Bamako to sit down at the negotiating table," Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh of the Coalition for the People of Azawad (CPA) told Reuters by telephone from Burkina Faso on Monday.
"If the Bamako government doesn't want to suffer from short-term memory, it should recall that we took up arms many times since 1963 because they didn't listen to us."
The U.N. Security Council has also warned of a radicalisation of fighters unless talks resume.
Ag Assaleh, a leading Tuareg negotiator for a peace accord sealed last June, launched the CPA this month after falling out with the main Tuareg separatist group behind the 2012 uprising, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
CPA members say their group is backed by 8,000 fighters but is less radical in its aims than MNLA and respects Mali's territorial unity. A membership list seen by Reuters showed it had created 30 official posts covering finances, refugees and human rights.
The CPA sent requests this month to the Bamako government to resume political talks via the U.N. mission in Mali (MINUSMA), s official mediator Burkina Faso and via Algeria, Ag Assaleh said.
"Direct negotiations are impossible. We need a third party to play the role of referee," he added.
A government spokesman declined to comment on the issue. MINUSMA was not immediately available for comment.
Mali blogger Thomas Miles said the CPA's overture would probably appeal to the government and could break the stalemate.
"I'm sure the government would be more than happy to make a deal with them (CPA)," he said. "But the real question is whether he (Ag Assaleh) has the backing of the Tuareg elites in places like Kidal," he said, referring to a Tuareg stronghold in northern Mali.
"If he doesn't, then he will remain marginal."
Emma Farge, Tuareg leader to Maligovernment: start talks or risk new revolt, Reuters, March 25 2014 (Additional reporting by Adama Diarra in Bamako; Editing by Gareth Jones)

March 24

Six thousand military personnel from the Special Units, some commando battalions, an operational brigade of the army staff command, nine thousand infantry soldiers from the infantry battalions and the air force participated in a military operation which began on Saturday night and Sunday in seven southern locations in the Illizi, Adrar and Tamanrasset Provinces.
A senior security source said that the military operation which might continue for longer than a week aimed at preventing the infiltration of armed groups from northern Mali where French and Malian forces were deployed to pursue the remnants of Al-Qa'idah [in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb] organization and El Mourabitoune Movement and also from Libya which experienced an extremely difficult state of security.
Our sources revealed that the areas covered by the combing and search operations were considered to be crossing points used by terrorist groups and smugglers from northern Mali and western Libya, particularly Azdjer Mountains in Illizi Province, Toundra and Ensline [as transliterated] in the same province and Erg Chebachibe [as transliterated], which stretched across Mauritania, Mali and Algeria.
More than 15,000 soldiers are taking part in the operation; six thousands of whom are from the elite forces including infantry and special forces battalions.
A senior security source said that the purpose of the ongoing military operation was to prevent any infiltration or presence of terrorist groups as a result of the military pressure exerted by the French and Malian forces on the Salafi Jihadist groups and factions in northern Mali.
Algerian forces launch major combing operation in southern provinces, El-Khabar website, Algiers, in Arabic 24 Mar 14 (via BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political March 25, 2014)
March 23

(…) What will happen next is dependent on a variety of factors, especially whether or not the restored Malian government agrees to or at least compromises with the demands of ethnic tribes. Making the same mistakes and ignoring these demands may send Mali into a vicious cycle of chronic violence and instability. The end of 2013 saw parliamentary elections, with an alliance of parties supporting President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita winning most seats. His nation's stability will depend on how he responds to the grievances of different ethnic groups, especially the Tuareg.
Ancient Causes of a Modern Conflict inMali, Harvard Political Review: Harvard University, March 23, 2014 

March 22

West Country soldiers currently stationed in Mali should be joined by many more to tackle extremist jihadists who have "put down roots" in that region of west Africa, writes Tristan Cork.
That was the view of a key group of MPs, who said Britain needed a 'bigger footprint' in the Sahel-Saharan region of Africa.
Currently, there are no more than 30 soldiers from the Gloucestershire-based 1 Rifles battalion who last year became the first ever British soldiers to be stationed in the land-locked desert country of Mali.
(…) The select committee MPs had looked into the Saharan region of Africa for the past year.
British troops were right to be committed to Mali, albeit on a small scale, the report said, and more should follow.
"The UK's diplomatic presence in the whole area is extremely small relative to other parts of the world," said Sir Richard.


BRUSSELS, March 22 -- Belgium extend for one year, until May 2015, its participation in the Training Mission of the European Union (EUTM Mali) in Mali, the Defense Ministry announced Friday.
The European mission, comprising about 560 people from 23 countries, has been deployed in Koulikoro, a central place for European instructors to offer trainings to Malian soldiers.
Belgian protection detachment is composed of 80 troops and has mainly stationed at the site of the Military Academy in Koulikoro, 60 km northeast of Mali's capital city of Bamako.
Belgian military tasks include the protection of the infrastructure and the instructors of EUTM Mali, coaching convoy between Bamako and Koulikoro, and the provision of a quick reaction force to respond to incidents, said the Belgian Defence.(PNA/Xinhua)
Belgium extends military presence in Mali for 1 year, Philippines News Agency, March 22, 2014

March 21

Soumaya Sahla, Mali broedplaats voor expremisme, terrorisme en criminaliteit? Militaire Spectator jrg. 183, nr. 3, 2014 pp. 104-117.
Veel aandacht voor Toearegs. Met heldere overzichten van organisaties.


The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel to Mali, given continuing aspirations of terrorists to conduct attacks. We strongly warn against travel to the northern parts of the country and along the border with Mauritania, particularly in areas that are not patrolled and where there is little to no security presence. There remains ongoing conflict in northern Mali and continuing threats of attacks on and kidnappings of westerners and others. While the security situation in Bamako and southern Mali remains relatively stable, the potential for attacks throughout the country, including in Bamako, remains. There are also ongoing security concerns and military operations taking place in the northern and western parts of the country. Mali continues to face challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of extremist and militant factions. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mali dated July 18, 2013. (...)
State Department Issues Travel Warning on Mali, Targeted News Service, March 21, 2014

March 20

Maputo — Contrary to claims made by Mozambican government spokesmen, the armoured cars bearing United Nations insignia were produced, not in South Africa, but in the southern Mozambican city of Matola.
An item on the website of the United Nations office in Maputo states that the vehicles were assembled in Matola, and are the first in a contract for 100 such vehicles.
The 14 armoured cars went from the Matola factory to the port of Maputo, and from there they will be exported, not to Somalia or the Democratic Republic of Congo (as the newspaper “A Verdade” had claimed), but to the join the UN peace keeping mission in Mali.
The contract to produce these vehicles is supported by the US State Department, and the company operating in Matola is Dyncorp International, an American company that specializes in security equipment.
According to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, the US has agreed to purchase armoured cars for seven West African countries that are supporting the UN mission in Mali, at a cost of over 173 million US dollars.
The UN statement contradicts the bluster of the General Commander of the Mozambican police, Jorge Khalau, who on Tuesday claimed that the vehicles were in the country clandestinely and the company manufacturing them was South African and unregistered. He said the vehicles had been seized in the port, and that the authorities did not know where their destination, “but they will have to go back”. He threatened that unspecified “measures” will be taken.
However, Defence Minister Agostinho Mondlane saw nothing illegal in the armoured cars. He told reporters “they are in transit and they are only here to use the port of Maputo”.
But even Mondlane did not know that the vehicles had been assembled in Matola, and was under the mistaken impression that they had come from South Africa.
Mozambique: Armoured Cars WereAssembled in Matola, 20 March 2014


For Rutte, the cooperation between the two counties is not limited to the field of economy. "And of course we work together in other fields as well. Our armed forces are working closely with one and another in Mali," he said.
Chinese president's visit to Netherlands will boost bilateral ties - Dutch PM, Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua, (via BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political, March 20, 2014)

French soldiers have killed about 40 Islamist fighters, including some senior commanders, in Mali in recent weeks, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday.
"We have conducted operations over the past weeks," Le Drian said, adding that "about 40" fighters had been killed including "Ould Hamaha, a historic leader of AQIM," or Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Omar Ould Hamaha, known as "Red Beard", was a commander of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and AQIM, armed groups which occupied northern Mali for almost ten months in 2012.
Hamaha, nicknamed "Red Beard" because he regularly died his facial hair with henna, was implicated in the April 2012 abduction of Algerian diplomats in Gao, Mali's largest northern city, claimed by MUJAO.
France says 40 Islamists killed in recent Mali operations, Agence France Presse, March 20, 2014

March 19

[Presenter] In Mali, soldiers who are close to the ex-junta are being investigated. These soldiers have been arrested already and charged with kidnapping, crime and murder and complicity in murder. This is in connection with the disappearance of the red berets [the bodyguards of former Amadou Toumani Toure who was deposed by the soldiers of the ex-junta in the March 2012 coup d'etat following their revolt] in April 2012. These soldiers are also being questioned for involvement in the case of financial impropriety. Let us go to our correspondent Serge Daniel in Bamako for greater details.
[Daniel] This subject is not any secret to anybody. Just after the 22 March 2012 coup d'etat, the receipts of the Malian customs were sent to the seat of the ex-junta, Kati, who is about 15km from Bamako, almost every evening. Investigations have been opened. Where did the receipts that are assessed at several millions of CFA francs go to today?
The ex-junta rhymed with business transactions. Suppliers are now claiming from the Malian state, in the name of the continuity of the state, about 2.5bn CFA francs [approximately 53,095,100 dollars]. The case of this foreign businessman who was abducted, detained illegally and then freed, would also be recalled, at the time that the junta could make the sun shine or make it rain. He claimed that he was recalled after he paid a large sum of money.
It must be said that an official committee is carrying out currently a thorough examination of the books of the defunct Military Committee for Monitoring Reforms in the Armed Forces and 3bn CFA francs have to be justified. The former leader of this committee has just been transferred from Bamako, where he was detained, to a place that is 110km from the capital.
Mali probes missing millions thought embezzled by ex-junta, Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0730 gmt 19 Mar 14 (BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, March 21, 2014 Friday)
March 18

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA March 18, 2014 / Greg Isenor, President and CEO of Merrex Gold Inc., ("Merrex") (TSX Venture: MXI) announces:
News Bites Canadian Markets, March 20, 2014


(…) Malian Foreign Minister Zahabi Ould Sidi Mohamed told AFP he had called in ambassador Alexei Doulian on Monday to explain "the parameters of the stay of an armed group in Russia".
"He insisted that his country recognises the territorial integrity of Mali and the approach of his country is not at all a recognition of the MNLA," Mohamed said. (...)
Mali summons Russian ambassador overrebels' Moscow trip, Agence France Presse – English, March 18, 2014

(…) But Bouba Fané, who runs a business promoting cultural and sporting events in the capital, Bamako, says the campaign against ATT is politically motivated and unfair. Fané is now involved with the civil society movement, 'Mouvement Lumière', which has warned strongly against ATT's extradition and prosecution.
"ATT was the first victim of our political crisis, and he should be listened to as such," Fané argues. "There was no reason for the coup against him, and it was an event that dishonoured the image of our country. There is a lot of ingratitude out there, a lot of hypocrisy."
Fané says ATT's achievements should be considered against the stagnation and repression Malians experienced during Moussa Traoré's 23 years in office. "That was when corruption became established in Mali. That was when enterprises were closing down, when it took three days to go from Bamako to Dakar by road. With ATT, you think of things like the roads that were built, the affordable housing, the campaigns against malaria and polio."
Fané says ATT's role as a protector of Malian democracy was made clear in March 1991 and vindicated by his refusal in April 2012 to get involved in a counter-coup. "All the journalists that write against him, they should remember that he helped create the freedoms they enjoy now."
Fané rejects charges of military negligence, arguing that "ATT would never have let an armed enemy into Mali".
He argues instead that political rivals conspired with insurgents on the timing of the rebellion, and says that France's then-president Nicolas Sarkozy gave the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Tuareg rebel movement, both a green light and weaponry in northern Mali as they came out of Libya. Several analysts have backed this claim. Fané also argues that ATT paid a high price for his past support of former Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.
For Fané, the national assembly's interest in bringing ATT to justice is heavy-handed. "MPs are trying to act like judges," he argues. (...)
Mali's Past Leaders Called toAccount, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (Nairobi), March 18, 2014 
March 17

Council conclusions on implementation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting Brussels, 17 March 2014


DEN HAAG - Defensie laadt vandaag een transportschip van de Verenigde Naties in de Groningse Eemshaven vol met 140 voertuigen en 224 containers. Het schip zal naar verwachting eind april aankomen in West-Afrika, waarna het materieel naar Mali wordt gebracht voor de Nederlandse missie, die daar in mei officieel gaat beginnen. Een woordvoerder van Defensie heeft dat gisteren gemeld.

Op de kade in de Eemshaven staan jeeps en pantserwagens van het type Bushmaster en Fennek en 224 containers, waarin onder meer gevechtsrantsoenen, uitrustingsstukken en reserveonderdelen zitten.
Defensie heeft eerder al wat materieel per transportvliegtuig naar Mali verscheept. De Apache-gevechtshelikopters worden, met de rotorbladen eraf, op een later moment ook met een vliegtuig getransporteerd.
De tocht per schip naar Abidjan in Ivoorkust duurt waarschijnlijk 2 tot 3 weken. Vanaf daar is het nog 2500 kilometer over slechte wegen naar Gao, het basiskamp van de Nederlandse militairen.
Het meeste Nederlandse materieel staat al bijna een maand in de Eemshaven. Het vertrek is vertraagd, doordat het VN-transportschip nog niet beschikbaar was. De verwachting is nu dat de Nederlandse bijdrage aan de VN-missie Minusma in mei operationeel wordt.
Nederland levert ongeveer 80 militairen voor de hoofdstad Bamako en 300 militairen gaan vanuit de noordoostelijke stad Gao aan het werk. Zij gaan vooral informatie vergaren en analyseren.
De commando's die binnenkort naar Mali gaan, rondden midden vorige week hun training af met een grote schietoefening in Duitsland. Zij zijn daarmee klaar voor de missie in Mali.
Defensie verscheept materieel vanuit Eemshaven naar Mali, De Stentor/ Apeldoornse Courant, 17 maart 2014

March 16

[Presenter] Abou Dardar, an Islamist from northern Mali who is well known from during the occupation has been handed over to the Malian security forces. He is one of the most well known and most wanted Islamists from northern Mali because he reigned over a large area during the occupation that lasted from April 2012 to January 2013. He went to the French forces in Gao region who handed him to Malian security forces yesterday (15 March). Serge Daniel reports from Bamako.
[Reporter] He is either termed a Malian or Mauritanian. During the occupation of northern Mali, he never moved around without two things: a belt full of explosives around the waist and rockets in his vehicle. Abou Dardar, who was then referred to as Mujao, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, first reigned over the Malian town of Douenza. At that time, Douenza was a strategic city for the jihadists. When he left Timbuktu for Gao and vice versa, he generally passed through this town. Using Douenza as his base, Abou Dardar used to supply weapons and ammunition to Timbuktu, a city where he also lived when jihadists controlled northern Mali. When he was in Douenza, Abou Dardar is remembered as a man who was among the top local Islamic leaders. After the French military intervention in January 2013, Abou Dardar took refuge in Gao region.
In the end, he turned himself in to the French troops, who after brief interrogation, handed him over to Malian forces.
Jihadist leader reportedly surrenders, handed over to Malian security forces, Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0830 gmt 16 Mar 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)


[Presenter] A delegation of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad [MNLA] has gone to Russia. The delegation is headed by the Malian political head of the movement, Bilal Ag Acherif, was received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow where the present president, IBK [Ibrahim Boubacar Keita] visited before his election. It must be noted that historically Russia has close ties with Mali. We join our correspondent Muriel Pomponne in Moscow for the details.
[Pomponne] This first visit of the MNLA to Moscow forms part of the resolve to lobby the powers that pay attention to the Bamako government. According to the MNLA, it is necessary to be heard by Russia which is a member of the United Nations Security Council.
The visit is also to make the MNLA's viewpoint known. The then presidential candidate IBK also went to Moscow at least one year ago.
The delegation was received by the deputy minister of foreign minister in charge of Africa and the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov.
On the Malian situation, Moscow approved the Operation Serval on condition that it would be limited in time and expressed satisfaction that Paris is handing over progressively to a UN force, the MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali]. Russia expressed its preference for Mali's territorial integrity and is in favour of the implementation of the Ouagadougou Accords.
Africa no longer enjoys the importance that it had for Russia at the time of the cold war. Moscow is nevertheless very committed to the security of North Africa because the destabilization of this region has effects on areas as far as the Near East.
Malian Tuareg separatists reportedly visit Russia on lobbying mission, French state-funded public broadcaster Radio France Internationale on 16 March (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political) 

March 15

DAKAR, Senegal -- A leading jihadist militant close to top figures in the West African affiliate of Al Qaeda has been killed in Mali's desert north, two senior Malian military officials said Friday.
The militant, Oumar Ould Hamaha, known for his flowing red beard, his bloodthirsty statements to the news media, and his role in kidnapping a Canadian diplomat in 2008, was killed on March 8 by French special forces in the Timetrine area, northeast of Timbuktu, the officials said.
Adam Nossiter, Mali: French Forces Killa Top Militant, Officials Say, The New York Times, March 15, 2014

March 14

(…) 'We're not involved with the fighting in Mali,' AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson told me, emphasizing that the U.S. military was not engaged in combat there. But Washington is increasingly involved in the growing wars for West and Central Africa. And just about every move it has made in the region thus far has helped spread[93] conflict and chaos, while contributing to African destabilization. Worse yet, no end to this process appears to be in sight. Despite building up the manpower of its African proxies and being backed by the U.S. military's logistical might, France had not completed its mission in Mali and will be keeping troops there to conduct counterrorism operations[94] for the foreseeable future[95].
Similarly, the French have also been forced[96] to send reinforcements[97] into the Central African Republic (and the U.N. has called[98] for still more troops), while Chadian MISCA forces have been repeatedly accused[99] of attacking civilians. In a sign that the U.S.-backed French military mission to Africa could spread, the Nigerian government is now requesting[100] French troops to help it halt increasingly deadly attacks[101] by Boko Haram[102] militants who have gained strength and weaponry in the wake of the unrest in Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic (and have reportedly also spread[103] into Niger, Chad, and Cameroon). On top of this, Clapper recently reported[104] that Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania were endangered by their support of the French-led effort in Mali and at risk of increased terror attacks 'as retribution.' (…)
Tom Engelhardt, American Proxy Wars in Africa, Original Articles, March 14, 2014


Informatie. Daar draait het allemaal om bij de Nederlandse bijdrage aan MINUSMA. Het hoofdkwartier van de VN-missie is gevestigd in Hotel Amitié, het grootste logement in de Malinese hoofdstad Bamako. Hier komen alle inlichtingenstromen samen.
Eerste luitenant Wouter Helders, Defensiekrant 05, vrijdag 14 maart 2014 


VS-commandant voor Afrikaans continent roemt ‘Nederlandse’ missies
De baas van het Amerikaanse militaire hoofdkwartier voor Afrika (US Africa Command, Africom) ziet in de stabilisatieoperaties van Amerikaanse en Europese krijgsmachten in Mali een voorbeeld van succesvolle aanpak op een verder wankelend continent.
‘Terreurdreiging Afrika groeit,’ Defensiekrant 05, vrijdag 14 maart 2014  

March 12

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won power with a pledge to resurrect a "strong and united" Mali from the ashes of a war against Islamists militants yet six months later he has done little to heal the wounds of the conflict.
Elected with a reputation as a strongman, Keita has focused on restoring control over Mali's army after a March 2012 coup. The putsch plunged Mali into chaos that allowed Islamists to seize the north, forcing France to intervene in its ex-colony.
Any concessions to the Tuaregs, who have led four rebellions since independence from France in 1960, would be deeply unpopular with the black African majority. Tuaregs comprise less than 10 percent of Mali's 12 million people.
Broken north undermines Keita's pledgeof strong, united Mali, defenceWeb, March 12, 2014

[News Story] HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA March 11, 2014 / Greg Isenor, President and CEO of Merrex Gold Inc., ("Merrex") (TSX Venture: MXI) announces:
Drilling Starts at Siribaya Gold Project, West Mali
Drilling operations have begun at the Siribaya Gold Project in West Mali. The first phase of RC drilling is on the Diakha prospect on the southern extension of the Fekola-Boto trend. The driller is Amco Drilling (UK) Limited, a leading provider of drilling services across West Africa. (...)
Merrex Gold - Drilling Starts at Siribaya Gold Project, West Mali, News Bites Canadian Markets, March 12, 2014

March 11

[Presenter] A former official of the MNLA [National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad], Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, has announced his breakup with the movement. He criticised the strategy of the leader of the movement, Bilal Ag Sherif, and asserted that he enjoyed the support of other officials of the MNLA to form a new movement to relaunch discussions with the Malian authorities. Our correspondent Guillaume Thibault files the report.
[Thibault] More than a movement, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh wants to found a coalition for the Azawad which will bring together all those who are persuaded that dialogue with Bamako broke down. He asserted also that he had the support of 60 per cent of the membership of the political bureau of the MNLA, accusing the leader of the movement, Bilal Ag Sherif, of interference.
[Assaleh] I say that Bilal does not facilitate the advancement of matters. Our first gesture as a dissident group is to stretch the hand of friendship to IBK [Ibrahim Boubacar Keita].
[Thibault] It would be recalled that Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh was relieved of his duties within the MNLA a few weeks ago. Officials of the movement accused him, of being close to Bamako, especially his discussions with President IBK and state security officials. The spokesperson of the MNLA, Mossa Ag Attaher, comments.
[Ag Attaher] We do not record the departure of any members from the political bureau apart from Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh. All the initiatives that were taken in common agreement with the central government in Bamako, with which we are still in a state of belligerence, are not well appreciated.
[Thibault] While at the beginning of the year, a delegation of the MNLA left Algiers in anger because of the lack of understanding with the authorities in connection with the negotiations on the north of Mali, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh announced in the Algerian capital that he wanted to found his coalition in the next few days.
Former Malian Tuareg rebel official forms new movement, Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0730 gmt 11 Mar 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa – Political March 12, 2014 Wednesday)


95. The Panel’s investigations have focused on the very different dynamics of
illicit transfers, for example, allegations of State-sponsored transfers by air to armed
groups in the Syrian Arab Republic, by land to terrorist groups in northern Mali and
by boat to Egypt, showing how illicit transfers from Libya are reaching various continents and types of security crisis, with different weapons requirements,networks, end users, financing methods and means of transportation.
96. Covering such a broad scope of potential violations presents serious challenges. First, the Panel has limited resources with which to cover a two-way embargo that is breached on a regular basis and covers the entirety of Libya’s territory. The geographical area covered by the Panel’s investigations expands everyyear and includes a large part of Africa, Europe and the Middle East (see para. 282). Second, the insecure environment in Libya and in countries where end users
operate, including northern Niger, northern Mali, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and Somalia, makes field research and information-gathering very difficult. Third, this mandate has been marked by a notable decrease in cooperation from some Member States, who have not granted requests to visit and to inspect seized materiel. Those countries, in particular Algeria, Chad, Egypt andNigeria, are of great importance to the Panel. They suffer from weaponsproliferation from Libya, either directly or as transit countries. Some have significant internal security capabilities, resulting in successfully intercepted transfers, and have developed a valuable assessment of the situation on the ground.
97. As mentioned in section II.A, above, the vast majority of Libyan stockpiles are under the control of non-State actors, which are the main protagonists in the trade. Most transfers under investigation appear to originate from stockpiles located in Benghazi, Misrata, Zintan and the area of Sebha, where national authorities have very little presence. The size of some shipments and transfers made by air indicate that some Libyan officials may be aware of some of the transfers, or even directly involved.
98. In terms of end users, while various types of individuals and armed entities are benefitting from the dissemination of Libyan arsenals, the majority of areas in question are prone to terrorism and the materiel is likely to enhance the capacity of terrorist groups in areas such as Egypt, Mali, Nigeria, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and the Gaza Strip. 
Final report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1973 (2013) concerning Libya, United Nations S/2014/106, 19 February 2014


Al-Qaeda fighters from Libya, Algeria and Mauritania died during multiple military raids in Mali over the past fortnight.
"We located a dozen jihadists handling some rockets near an arms cache in the Adrar," the French defence minister announced on Thursday (March 6th).
Reaper drones, along with Chad-based Mirage 2000 fighters and Tiger helicopters from Mali "made it possible to neutralise" the terrorists in the March 4th operation, Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Figaro.
France recently acquired the two American-made drones. They are based in Niamey, Niger.
The optical resolution of the new unmanned aerial vehicles is superior to the earlier Harfand model, allowing military forces to hone in on their targets. (...)
North Africa; Maghreb Jihadists Killed in Mali Airstrike, Magharebia (Washington DC), March 11, 2014 


Algeria is looking for aerial reconnaissance platforms to track down various Maghreb-based terrorist groups, drug and arms traffickers and militants who have taken advantage of post-war chaos in Mali and Libya to destabilise the Sahel-Maghreb region.
Algeria currently flies Denel Seeker II UAVs and is believed to have ordered one new Seeker 400 system with three aircraft. The Seeker 400 is currently undergoing flight testing.
The North African country has previously expressed interest in General Atomics Predator/Reaper UAVs. It also has six King Air 350ER surveillance aircraft fitted with Gabbiano T-200 radars, Wescam Mx15i infrared cameras and other features for maritime and ground surveillance.
Since war clouds started gathering over northern Mali in November 2012, the Algerian army has deployed more than 12 000 personnel to secure the borders with Mali, Libya and Niger.
Algeria has increased its defence budget for 2014 and is actively seeking new tankers, transports, helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Last year Algeria evaluated the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic transport and Airbus A330 MRTT tanker with an eye to replacing ageing Il-78 Midas tankers and acquiring a new transport aircraft. Algeria asked the two respective companies to conduct demonstrations, indicating the seriousness of these potential contracts.
Algeria is growing its defence spending by 6% through 2017, according to some estimates, as it modernises and re-equips to meet the challenge of insecurity and terrorism in the region.

Algeria evaluating Chinese CH-4 UAV, defenceWeb, March 11, 2014
March 10

Al-Akhbar (Nouakchott) The Azawad Arab Movement has announced that it will hold an extraordinary conference in the last week of this March in the Legmeiza [as published] area in the Azawad region in the northern Mali.
In a press statement it issued, a copy of which had been received by Al-Akhbar, the Azawad Arab Movement revealed the points on the agenda of the extraordinary conference, stressing that it included among other things:
- Analysing the political and security conditions with all their complexities, and examining the existing course to settle the conflict.
- Studying the ramifications ensuing from the movement's rejection of the rally's document which had been signed by the other Azawad movements in Bamako in the middle of last February under the auspices of the UN `Minusma' mission [Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali].
- Finding a solution to overcome the difficulties facing the unification of the Azawad national movements' ranks.
- Analysing and preparing the suitable conditions for laying down a unified framework to unite all the forces which actually contribute to the struggle to liberate Azawad.
[Passage omitted: Movement spokesman appealing to the international community, the UN and France to ask the Malian armed forces to stop the massacres against the Tuareg and Arab civilians.]
The movement affirmed its `commitment to dialogue to find a peaceful and durable solution to the existing conflict between Azawad and the state of Mali".
Malian Azawad movement to hold conference end of March Mauritanian source said, Excerpt from report by Mauritanian independent news agency Al-Akhbar website, 2220 gmt 9 Mar 14 (via BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, March 10, 2014 Monday)


March 10 2014 at 03:57pm
By Reuters


Qatar's ambitions are justifiable, but its role was delicately drawn on its behalf. Riyadh allowed Doha's ambitions to run their course. The kingdom encouraged, supported, and suggested that it was right behind Qatar. But as soon as the Qatari role in France suffered a blow due to its funding of terrorism in Mali, Saudi Arabia moved in to take its place. As soon as Qatar's role in Egypt suffered a setback after the Muslim Brotherhood-led regime there was toppled, Saudi Arabia moved in to shower Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with money and support. (...)

Paul Gadalla, Qatar signals strategicshifts as Iranian diplomacy sways EU, Al-Akhbar English, March 10, 2014

Spy Gear Shortage in Africa

The US military faces a chronic shortage of surveillance aircraft in Africa needed to track extremists, particularly in the Sahel region, a top general said.

Only 7 percent of the military’s requirements for reconnaissance and surveillance planes, including drones and other aircraft, were met last year in Africa, said Gen. David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command.

US troops and hardware are not permanently assigned to AFRICOM, which must request aircraft and resources from other regional commands.

American forces have shared intelligence, including images gathered from drone aircraft, with French and African troops deployed in Mali.
Defense News, March 10, 2014. 


Marnel Breure, Frankrijk speelt dubbelspel in Malinese achtertuin, Trouw,10 maart 2014
Intereview met schrijfster Aminata Dramane Traoré die niet blij is met de interventie door de Fransen. Ze ziet meer in sociaal-economische ontwikkeling.


The last 7 company announcements are:
January 21: Resolute Mining Provides December 2013 Quarterly Activities Report
Resolute Mining provided its December 2013 quarterly activities report, reporting total gold production for the quarter of 98,132oz (84,274oz) was achieved at a cash cost of $911/oz ($970/oz); and production at Syama in Mali for the quarter was 43,918oz (28,611oz) of gold at a cash cost of $1,011/oz ($1,193/oz).

Australian Company News Bites - Stock Report, March 10, 2014

March 9

Traders in the border municipality of Timiaouine, 850 km south of the provincial capital of Adrar, shut down the municipality building in the centre of the town for the second consecutive day amid strict security measures imposed by National Gendarmerie elements for fear of incidents in the area which is still suffering from a decline in security on the border with Mali.
The protests are the second of their kind whereby the protesters urge the local authorities to intervene with a view to expediting the bureaucratic administrative measures imposed by the military authorities deployed in the area because of the decline in security and flagrant spread of smuggling across the border due to the closing of the border crossing with Mali and the Kidal region in northern Mali. The area was the only outlet for traders to sell Algerian dates within the framework of what is known as barter.
The traders said that the decision [closing of the border crossing] caused more than 165,000 t of dates to be wasted after they dried out completely and were not fit for consumption and more than 152 traders who engaged in trading dates had become unemployed.
In a statement to El-Khabar, the traders' representative said that they had written to all the official sides, led by Chief of Staff of the People's National Amy and Deputy Defence Minister Gaid Salah and the president urging them to intervene quickly to rescind the decision, which he described as dangerous, in order to save their families from hunger and slow death. The traders' representative added that such a decision could encourage smuggling and cause heavy losses in trade.
Algerian traders protest about loss of trade after closing border with Mali, Text of report by privately-owned Algerian newspaper El-Khabar website on 8 March (via BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political March 9, 2014)


ALGIERS, March 9 -- Visiting Malian defense minister said on Saturday that his country hopes to strengthen the security cooperation with Algeria along their borders, which the latter closed earlier last year due to tensions in north Mali.
"We will revive our security cooperation in border areas which had been suspended by necessity because Mali could no longer control these regions," Malian Defence Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said after meeting with Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.
Maiga has requested Algeria to start exploratory talks in relation to the crisis in north Mali. He and his Algerian counterpart signed a minute on military cooperation between the countries.
But Lamamra evoked the issue of the abduction of Algerian diplomats in north Mali in April 2012. He said that the case was a matter of "constantly agenda" in Algerian-Malian discussions.
Algeria decided to close its border with Mali in January last year, as the security situation in north Mali deteriorated after the intervention of Franco-African forces to chase away extremist armed groups there.
Later in November Algeria said that opening the borders in the extreme south was not on its agenda.(PNA/Xinhua)
Algeria, Mali to strengthen border security, Global Times China, March 9, 2014 

March 8

Amid a surge of Islamic militancy in North Africa, a team of fewer than 50 U.S. special operations troops with a single helicopter arrived at a remote base in western Tunisia last month.
Their mission: train Tunisian troops in counter-terrorism tactics.
The operation was one of dozens of U.S. military deployments in Africa over the last year, often to tiny and temporary outposts. The goal is to leverage American military expertise against an arc of growing instability in North Africa and many sub-Saharan countries, from Mali in the west to Somalia in the east.
The small-scale operations by the Pentagon's six-year-old Africa Command reflect an effort to avoid provoking anti-U.S. militants in the region -- and wariness of getting drawn into new conflicts after 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. commanders for Africa face tight limits on the forces and equipment they can put on the ground or in the air, despite responsibility for a vast geographic area.
Classified guidance approved by the White House last fall called for the Pentagon to "deter" terrorist attacks from Africa on U.S. territory, facilities or allies without creating a large military footprint, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.
Based in Stuttgart, Germany, Africa Command has only about 2,000 military and civilian personnel assigned to coordinate U.S. defense programs in about 38 African countries, although 5,000 or more U.S. troops are frequently on the continent for operations and training missions.
It's still a tiny fraction of the combined forces under Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan and bases in the Middle East, or under Pacific Command, which has become a Pentagon priority since the White House announced a strategic "rebalancing" of forces to Asia in 2012.
U.S. military commanders working in Africa thus rely on small teams of special operations troops, U.S.-trained forces from friendly African countries, and European allies, especially France, that have stepped up their own military presence and operations.
In Niger, for example, U.S. and French air forces based at an airport in Niamey, the capital, are flying unarmed Reaper drones to gather intelligence. They conduct aerial surveillance across several Saharan countries where some members of the Tuareg minority group have joined Islamist warlords and farther south in Nigeria, U.S. military officers say.
Three violent extremist organizations are the chief U.S. concern. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active in northern and western Africa, especially Mali, and is considered the greatest threat to Americans.
David S. Cloud, Presence of U.S. in Africa growing quietly; Small military teams are deployed to help deter terrorist attacks and provide training for countries' troops, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2014
March 7

Citing vast distances and the small number of available aircraft, he said the "biggest intelligence gaps are out in northwest Africa, that really stretches from northern Mali to eastern Libya."
American forces have shared intelligence, including images gathered from drone aircraft, with French and African troops deployed in Mali.
Over the past decade, the US military has built up a logistical network across East Africa and beyond, securing access to key airfields and ports.
The Pentagon has tended to prefer a light footprint in Africa, gathering intelligence while relying on allies to take direct action against Al-Qaeda-linked groups in Somalia, Mali and elsewhere.
For US forces in Africa, spy drones in short supply, Agence France Presse – English, March 7, 2014

Two rockets landed in the environs of Gao in the northern part of Mali this morning [7 March]. The projectiles fell some kilometres from the French camp without causing any casualty.
Helicopters of the French Operation Serval forces flew at low altitude over the town. The base in Gao is often the target of rocket shots. It should be noted that the town shelters Malian forces, French soldiers and MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali] troops.
Two rockets land near French camp in northern Mali, Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 1930 gmt 7 Mar 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, March 8, 2014)


[Presenter] About 10 jihadists were killed in the northeastern part of Mali. The armed group of combatants belonging to Al Qa'idah in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb [AQLIM, also AQIM] were spotted in the north by the French forces by virtue of drones. The Serval forces also deployed air resources to neutralise them. A narration of this event is given by our correspondent Serge Daniel.
[Reporter Daniel] It was a hard hit. A Minusma - the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali - officer who was speaking gave details. For a week now, French soldiers of the Operation Serval had precise intelligence. Some jihadists who came at least from Libya had established at least one base in the Tigharghar Mountains and they were seen manipulating arms thanks to the drones of the French army. The jihadists therefore established themselves apparently to launch offensives against the positions of the Malian army, the French army and some UN troops.
That was the reason why the French air force got into action on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday [5 to 6 March]. About 10 of the jihadists were killed and the others who were wounded were able to flee more especially as the French soldiers did not intervene on the ground.
This French intervention is a proof once again that the jihadists returned to some areas in the northern part of Mali.
Jihadists from Libya behind attack on troops in northern Mali – radio, Text of report by French state-funded public broadcaster Radio France Internationale on 7 March 9via BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, March 8, 2014)
March 4

The United States pays about a fourth of the United Nations' overall peacekeeping budget, which is at a record $8 billion. As one measure of budgetary pressure, the United States this year did not set aside money for the peacekeeping mission in Mali. The American mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for a comment on Mr. Ban's proposal.
There is good reason for United States officials to worry about the cost and scope of this mission, said Peter Yeo, executive director of the Better World Campaign, which advocates stronger American ties to the United Nations.
Somini Sengupta, U.N. Debates the Breadth of a Mission in Africa, The New York Times, March 4, 2014
March 3

Han Koch, 'Verdachte militair verdient bescherming,' Trouw, 3 maart 2014
(zie ook Advocatenblad (27/2/14): ‘Militairen verdienen betere rechtsbescherming’)


Local sources in the region of 'Tlatit' in northern Mali said gunmen from a 'Peuhl' group and who belong to the Movement of Tawhid and Movement of Jihad in West Africa [MUJAO] have, in the past two weeks, repeatedly targeted Tuareg groups in the region, especially from the tribe of 'AMGAD;' the tribe of Haj AG Gamou, the first General from the Tuareg clan and an ally of the government of Bamako.
The source who spoke to Sahara Media estimated the death toll, resulting from the operations carried out by the Group, to about 50 people, including women and children in the region. The group had opened fire on two cars carrying Tuareg civilians coming from the market, which led to the death of over thirty people among passengers.
The source said the victims were civilian passengers, while a number of the fighters of the AMGAD tribe were killed in a clash with the group affiliated to the MUJAO, when the AMGAD fighters started tracking down the cars that opened fire on the civilian vehicles.
One of the AMGAD fighters confirmed to Sahara Media that they killed a large number of the armed group members affiliated to the MUJAO, after they tracked down their cars and clashed with them for several days in a row, and discovered several dens used by them, and arrested a number of prisoners, including members of the Arabs of Mali and some elements from Niger. It means the group receives occasional support from these elements, according to the source.
The fighter, who belongs to AMGAD, in his speech to Sahara Media, denounced how this militia penetrates the Nigerien territory and gets out with ease, despite the high security measures observed along the borders.
The area between the city of Gao and Niger is experiencing severe tension, as the Tuareg are afraid of being targeted by the MUJAO under the pretext of tribal wars, as one of the Tuareg notables in the region said, justifying this by the fact that the Tuareg had refused to join the MUJAO group and fought against it in GAO, Manaca, and Tagharengbouet.
A local source said three relatives of General AG Gamou were killed near the city of Jabak, not far from GAO, but some eyewitnesses said they had been killed by the Malian army and were not killed by the Peuhl group affiliated to the Tawhid and Jihad group in Western Africa.
MUJAO affiliates attack northern Mali Mauritanian source, Radio Sahara FM, Nouakchott, in Arabic 2100 gmt 27 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, March 3, 2014)

March 2

Body of Malian junta official discovered near capital, Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 1230 gmt 2 Mar 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa – Political).
[Presenter] There is another macabre discovery in the suburb of Bamako, the Malian capital. A body was pulled out of the depth of a well in Kati, the town in which the military barracks of the March 2012 former coup makers is located.
These mortal remains could well be those of an officer of the red berets, the bodyguards of former President Amadou Toumani Toure. Our correspondent Serge Daniel files the following report from Bamako.
The other cases of the missing red beret soldiers are pending before they were found in the mass graves about nearly three months ago. It is the families of these soldiers who climbed up the crenel on this Sunday [2 March] to say that nobody is above the law and that it is time for the whole truth.

Nigel Wilson, Saharan squabble; Morocco and Algeria row over untapped resources, Jane's International Intelligence Review, march 2014.

The Polisario-controlled refugee camps at Tindouf in Algeria have allegedly been targeted by recruiters from AQIM, whose members are able to move unchecked between the largely ungoverned Algerian-Malian border, close to the Polisario camps. Residents at the camps are denied citizenship and refugee status by Algeria, leaving tens of thousands o f marginalised Sahrawi who could be ripe for radicalisation. In a report to the UN Security Council in April 2013, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported the concerns of regional governments that fighting in Mali could “ spill into neighbouring countries and contribute to radicalising the Western Sahara refugee camps”.

Previous Flintlock blogs on Broekstukken:
Military exercises and arms  (21 maart 2014)
Flintlock 2014 (21 Jan 2014)
The Dutch and the War on Terror … in Africa  (11 Feb 2011)
Nederlanders in War on Terror….in Afrika (03 Feb 2011)

Previous Mali blogs on Broekstukken:
Wapenleveranties aan Libië en de buurlanden (07 Sep 2012)