The Mali government reported that armed men on motorbikes killed more than 40 Tuareg civilians this week in northern Mali, where clashes over land and scarce water are common.
The violence compounds an already terrible security situation in the desert region used by armed groups to launch attacks in Mali and neighboring countries in West and Central Africa. The likes of AQIM, ISGS, and other terrorist groups use Mali’s poor security situation and poor economic regions to recruit and lunch attacks from within Mali.
The identity of the gunmen is unknown, but disputes between the nomadic Tuareg and herder Fulani ethnic groups have killed hundreds — and displaced thousands — over the years. While it’s possible that this is indeed inter-tribe fighting, given the location of the attack — the area is a stronghold for ISGS. They may have had a part to play in this attack, or used one of the tribes to make a land grab.
Menaka town mayor, Nanout Kotia, told Reuters news agency that 43 Tuareg died in a village 20km from the town over the past two days.
“Armed men riding motorbikes attacked several nomadic campsites in Tinabaw. They shot indiscriminately at the population,” Kotia told Reuters, saying security forces had been sent to the area.
Mali’s main Tuareg separatist group, the Coordination of Azawad Movements, said 47 Tuareg civilians were killed in the Tinabaw area. Nobody has claimed responsibility.
Armed men killed 15 Fulani civilians in Mali’s central Mopti region earlier this month. Mali has been gripped by insurgency since 2012, prompting French forces to intervene the following year.
The Tuareg and AQIM and other groups have since regained a foothold in the north and center, tapping into ethnic rivalries to recruit new members. Mali is an almost perfect breeding ground for terrorism — low security, financially stricken, divided regions, heavy corruption. With the fallout from Libya, there are more than enough weapons flowing through the country. On top of this, armed smuggling has been rife in the area for years, creating new income for groups like AQIM and ISGS.
France has had little progress in combating the Tuareg movement, and few results in taking care of AQIM. And now with so many splinter groups operating in the region, France is facing an Afghanistan-style campaign that could last for years to come.
There is a long bloody war lies ahead for Mali.