Analysis by News Monitors Data Stream
The security situation in Mali has been rapidly deteriorating in recent months, with Islamic terrorist groups gaining control over more territory and making more frequent attacks near the capital of Bamako. Neighbors of Mali have been critical of the military government for using Russian Wagner Group mercenaries rather than the more effective French counter-terrorism forces and troops from neighboring countries that still work with the French.
One of the main groups responsible for the increased violence in Mali is JNIM (Jamâ’ah Nusrah al Islâm wal Muslimîn), or Group for the Support of Islam and Moslems. This group is known for its brutal attacks, and has already left over twenty people dead so far this year.
Another group, ISGS (Islamic States in Greater Sahara), has taken advantage of the departure of French counterterrorism forces earlier this year by seizing and holding territory in Mali. This began six months ago with more attacks on the Niger border. The departing French and G5 counter-terrorism forces had kept the Islamic terrorists out of Mali. However, the Mali army and a small number of Russian (Wagner Group) military contractors have been unable to carry on with that effort or prevent the Islamic terror groups from crossing the border and advancing into Mali.
ISGS is one of the two ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in the region. When they first appeared in 2018, ISGS operated mainly in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, especially in the area where the three borders meet. Over the last three months, ISGS has been working to take control of the border between Mali and Niger. Mali responded with soldiers and a handful of Wagner Group mercenaries, but that was unsuccessful. After that, Mali did nothing about the situation as its security forces and the UN peacekeepers were needed elsewhere. The Niger government was also unable to respond and sought to negotiate a deal with ISGS.
The tri-border region of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso has been a major concern for security forces in the region for several years. The area, known as the Menaka region, is situated near the intersection of the three borders and has become a haven for Islamic terrorist groups. These groups have been able to cross borders with ease, making it difficult for security forces to track and capture them.
ISGS (Islamic States in Greater Sahara), one of the two ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in the region, has taken advantage of the situation and has been working to take control of the border between Mali and Niger. The Mali army and a small number of Russian (Wagner Group) military contractors have been unable to prevent the group from advancing into Mali. The departure of French counterterrorism forces earlier this year left a vacuum that ISGS has been quick to fill.
The Menaka region has become ungovernable because of the presence of Islamic terrorists and bandits. The French counterterrorism forces had been successful in keeping the Islamic terrorists from establishing themselves inside Mali, but the Mali government underestimated the importance of these forces. The government has no clear plan for dealing with the situation, and the neighbors are criticizing the military government for using the Russian Wagner Group mercenaries rather than the more effective French counter-terrorism forces and troops from neighboring countries that still work with the French.
The increasing presence of Islamic terrorists in the region has led to a spillover effect, with neighboring countries such as Algeria seeing a return of Islamic terrorist activity. Algeria had been largely free of such activity for over a decade, but now it is seeing a resurgence.
The situation in the tri-border region is dire and requires a concerted effort by security forces in the region to address it. The reliance on the Wagner Group by the Mali government has proven to be ineffective and has led to a growing number of Islamic terrorists operating in Mali and spreading to neighboring countries. The Menaka region is a major security concern and requires immediate attention.