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Posts tagged ‘Sahara Land of Mali’

Gunmen attack resort in Mali’s capital, killing 2

June 19, 2017

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Jihadis attacked a hotel resort Sunday in Mali’s capital, taking hostages at a spot popular with foreigners on the weekends. More than 30 people managed to escape though at least two people were killed, authorities said.

Moussa Ag Infahi, director of the national police, told The Associated Press that three of the assailants had been killed while a fourth escaped. Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba on the outskirts of Bamako in the late afternoon, according to a security guard who was working at the time.

Mahamadou Doumbia said a militant on a motorcycle entered the area around 3:40 p.m. and cried “Allah Akbar” before jumping off and running toward the pool area. “Then a car with three jihadis entered the resort and they started to fire their weapons,” he said. “A French soldier who had come for the weekend but had his gun shot and wounded” a jihadi.

Mali’s security minister later issued a statement confirming at least two deaths, one of which was a dual French-Gabonese citizen. As night fell, witnesses saw smoke rising from the Campement Kangaba, which features three swimming pools and is a popular escape from the Malian heat. It was not immediately clear what was burning, although extremists in other attacks have set cars ablaze.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place amid the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In predominantly Muslim Mali, people have been fasting from sunrise to sundown for three weeks.

Sunday’s violence came about a week after the U.S. State Department warned of possible attacks on Western diplomatic missions and other locations in Bamako that Westerners frequent. A U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists said those at the resort when the attack began included people affiliated with the French military mission, as well as the U.N. and European Union missions in the country.

Religious extremism in Mali once was limited to northern areas, prompting the French military in 2013 to lead a military operation to oust jihadis from power in the major towns in the north. But the militants have continued targeting Malian forces and peacekeepers, making it the deadliest U.N. mission in the world.

There are no French troops based in Bamako, but about 2,000 French troops are based in northern Mali fighting Islamic extremists. French President Emmanuel Macron was informed about the attack and was following the events carefully, according to an official in his office.

In recent years, the extremists have become even more brazen, attacking sites frequented by Westerners. In March 2015, five people died when militants hit a popular restaurant in the capital. A devastating attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako later that year left 20 dead – six Malians and 14 foreigners.

That attack was jointly claimed by both the regional al-Qaida affiliate and a group known as Al Mourabitoun, which was founded by Moktar Belmoktar after he fell out with al-Qaida leaders. In a video released in March, jihadis said those two were joining together along with two Mali-based terror groups.

Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Al-Qaeda-linked group claims deadly UN base attack in Mali

2017-06-09

LONDON – A powerful Al-Qaeda-linked group on Friday claimed an attack on a United Nations camp that killed three peacekeepers in Kidal in Mali’s troubled north.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims, a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links, posted a statement on its Telegram channel saying it had targeted the UN base “with a set of mortar shells”, wounding soldiers and causing significant material damage, the SITE extremism monitor reported.

The UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said earlier on Friday their Kidal camp “came under heavy rocket/mortar fire” and “a little later a position nearby was attacked” outside their base, killing three peacekeepers and wounding eight more.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims, also known as Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, is a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links formed in March.

Led by the Malian jihadist Iyad Ag Ghaly, a former leader of the Ansar Dine Islamists, the group has claimed multiple attacks on domestic and foreign forces since its formation.

The UN mission said it “condemned in the strongest terms these cowardly attacks against its personnel and the danger they cause for the civilian population.”

The attack is just the latest to target the 12,000-strong force in the west African nation. Guinean and Chadian soldiers make up the majority of troops stationed at the Kidal camp.

MINUSMA began work in 2013, providing security and assisting Malian troops struggling to keep the country safe. It has been targeted constantly by jihadists, with dozens of peacekeepers killed.

Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in March 2012, including Ansar Dine, and although these forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year, the Islamists have now spread further south.

Since 2015, jihadists have targeted Mali’s center and their activities have spilled over into neighboring countries including Niger and Burkina Faso.

Their last attack killed two peacekeepers on May 23 near Aguelhok, near the border with Algeria, while a Liberian peacekeeper was killed earlier in May close to Timbuktu.

Both attacks were also claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims.

France on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a five-nation African military force to buttress the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region, with its base in Mali.

The force would be under a separate command from MINUSMA and France’s own counter-terror force in the Sahel region, but will be backed by the UN and European Union.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83467.

Pope names cardinals for Laos, Mali, Sweden, Spain, Salvador

May 21, 2017

VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a surprise announcement Sunday, Pope Francis named new cardinals for Spain, El Salvador and three countries where Catholics are a tiny minority: Mali, Laos and Sweden. “Their origin, from different parts of the world, manifests the universality of the Church spread out all over the Earth,” Francis said, speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace to thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

The five churchmen chosen are Monsignor Jean Zerbo, archbishop of Bamako, Mali, where he has been involved in peace efforts amid Islamist extremism; Monsignor Juan Jose Omella, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain; Monsignor Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, who became a Catholic at the age of 20; Monsignor Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos; and Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, an auxiliary bishop who works as a parish pastor in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Francis will formally elevate the five to cardinal’s rank in a ceremony at the Vatican on June 28. Then the new “princes of the church,” as the red-hatted, elite corps of churchmen who elect popes are known, will co-celebrate Mass with Francis the next day, the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul, an important Vatican holiday.

Since being elected pontiff in 2013, Francis has made a point of visiting his flock in places where Catholics are in the minority, as well as of working to improve relations between churches and among believers of different faiths.

His brief pilgrimage last year to Sweden, where Lutherans are the Christian majority, was hailed by some as instrumental in helping to improve relations between the two churches. While there, he joined Lutheran leaders in a common commemoration of the Protestant Reformation that divided Europe five centuries ago.

Arborelius, who is 67, converted to Catholicism when he was 20. In 1998, when he was consecrated as a bishop in Stockholm’s Catholic cathedral, Arborelius became Sweden’s first Catholic bishop, of Swedish origin, since the times of the Reformation,

In Mali, a country bloodied by Islamist extremism, Muslims constitute the predominant religious majority. Zerbo’s clerical resume reveals him to be a churchman working for reconciliation in society, a virtue repeatedly stressed by Francis. The Vatican noted that Zerbo, 73, who was named an auxiliary bishop of Bamako in 1998 and 10 years later was made that city’s archbishop, has played a role in peace negotiations.

Extremists attacked a hotel in Bamako in 2015, killing 19 people. Last month, the U.N. peacekeeping chief for Mali called the security situation there alarming, warning that extremist groups operating under the al-Qaida banner were carrying out more sophisticated attacks and Islamic State militants were slowly making inroads.

There has been slow progress in implementing a peace deal reached in June 2015 between Mali’s government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups in the north. In Laos, the tiny Catholic community has often struggled to persevere, including under communist-led rule. Mangkhanekhoun, 73, was ordained a priest in 1972 and has served as a bishop since 2001. The Vatican paid tribute to his work in visiting faithful in mountain villages. Since early this year, he has served as apostolic administrator in Vientiane.

Catholicism has been the majority religion in Spain and in El Salvador, although in parts of Central and South America, evangelical Protestant sects have been gaining converts from the Catholic church.

The resume of Chavez, 74, also includes credentials valued by the pope, who has made serving the poor a key focus of the Catholic church’s mission. Chavez heads the Latin American division of Caritas, the Catholic charity. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop in 1982 for San Salvador, where he now will be based as a cardinal after serving as a parish pastor in the city.

Chavez worked closely with the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who during El Salvador’s civil war was shot to death by a right-wing death squad while saying Mass in 1980. Pope Francis has denounced Catholic clerics who “defamed” Romero after the slaying, a campaign that delayed Romero’s eventual beatification.

Francis’ pick for the Spain cardinal’s post, Omella, 71, worked as a missionary in Zaire earlier in his career and serves on the Vatican’s powerful Congregation of Bishops office. Since December 2015, he has been archbishop of Barcelona.

In announcing his selections, Francis expressed hope that the new cardinals with their work and “their advice will sustain me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, universal pastor of the church.” In other remarks to the faithful in the square, Francis referred to the situation of another Catholic minority — Chinese whose loyalty to the pope has put them at odds with authorities of the state-sanctioned Catholic church in China, and sometimes brought persecution.

He prayed that Catholics in China would be able to bring their “personal contribution for the communion among believers and harmony in the entire society.” Francis is eager to see improved Vatican-China relations. Both sides have for decades been at odds over Chinese authorities’ insistence that they have the right to appoint bishops, a prerogative the Vatican says only belongs to the pope.

He urged Catholics in China to “stay open to meeting and dialogue, always.”

Germany approves more soldiers for UN mission in Mali

January 11, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — The German government has approved an expansion of the country’s military deployment in Mali, with Berlin sending more helicopters to support the U.N. peacekeeping mission there. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a one-year extension of the mission in Mali. Under the new mandate starting Feb. 1, which requires parliamentary approval, the maximum number of German soldiers in Mali will be raised from 650 to 1,000.

At present, Germany has about 530 soldiers in the U.N. peacekeeping force taking care of reconnaissance and other duties. It plans to send extra transport and combat helicopters, but not until March at the earliest and for a limited period. Those aircraft will replace helicopters being withdrawn by the Netherlands.

Legislature: Ex-Mali president won’t face treason charges

December 17, 2016

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s National Assembly has rejected the idea of trying former President Amadou Toumani Toure on treason charges. The former president was overthrown in a March 2012 coup that ushered in an era of instability throughout the Sahara Desert nation. He lives in exile in neighboring Senegal and could now return home unless the government takes other action.

Youssouf Toure, a National Assembly spokesman, said Saturday that members voted overwhelmingly 104-to-5 not to pursue charges. The allegations against the former president stems from accusations that his leadership had left the military in such a state of disarray that it could not defend Mali against foreign jihadists. The French military ousted the jihadists from power in northern Mali in 2013 but extremist remnants continue to launch attack on U.N. and Malian forces.

Germany’s Merkel in Mali to strengthen development, ties

October 09, 2016

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Germany wants to strengthen its cooperation with Mali to improve development in the West African country’s unstable north to help fight against extremism, assure the implementation of a peace accord and stem migration to Europe.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita greeted Merkel at Bamako’s airport where she spoke before meetings with him, other officials and the German representative for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali. She is expected to focus on the implementation of a peace deal reached in June 2015 between Mali’s government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups in the northern part of the country.

“We attach great importance to the implementation of the peace accord. We will go into more details to see how we can help improve things more concretely, enabling our bilateral ties,” Merkel said. Unrest continues in Mali’s north, and Germany is contributing more than 550 soldiers to the U.N. peacekeeping mission there trying to help stabilize the country and fight al-Qaida-linked extremists. Extremists who took hold of the north in 2012 were pushed from strongholds by French-led forces in 2013, but targeted attacks against peacekeepers and Malian security forces continue in central and northern Malli.

Germany also is contributing to the European Union training missions in Mali and other countries in the region to help protect borders and fight against extremism. “Development cooperation must be strengthened next year in all parts of Mali’s northern region,” including on water and sanitation projects, Merkel said, stressing that this could help with stability and therefore also prevent migration.

“The Mediterranean has become an open air cemetery, a situation we are not indifferent to,” said Keita, Mali’s president. “We will find an appropriate solution for a framework with the cooperation of Germany.”

A German official has said that on Monday Merkel will visit Niger, a major transit point for African migrants making their way north toward Europe. She will visit Ethiopia on Tuesday.

2 killed in northern Mali protest

13 July 2016 Wednesday

Two people were killed and 12 injured in protests in northern Mali on Tuesday, the military said.

The demonstrations in Gao, the largest city in the country’s north, against the installation of interim authorities across the region turned into a violent confrontation with the army, Abderahmane Souleymane, a military officer said.

The protest organized by civil society groups had been barred by the local authority due to security reasons.

The protesters claim they are not represented in fresh local authorities that are being established under a 2015 peace deal between the government, pro-government armed groups and former Tuareg rebels.

The agreement envisages fresh interim authorities to decentralize the five regions of northern Mali.

Protesters claimed they were demonstrating peacefully when the army opened fire.

In 2012, a failed coup was followed by a Tuareg rebellion that allowed al-Qaeda-linked militants to take over the northern half of the country.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/174881/2-killed-in-northern-mali-protest.

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