The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced Feb. 11 that they have abducted a team of Red Cross workers in Mali who had been reported missing days earlier—the latest in a wave of new attacks by the jihadist militia. (Al Jazeera, Feb. 11) MUJAO was also blamed for a Feb. 7 attack that left least 30 Tuaregs dead at Tamkoutat, 80 kilometers north of the desert city of Gao. A young girl and a woman were among those killed in the road ambush. Initial reports had attributed the killings to a cycle of reprisals in ethnic violence between the Peul (Fulani) and Tuareg in the area. Authorities later said the attackers were actually MUJAO militants. (Reuters, Feb. 9; AFP, Feb. 7)
Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) announced Nov. 29 that they are ending their ceasefire with the Malian government, which has held since June. The statement comes a day after clashes between Malian troops and Tuareg protesters who prevented a visit by Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly to the rebel-held town of Kidal. The central government said soldiers at the airport had been attacked with stones and gunfire by "uncontrollable elements," and had fired warning shots. But the MNLA said troops had fired directly at a crowd that included women and children, leaving several wounded. MNLA vice president Mahamadou Djeri Maiga told the AFP: "What happened is a declaration of war. We will deliver this war. Wherever we find the Malian army we will launch the assault against them. It will be automatic. The warnings are over." (BBC News, Nov. 29)
Gen. Amadou Haya Sanogo, leader of the March 2012 coup that plunged Mali into civil war, was arrested Nov. 27 on charges of murder, complicity to murder, assassination and kidnapping. According to one of the arresting soldiers, Sanogo had repeatedly ignored summons by Mali's Ministry of Justice. Twenty-five armed soldiers arrested Sanogo in his home in Bamako and took him to appear before a judge, after which he remained in custody.
French troops last week launched a new offensive against Islamist rebels in northern Mali—raised questions about whether Paris will in fact reduce the number of its forces in the African country from 3,000 to 1,200 by year's end as planned. Islamist militants have been struggling to regain control of the contested area, known as the Niger Loop, which includes the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. French general staff spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said the new campaign, dubbed "Operation Hydra," was undertaken joinlty with Malian army forces and troops from MINUSMA, the UN force for the country. "It is the first time we have seen forces of significant size working together," Jaron said. (NYT, IBT, Al Jazeera, Oct. 24)
A visit by a delegation of cabinet ministers from Mali's central government to Kidal, the northern town held by Tuareg rebels of the MNLA, sparked a mini-intifada Sept. 17. Tuareg youth attempted to block the delegation's plane from landing and then hurled stones at the ministerial convoy as it headed to the town. "Peacekeepers" from the UN Mission for Mali (MINUSMA) used tear-gas to disperse the protesters. Two bombs reportedly exploded in Kidal during the visit, although apparently causing no casualties.
Reports are divided on whether members of Libya's Berber minority forced their way into the General National Congress building in Tripoli on Aug. 13, smashing windows and destroying furniture, during a demonstration to press for greater recognition. Reuters, in a rare mention of the Berber political struggle, cited the claims of Congress member Omar Hmaiden. But Libya's local media quoted other lawmakers as saying the incursion never took place. The protest outside the Congress building did bring traffic to halt, as hundreds of Berbers gathered to oppose a law approved last month to reserve just two of the seats on the Constitutional Commission for members of their community. Berber activists charges that Congress is deliberately marginalizing Libya's ethnic minorities. Two seats each were also reserved for the Tuareg and Tebu (Toubou) communities.
Talks will resume soon between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), according to the foreign ministry of Burkina Faso, which has been brokering the dialogue. Earlier this month, a Malian military spokesperson said the country was in the final stages of preparation for an assault on Kidal, the northern town that is held by the MNLA. The last negotiations were back in December before the French-led military offensive to remove the fundamentalist militias who had battled with the MNLA for control of Mali's north. The MNLA supports plans for national elections for an interim president on June 28, but says it will not allow army troops into Kidal for the vote. Said MNLA envoy Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh: "We suggest that security during the vote be guaranteed by UN troops... because no Azawad citizen can elect the future president of Mali under the protection of Mali's terrorist army." (AFP, May 24; Al Jazeera, May 20)