Attacks by Islamist militants, military operations, and waves of inter-communal violence have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced since January in Burkina Faso, triggering an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis that has caught many by surprise. Homegrown militant groups, as well as extremists linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, have been operating in the country’s north since 2016, but have expanded to new fronts. As the state struggles to contain the insurgencies, a growing number of “self-defense” militias have mobilized, escalating ethnic tensions in a country once considered a beacon of coexistence and tolerance in West Africa. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)
A village of semi-nomadic Fulani herders was attacked in Mali New Years Day, with at least 33 residents slain and several homes set aflame. Survivors said the attackers were traditional Dogon hunters, known as dozos. The army was rushed to Koulogon village in central Mopti region to control the situation. But the perpetrators may have been assisted by the armed forces. Dogon residents of the area have formed a self-defense militia, known as Dana Amassagou, to prevent incursions by jihadists from Mali's conflicted north into the country's central region. The militia is said to have received weapons and training from the official armed forces. However, driven by conflicts over access to land and shrinking water resources, the militia has apparently been attacking local Fulani villages. Hundreds were killed in clashes between Dogon and Fulani last year, and a Senegalese rapid reaction force under UN command was deployed to Mopti in response to the violence. (Photo of Fulani elder via IRIN)
The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda's branch in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed its forces were responsible for a suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao. The suicide truck-bomb detonated in a residential area of Gao, killing three (not counting the attacker) and wounding another 30. The JNIM statement claimed the target was a base of "Crusader invaders" from the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. However, all of those killed were civilians and local Malians. Four of the wounded were foreign employees of the United Nation's Mine Action Service, working to remove landmines in the area. A video later released by JNIM confirmed that the mine dismantling headquarters in Gao was the intended target. The video stated that "this operation demonstrates that the mujahideen are continuing upon their covenant, which they had made to their lord, until they achieve one of the two good ends, victory or martyrdom." (Image via Long War Journal)
The International Criminal Court announced that al-Hassan ag-Abdoul Aziz was surrendered to the court's detention center in the Netherlands by Malian authorities. He is accused of crimes against humanity in Timbuktu as de facto leader of the "Islamic police" force after the city was taken over by jihadists in 2012. He allegedly took part in the destruction of the mausoleums of Muslim saints. He is also accused of participating in forced marriages involving Fulani women, which resulted in the reduction of women and girls to sexual slavery. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)
The International Criminal Court found that a former Malian jihadist militant is liable for 2.7 million euros in reparations for overseeing the destruction of Muslim shrines in Timbuktu. In its order, the ICC stressed the importance of cultural heritage, calling the destruction of the shrines "an irreplaceable loss that negates humanity."
A new Qaeda-affiliated faction, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), is attempting to re-unify the fragmented jihadist insurgency in Mali's desert north.
Installation of an interim authority in Timbuktu under a peace deal with Tuareg rebels in Mali's desert north was blocked as hardline factions erected street barricades.
Some 1,400 African migrants—including whole families and asylum-seekers—were rounded up by riot police in a series of raids in Algiers, and apparently face summary deportation.
With the Tuareg movement divided on whether to accept an autonomy offer from Mali's government, jihadist insurgents seek to rebuild an alliance with the intransigent factions.
The US is investing at least $50 million in a military air base in Niger that will be capable of deploying drones to police the greater Sahara and Sahel regions.
The International Criminal Court opened its case against captured militant Ahmad al-Mahdi for destruction of religious and cultural heritage during the jihadist occupation of Timbuktu.
French special forces carried out a raid in northern Mali targeting the jihadist group al-Murabitoon—but a pro-government Arab militia said four of its fighters were killed.