Monthly Archives: March 2016

Libya as a Source of Weapons to Mali Through Northeast Niger

By Rida Lyammouri

March 18th, 2016

 Important: This post provides information about weapons, drugs, and other illicit trafficking seizures in Northeastern Niger between September 2014 and May 2015. Please note that information provided is taken directly from a recent Libya United Nations (UN) report published March 2016. However since the report is long I decided to summarize important information related to trafficking and violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in the Sahel. I also included more seizures based on open-source reporting where necessary, and my own comments and analysis where necessary to provide more context.

  1. My Own Key Takeaways and Analysis Based on Information Provided at the UN Report:
  • Fighting against increased pressure from French, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and Malian forces in Mali, AQIM [and allies] will continue to seek access to weapons and explosives from Libya. Since its intervention in Mali January 2013, French forces discovered and destroyed important number of arms caches belonging to AQIM and allied groups in Northern Mali.
  • VEOs and non-state actors operating in Mali have contacts based in Libya to facilitate movement of weapons.
  • Libyan weapons still and will continue to make its way to Mali despite increased pressure by operation Barkhane in Northeastern Niger in collaboration with Nigerien forces. This could be explained by continued violent attacks in Mali throughout 2015 and early 2016. Violence in Mali was not limited to VEOs but included rival secular movements, such as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) and Malian government backed militia, Groupe d’Auto-Défense Tuareg Imghad et Alliés (GATIA). Despite peace agreement signed between armed groups and Malian government tensions remain high. Tribal tensions likely to complicate further the implementation of the peace accord.
  • Demand of weapons from non-state armed groups will also continue.
  • While security is not the main concern to Nigerien population, French forces presence in Northern Niger not only limited movement of weapons but also prevented VEOs from conducting violent attacks in the area. No major attacks took place in northern Niger since May 2013 when Mokhtar Bekmokhtar orchestrated simultaneous operations on Agadez and Arlit.
  • Communities living on the borders depend on cross-border licit trade. This likely to suffer and be limited due to French increased presence to combat movement of weapons and VEOs activities in Northeastern Niger.
  • For protection purposes organized criminal networks in charge of moving drugs through the Sahel to Europe or to the Middle East will continue to rely on weapons smuggled from Libya through southern borders.
  • Economic and financial gains through licit and illicit trafficking in Southwest Libya will remain one of key driver of tribal and domestic tensions between different groups in the area.

Continue reading

Mali: February 2016 Violence Related to AQIM, Ansar al-Din, MUJWA, and Other Security Incidents

By Rida Lyammouri

March 1st, 2016

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Murabitun, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), and Ansar al-Din. Below you will find a chronology of the attacks that occurred in February 2016, and here are few notes related to this month’s violence:

  • In February 2016, 21 out of 25 total violent incidents were directly related to VEOs listed.
  • The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) forces, and Malian Army and Malian authorities were the primary targets.
  • While in recent months VEOs relied on improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, the two most damaging in February were suicide attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).
  • Under unclear circumstances there is a concerning increased violence near Ménaka, especially at the village Inékar.
  • Since July 2015, 28 violent incidents occurred between Ansongo and Ménaka, rockets were discovered and destroyed before being launched, and three suspected militants were arrested.
  • 01 – 05 February 2016: French forces discovered and destroyed rockets southeast of Tessalit, Kidal Region.
  • Ansar al-Din, group led by Iyad Ag Ghali with close ties to AQIM, announced launching its own media branch on 28 February 2016.
  • The killing of Abu al-Nour is a blow to AQIM’s Saharan Emirate. In a video released by the group early January 2016 Abu al-Nour appeared to be in charge of the military training.
  • In February: French forces conducted missions in north of Timbuktu and Gao region, both areas considered to be strongholds for AQIM and al-Murabitun respectively.


Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 10.26.57 PM.png

Images of VEO members claiming to be in Azawad [Northern Mali]. Members of VEOs operating in Mali conducted several attacks in the country using motorcycles.

Continue reading