Attacks attributed to jihadist groups have been increasing in Mali for the past few days. Monday, March 7, in the morning, the base of N’tahaka, a strategic lock located 50 km from Gao (in the north of Mali) held by the forces of the Malian army (the FAMa), was taken assault by jihadists. An operation, according to Malian sources, very violent. The staff of the armies in Bamako announced, in the evening, to have lost only two soldiers and eliminated nine “attackers”. A record impossible to verify. On the same day, a logistics convoy of the United Nations mission (Minusma) jumped on a mine north of Mopti (center), killing two Egyptian blue helmets.
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These incidents are in addition to several attacks during the previous days. On Saturday March 5, at the Mauritanian border, around fifteen civilians were killed on their way back from Mali, according to several concordant sources. A massacre which adds to the terrible attack on the Mandoro base, on the Burkinabe border, which took place on Friday March 4: 27 Malian soldiers were killed – the deadliest official report for months, contrasting with the relative lull that had been observed for several weeks.
A series of successful press releases
On Tuesday February 21, at the end of a ten-day official visit, the independent expert of the United Nations on the situation of human rights in Mali, Alioune Tine, was optimistic: “For the first time since the start of my visits in 2018, I have noted a tangible improvement in the security situation. »
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In a press release published on February 22, the FAMa claimed to have consolidated their “operational achievements in the face of increasingly feverish terrorists, in disarray”, ensuring to have “neutralized” 22 and arrested 15 others in the north, center and south of the country. The previous week, the Malian general staff had already announced that they had killed nearly 60 in northern Mali.
To read the bulletins of this staff, the Malian army has been delivering decisive blows to terrorist groups every week since the beginning of January. And although Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of the French army from Mali on Thursday, February 17, it is still carrying out war actions in this territory, as evidenced by the announcement of the elimination by Barkhane of a senior executive. Algerian jihadist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), about 100 km north of Timbuktu (northern Mali), Monday March 7.
Risk of encirclement of Bamako
The upsurge in recent days of jihadist attacks sounds like a scathing denial of the triumphalist communiqués from Bamako. In reality, Mali has never been in such a perilous situation for its territorial integrity. In an Ifri note published in early February, Mathieu Pellerin documents their progress towards the south of the country, in Koulikoro, Sikasso and Kayes: “The pressure exerted on these three regions augurs a new threat for Mali, that of a gradual encirclement of Bamako. »
Added to this degraded security situation is a deterioration of the democratic context. According to expert Alioune Tine, “it is increasingly difficult to express a dissenting opinion without running the risk of being imprisoned or lynched on social networks. This deleterious climate has led several actors to self-censorship, for fear of reprisals from the Malian authorities of the transition and/or their sympathizers. » A democratic regression that Mali had not experienced since the fall of Moussa Traoré in 1991.
The strategy of the jihadists
The Katiba Macina, spearheading the jihadist advance to the south, continues to encircle the capital while avoiding attacks that could weaken the position of the junta at the time of its standoff with France and the ‘European Union. According to a Malian source, its leader Amadou Koufa would have made France’s departure a condition for starting peace talks. We are witnessing the same attitude on the part of the group linked to Al-Qaeda and led by the Malian Tuareg Iyad Ag Ghali. The latter, who enjoys the protection of Algiers, as Paris is sorry, has also made the departure of France the condition of his dialogue with Bamako. The Islamic State-linked group is still active in the tri-border area. He is also very active in Burkina Faso and Niger.