News / Africa

Analysts Warn Northern Mali Could Become Jihad Base

Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard during a hostage handover, in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali, April 24, 2012.
Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard during a hostage handover, in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali, April 24, 2012.
Anne Look
DAKAR, Senegal - Islamist militants appear to be in control of the vast lawless expanse of desert in northern Mali that they captured with other rebel groups in early April. Extremists from Pakistan and Nigeria have reportedly converged on the territory.  Some analysts and world leaders say the region could become a haven for terrorist activity.
 
Is Mali the next Afghanistan?

Analysts say current conditions in northern Mali are hardly a mirror image of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s when the Taliban seized control, creating a terrorist safe haven from which Osama bin Laden plotted his deadly 2001 attack on the United States.

But al-Qaida-friendly Islamist militants in Mali appear to be edging out other rebel groups for control of the north.

"It is not just a talibanization of northern Mali," said Kwesi Aning, the director of research for the Ghana-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center, which has tracked the rise of armed groups and extremism in Africa’s Sahel region. "It is actually a radicalization of the Sahelian states of northern Mauritania, northern Mali, parts of northern Burkina Faso and northern Niger," added Aning. "That is why the international community, with ECOWAS, must ensure that Mali must be resolved one way or the other. Because if Mali collapses, the spillover effects and the domino effects of that crisis will be frightening."

Difficult desert

Northern Mali is part of the difficult-to-patrol desert that stretches from Mauritania to Chad and has been overrun by traffickers, terrorists and kidnappers for ransom in recent years.

Even before the crisis, Sahelian countries struggled to cooperate and develop a regional strategy against threat.  

Mali's neighbors, in particular Mauritania, accused Mali of giving safe haven in the north to criminal elements, including al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb in exchange for the group not attacking Mali.

Active groups

Tuareg separatists, known as the MNLA, and the Malian Islamist sect Ansar Dine captured the three northern regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in early April during the chaos that followed a March 22 coup in Bamako. Ansar Dine is an offshoot of the Tuareg rebel movement and has ties to al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb, whose leaders have emerged from their desert hideouts and are now being spotted moving reely in the towns.

While the MNLA called for the creation of the long-fabled Tuareg homeland of Azawad as a secular state, Ansar Dine has begun imposing its brand of Islamic law in northern towns.

International threat

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou said Monday, after meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, the situation in northern Mali is an "international threat that requires an international answer."

Just days before the meeting, President Issofou told a French broadcaster that jihadists and drug smugglers are now the dominant forces in northern Mali. He says other forces with other objectives are marginal. He said Niger has information that Afghani and Pakistani nationals are in northern Mali training militants recruited from West African countries. He said they also have evidence that members of the Nigerian extremist sect Boko Haram are training recruits in Gao.

ECOWAS

West African regional bloc ECOWAS says it is ready to send several-thousand soldiers to Mali. But analysts told VOA that an ECOWAS force will take time and money to create. Even then, analysts say those troops would lack the training and experience in desert warfare needed to present a true threat against the heavily-armed militants entrenched in the north.

Many suspect the ECOWAS force would get bogged down in southern Mali, securing the post-coup government transition in Bamako.

France says it is backing a call from President Issoufou and other African leaders for ECOWAS to seek a U.N. Security Council mandate for military intervention in Mali.

President Issoufou says they will need logistical support from the United States, France and other powers. Analysts say the involvement of neighboring non-ECOWAS nations Mauritania and Algeria would also be key.

The international community has rejected efforts by rebel groups to declare independence or set up an Islamist state in the territory. A pact between the MNLA and Ansar Dine lasted less than a week, and the two groups reportedly came to blows in early June in Kidal.

Malians, in the southern and northern halves of the country, have rejected the occupation or any division of the country.  But some doubt the now-disorganized Malian army, already unable to beat back the rebels before the March coup, would be able to mount a meaningful offensive.

Burkina Faso has opened negotiations with the MNLA and there is talk a compromise to be reached on their demands for independence. An ECOWAS spokesman says the regional bloc is losing patience with rebels who it says must relinquish control of the towns or face military action.

Rebels' readiness

But some report Ansar Dine is better armed and less ready to give in.

An Ansar Dine spokesman in Gao, Oumar Ould Amma, says he is 100 percent convinced the Malian army will never beat them. He says maybe if Mali will be supported by France, the United States or ECOWAS. He says Ansar Dine is ready for that. He says they have already dedicated their lives to Allah. He says this fight will not be difficult for them, like swatting a cobweb. He says they are ready to die as martyrs.

As negotiations sputter along and the transitional government in Bamako struggles to find its footing, fears are growing the war over northern Mali is still to come.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid