Sahel Security Report - June 2020

Published on 30 Jun, 2020.


The continuing security crisis in the Sahel has only escalated in the past four weeks with renewed activity in traditional areas whist also seeing new operations by Jihadists in new areas of Cote de Ivoire north east. Tensions in Mali continues to raise as anti-government protests continue in Bamako and other cities as calls for the resignation of President Keita gains more footing transpiring onto Mali’s worst political crisis since 2012. Mali’s main opposition leader continues to be in held as negotiations for his release have yielded little to date. In response to the attacks, Burkinabe, Nigerien, and Ivorian forces have each carried out operations against jihadists in north, east Burkina Faso and the north east of Ivory Coast. Joint military operations along the 550km border are expected to increase in next 4-8weeks to prevent further escalations and possible spillovers into new areas in the region. It is a significant development following what was touted as resent success in routing jihadist strong holds in the Kofolo area.


Security in Burkina Faso remains precarious as both jihadist and security forces operations continue across the region. In the Centre Nord region, jihadists killed 10 people and injured 20 others during an attack near the town of Barsalogho. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. On 9th June, a military detachment in Kelbo, Soum Province was attacked by suspected JNIM jihadists resulting in the death of 1 soldier and 7 assailants. Security forces suffered another terrorist attack after armed men attacked a police station in Di—Sourou Province. The highlight of violence in the region in the last 4 weeks was the attack on military forces in Kafolo—north eastern Cote D’ Ivoire were at least 12 security officials were killed. Criticisms against security forces have increased in the last 4 weeks as several demonstrators—700-1000 gathered Fada N’ Gourma to protest against violence against the Fulani community in the region. Reconstruction of defence forces were some of the demands made by protesters. Anti-jihadist operations in the region have intensified as army officials announced security forces carried out 53 operations between 5th and 14 June 2020, neutralising 19 jihadists in the region. There has also been increased co-operation between security forces in the region as 2 terrorist bases in the north—Ousri and east—Tanwalbougou were also destroyed following an operation by Burkinabe and Nigerien forces from the G5 Sahel coalition. In the West, Ivorian forces supported Burkinabe forces in a joint operation resulting in the capture and arrest of 2 terrorists along the Burkinabe-Ivorian border. The increased co-operation suggests a renewal of commitment from governments in the region to tackle the insecurity in the Sahel as the crisis is transnational and could potentially expand to new territories—Ghana, Benin, Togo, etc as some analysts have previously indicated.

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The crisis in Mali has remained unchanged in the last month. Terrorist groups have continued their operations and attacks against civilian and security targets across the country. Attacks have being concentrated in the Mopti, Kidal and Gao regions. At least 26 people were killed in the Mopti region after a Fulani community was attacked by assailants in the village of Binedama on June 5th. This attack was launched just 2 days after security forces killed AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel and his associates during an operation in northern Mali. An IED explosion allegedly planted by JNIM militants killed 7 people while injuring over 30 others in Douentza—Mopti region. Attacks on security forces have intensified in the last 4 weeks. In the Gao Region, two MINUSMA soldiers travelling from Tarkint (Gao) to Tessalit (Kidal region) were attacked and killed by assailants on 13th June. 24 soldiers from the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) were killed by unidentified armed men at Bouka Ware—about 37miles (60km) from Mauritian border after their vehicles were ambushed by assailants on June 14th. 2 soldiers stationed at Dinangourou—Mopti region were also attacked and killed by militants. The increased attacks on security forces in June could suggest retaliation and statement of unfazed reluctance from jihadist groups following the killing of AQIM’s long time commander. Opposition leader Soumaila Cisse continues to be in the custody of his captors despite several weeks of negotiation which is contributing to public tensions. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced this month that Cisse was still alive. President Ketia himself faces some political crisis as tens of thousands of protesters lead by cleric Mahmoud Dicko have gathered in the capital Bamako and other cities in protest of the several issues—results of the past legislative elections and insecurity. Mali is currently facing its worst political crisis since 2012 as protesters have also demanded the resignation of President Keita. A pro-government rally was organized by The Convergence of the Republican Forces (CFR) to show support for the incumbent government following the several weeks of anti-government protests. The sociopolitical climate in Mali is currently in complex and unpredictable flux. Extreme caution is advised in the region.

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Like Mali and Burkina Faso, the situation in Niger remained unchanged as government forces confronted attacks, particularly from Boko Haram in the south-east—close to the Nigerian border. In the Diffa region, Boko Haram militants staged abduction raids. During one raid in Toumour, the Nigerien army engaged with militants (suspected fighters of Boko Haram) killing several. 10 members of a local aid organisation have been abducted by unknown armed men in the Tillaberi region. The aid workers were reportedly kidnapped on June 2th while distributing food aid in the village of Bossey Bangou—56 miles (90km) west of the capital Niamey attracting widespread international condemnation. Given insecurity in some parts of the country, the Council of Minister announced a 3 months extension of the state of emergency in the Diffa region as well as some departments in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions

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