Separatist Rebels Escalate Attacks in Northern Mali, Mainstream Media Condemn Expulsion of French Troops

Orinoco Tribune, October 6, 2023 —

Caracas (—The Malian army has been reporting “intense battles against terrorists” as separatist rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA)—composed of multiple Tuareg separatist groups—attacked the town of Bamba in the northern part of the country this Sunday, October 1.

The rebels claimed control of the town and issued a public statement online via the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), which is affiliated with the CMA. On Monday, Attaye Ag Mohamed, the spokesman for the CMA separatists, took credit for the attack on behalf of the separatists during an interview with the Associated Press.

These battles are the latest in a series of bloody attacks against the Malian Army, which have resulted in the deaths of an as of yet unknown number of military personnel. On September 7, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM)—an Al-Qaeda affiliated organization—also attacked the army base and a civilian passenger boat in Bamba in a double attack killing at least 64 people including 49 civilians. Algerian journalists noted that “it is clear that the intent of these terrorists is destroy Malian society. There is no purpose of targeting a civilian passenger boat with rocket-propelled grenades except to kill as many passengers as possible.”

According to a report published in August, Mali is “on track to witness more than 1,000 violent incidents involving terrorist groups in 2023, surpassing the record levels of violence recorded last year.” Western mainstream media is portraying the resurgence of separatist and terrorist activity as a result of the withdrawal of French and UN forces. However, such a portrayal begs the question: what does it say about a multi-decades-long presence of foreign counterterrorism forces if, the moment they leave, the number of attacks increases to a greater level than before their arrival?

The logical outcome of such a premise would be that it would take time for attacks to increase as the government was tested and confidence in terrorist operations re-established; however, this intensification has been immediate, confident, and fierce. This suggests a level of preparation that could only have been accomplished in coordination and cooperation with the departing colonial powers, who were in a prime position to provide intelligence and materiel to the militants. In October 2022, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop presented a briefing to the United Nations Security Council accusing France of violating Malian airspace and delivering weapons to terrorists and militants.

In early September 2023, the leaders of the CMA in northern Mali announced a declaration of war against the Malian government. This declaration broke a peace agreement that was signed in Algiers, following a series of peace talks that took place in 2015. The agreement had put an end to hostilities in northern Mali, where the Tuaregs predominantly live.

Hundreds of Malians have been killed and wounded during the bloody attacks over the course of the last month.

Since 2012, Mali has been under attack from various terrorist and separatist groups. Attacks began in the northern part of the country after armed groups took control of a large portion of the country. The crisis later spread to the central part of the country, as well as to the neighboring Sahel countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.

Despite the presence of United Nations and French forces leading so-called “counter-terrorism” efforts, Mali has remained vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

In June of this year, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop demanded “withdrawal without delay” of the UN mission in the country, due to their total “failure to stabilize the situation.” In August, the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)—first established in 2013—began transferring its bases to the Malian armed forces. Attacks have continued to escalate following the withdrawal of the UN’s so-called “peacekeeping forces.”

In February 2022, the French operation Barkhane was officially ended, and all of their remaining so-called “peacekeeping forces” were fully withdrawn from Mali by August of that year.

This came after Bamako (the Malian capital) withdrew from major bilateral defense agreements and announced that Paris “no longer had a legal basis” to carry out military operations in the territory of Mali. The decision had significant popular backing, and the country has had numerous public demonstrations against French presence in Mali. Following the exit of the French troops, Malians celebrated the expulsion of the colonial power from their country.

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