There is war in the war in Mali. On March 27, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) clashed again with the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), a Daoussak Tuareg militia that has signed the Algiers peace agreement. They fought in Ménaka and around Gao, in the northeastern part of the country, without independently knowing the number of killed, combatants and civilians.
→ ANALYSIS. In Mali, the security situation is deteriorating dangerously
Mali’s most dangerous area
Since the beginning of March, EIGS and MSA have been waging war in this Malian region near Niger, according to UN, French and local sources. An area considered the most dangerous in Mali, abandoned by the state and claimed by the Tuareg separatists. It is through this region that the routes for drugs and migrants from the sub-Saharan coastal countries also pass to reach the Maghreb and Machrek: firstly, the Libyan route used by most of the traffic to Europe.
A region where the various Salafist branches sponsored by the Gulf countries have taken root since the late 1980s, and where jihadist groups, all adherents of Salafist Islam, have flourished. It is in this uncontrollable kaleidoscope that EIGS confronts MSA and their allies in the Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP, the platform for the signing groups of the Algiers Agreement, mainly the Tuaregs) to gain control.
A conflict that also unfolds against the background of societal rivalry between the Daouassak Tuaregs of MSA and Fulani, the majority within EIGS. They all live off livestock and struggle for access to pastures and waterways. On several occasions, both sides have been accused by major human rights NGOs of committing atrocities against civilians. The Human Rights Office of the UN Mission in Mali (Minusma) thus accused the Tuaregs of the MSA of serious abuses against Fulani in April 2018.
Clashes in the region’s capital cities
For three weeks, EIGS and MSA have been fiercely opposed in the municipalities and surroundings of Tamalat, Inchinanane, Andéramboukane, Talatai. Each time, Islamic State took over before the MSA, backed by Gatia (1), could regain a foothold in the cities where they had just been attacked. But all indications are that the EIGS is becoming increasingly active in this region, as in neighboring Burkina and Niger.
A rise in power that goes against the series of victorious remarks made by the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, in recent years about the decisive blows inflicted on this group and its leaders. The death of their emblematic leader, Abou Walid Al Sahraoui, killed in late August 2021 by Barkhane was not the great success that Emmanuel Macron had also proclaimed in a ruthlessly triumphant tweet.
Islamic State is also attacking the Malian army and Minusma
A proof of its vitality, EIGS also attacks Minusma and the Malian army (Fama). On Thursday, March 24, he attacked a Minusma convoy to Tessit, south of Ansongo, in the Gao region. And 16 Malian soldiers were killed on Monday, March 21, in Tessit and Boni (center) in two separate attacks, the first of which was claimed by the Islamic State organization. As Burkinabé newspaper Le Pays writes in its March 28 issue, “This renewed activism of the EIGS is all the more cause for concern as the dirty beast was thought to have been fatally affected, following the elimination of the French army last year by several of its leaders, including the emblematic Abou Walid Al Sahraoui.”
→ READ. In the Sahel, a post-Barkhane period filled with uncertainty for the entire region
This intensification of fighting is not independent of the announced and commenced departure of the Barkhane force from Mali. Present in this troubled region, the French force is completing its withdrawal from Gossi, has begun it in Ménaka and is preparing it from its last Malian base, Gao. “We have also noticed an increase in ISGS attacks. He has regained freedom of action in this area of Mali, but he is not attacking Barkhane”, emphasizes a military source in Paris. “Now, writes The Country, everything happens as if the terrorists wanted to exploit the void left by the French force to occupy spaces where they intend to continue to exercise their influence. »