Category Archives: The Macina Liberation Front (MLF)

Mali: February 2017 Violence Related to AQIM, Ansar al-Din, MUJWA, and Other Security Incidents

By Rida Lyammouri,

March 12th, 2017

Analysis and Comments

  • Sahel MeMo recorded in February 2017 at least 20 incidents related [or at least suspected to be] to violent extremist organizations operating in Mali. This includes failed attempts by VEOs, such as when improvised explosive devices (IEDs) been discovered and dismantled.
  • Sahel MeMo recorded 11 casualties and 18 wounded among Malian security forces while 8 peacekeepers of MINUSMA injured.
  • In February 2017 only 2 attacks were officially claimed by Ansar al-Din and AQIM.
  • Niger witnessed at least one deadly attack on its forces in Tillabéry Region on the borders with Mali. At least 15 soldiers killed and 18 injured. This forced Nigerien government to declare state of emergency in most of Tahoua and Tillabéry Regions. Barkhane also established a remote post in Tillebéry Region.
  • Security situation in Burkina Faso on the borders with Mali has degraded. Militant group identified as Ansarul Islam emerged in the area while little is known thus far about the group and its capabilities. However local officials and school teachers have been threatened by unidentified individuals at Soum near borders with Mali.
  • Colombian nun kidnapped by unknown gunmen at Karangasso, Sikasso Region. Hostage identified as Gloria Argoti and as of March 7th no group claimed responsibility. This brings total of 8 hostages being taken and held by jihadist groups or other unknown groups in Mali and neighboring countries in the Sahel.
  • Reportedly, members from Fulani and Bambara communities engaged in violent clashes in Ké-Macina, Mopti Region. At least 20 people killed.
  • Armed banditry continues to be threat to civilians and peacekeeping operations in central and northern Mali.


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Mali: November 2016 Violence Related to AQIM, Ansar al-Din, MUJWA, and Islamic State Branch in the Sahel

By Rida Lyammouri

January 31, 2017

Full PDF report could be found here:

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Mali: Analysis with Unseen Images of Ansar al-Din Macina Brigade in Central Mali

By Rida Lyammouri

October 5th, 2o16

This report, however, includes unseen images and screenshots of Macina brigade high quality video after Nampala attack. For the first time Sahel MeMo is providing pictures of Macina fighters and important amount of weapons seized from Malian Army in Nampala July 19th.

Mali: Analysis with Unseen Images of Ansar al-Din Macina Brigade in Central Mali

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

By Rida Lyammouri

July 4th, 2016

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali remained aggressive in June and deadly throughout northern and central Mali, especially Ansar al-Din. VEOs operational in Mali include Ansar al-Din, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) or Ansar al-Din southern brigade, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA or MUJAO). The Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), French, and Malian forces are the main target. Improvised explosive device (IED) still the main tactic used by VEOs.

June also saw attacks against members of armed groups under unclear circumstances. This includes the assassination of High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) military chief in Ber, member of Ganda Izo at Bourem Sidy Amar, and the kidnapping of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) spokesman at Ber.

June also witnessed new developments in central Mali, notably the creation of new group identified as Alliance Nationale pour la Souvegarde de l’Identité Peule et la Restauration de la Justice (ANSIPRJ) on 19 June 2016. This will further complicate operations countering the rise of the MLF and efforts to eradicate violence related to tribal and ethnic tensions in central Mali.

Numbers recorded in June 2016 by Maghreb and Sahel Blog:

  • 26 violent incidents in Mali involving VEOs.
  • Ansar al-Din claimed 10 out of 26 incidents against French, MINUSMA, and Mali forces.
  • IEDs were used 7 out of 26 times during the attacks.
  • MINUSMA forces and MINUSMA contractors were targeted 6 times. Continue reading

Mali: Armed group emerged in central Mali to defend Fulani people

By Rida Lyammouri

June 20th, 2016

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View of a mosque at Mopti, Mopti region, central Mali. Source: RFI

On June 19th a new armed group emerged in central Mali, Alliance Nationale pour la Souvegarde de l’Identité Peule et la Restauration de la Justice (ANSIPRJ), roughly translated to the National Alliance for the Protection of Fulani Identity and the Restoration of Justice. The movement is reportedly a political-armed group, non-jihadist, and not seeking independence from Mali. However it is created primarily for the purpose to defend the Fulani people of Mali against the Malian Army and Militias, according to the group’s secretary general identified as Oumar Aldjana. Mr. Aldjana stated the group is made of 700 fighters, and has some backing among Malian politicians and Fulani diaspora.

This in response to the way Malian Army and government handled reports of abuse against Fulani civilians. In April 2016 Kawral Poulakou, Malian association of Fulani community led by Mr. Aldjana requested meeting with Malian authorities to discuss alleged killing of Fulani civilians suspected of ties with the Macina Liberation Front (MLF).The MLF is a group that emerged early 2015 with ties to other jihadist groups operating in Mali, notably Ansar al-Din and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Because there was no response from the Malian government now Mr. Aldjana said: “Our enemy number one on the ground now is the Malian Army that continues to arm militias against Fulani civilians.” The movement accuse the Malian Army of unfair treatment of Fulani civilians arrested. Since January 2015 several acts of abuse by the Malian Army against Fulani civilians and suspects were recorded according to Human Rights Watch recorded.

The creation of this new group came during a time when inter-community tensions causing major concerns in central Mali, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned. Little attention was given to the conflict when international community and Malian government are focused on the implementation of the peace accord in northern Mali. However the attention central Mali is getting it is mostly related to the MLF and concerns about jihadist groups, not tribal tensions. True that violence in central Mali was dominated by attacks conducted by the MLF but the region witnessed a noticeable increase in deadly inter-community clashes since December 2015, especially between Fulani and Bambara communities.

As it did so often Malian Army and central government are mishandling central Mali conflict, and there are already some regrettable consequences. In response to Malian Army acts, members of Fulani community released a video in May 2015 calling all Fulani youth to fight the Malian Army and Bambara community. There was no reference in the video to the MLF but surely Mali was about to loose a key ally, at least part of Fulani community, in an area where there is an ongoing fight against a violent extremist organization, the MLF. Although the new group claim to have no ties with the MLF and is non-jihadist, it also claimed that Malian Army is its enemy number one. As a result the presence of an anti-Mali armed group in the region will further complicate efforts against the MLF and allies. The MLF and ANSIPRJ might not share same ideology but both have same enemy [Malian Army], and tribal ties. As a result failure to address the issue collaboration remains a valid possibility.



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

By Rida Lyammouri

June 1st, 2016

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in Mali remained in May aggressive and deadly throughout northern and central Mali. VEOs operational in Mali include Ansar al-Din, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) or Ansar al-Din southern brigade, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA or MUJAO). The Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), French, and Malian forces remain the main target. Improvised explosive device (IED) still the main tactic used by VEOs. However May deadliest attacks saw the use of IED followed by an ambush on MINUSMA and Malian forces. At least 22 MINUSMA peacekeepers and Malian soldiers killed in May, deadliest month in 2016.

In addition to violence related to VEOs Mopti region witnessed in May deadly inter-community clashes between Fulani and Bambara communities, at least 25 people killed. Civilians remain vulnerable against armed robberies, especially in central and northern Mali. This is largely a result of weapons availability and lack of permanent security presence. Vehicles, non-government organizations (NGO) workers, and private companies operating in central and northern Mali were repeatedly targeted by armed robbers. French private construction company SATOM was targeted near Goundam. One Orange vehicle was abducted in the same area while the driver was killed. In Ménaka, two vehicles were taken while three NGO workers were abducted before being released by six armed men. Another NGO vehicle was also taken in Gao. While main focus is to limit VEO operations in Mali these acts of armed banditry against NGO workers and vehicles will further complicate efforts to assist vulnerable population in northern and central Mali.

Key Numbers:

  • Mali recorded at least 16 VEO related violent incidents in central and northern regions.
  • In May MINUSMA was targeted 5 times. At least 11 peacekeepers and 3 contractors killed, and 14 injured. This number could rise after the two attacks in Gao on 31 May 2016.
  • In May Malian forces were targeted 9 times. At least 11 Malian soldiers killed and 11 injured.
  • IED were used in all 5 attacks against MINUSMA while 3 times IED attacks followed by an ambush.
  • 3 IED out of 8 total attacks were used against Malian forces.
  • IED and ambush tactic:
    • All MINUSMA casualties were result of IED attacks. Also 10 out of 11 MINUSMA casualties were result of two IED attacks followed by an ambush.
    • 7 out 10 Malian soldiers killed were result of an IED attack
  • Two Burkina Faso police posts near borders with Mali were attacked by unknown gunmen. AQIM and allies previously conducted similar attacks in addition to kidnappings in January 2016. Short assessment on VE in Burkina here.


  • Kidal Region: Ansar al-Din in collaboration with AQIM brigades al-Ansar and Youssuf Ibn Tachefin remain a major threat to peacekeeping, counterterrorism, humanitarian and development operations in the area.
  • Central Mali: Ansar al-Din south or better known as the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) is a major threat to Malian and MINUSMA forces in Mopti region, but also on the borders with Mauritania and Timbuktu region near Goundam.
  • Gao Region: AQIM and the remaining small brigades of MUJWA and possibly Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui men will continue to be a major concern on transit routes connecting Gao – Ansongo – Ménaka. Also these groups are increasingly becoming a serious threat to areas in Niger and Burkina Faso bordering with Mali.
  • Rainy season starts in June in the area and lasts until September/October. This might limit movement of VEOs in northern and central Mali, and neighboring countries but does not indicate VEOs going to stop exploiting opportunities to carry attacks against Malian and foreign forces in the region.

Violent Extremist Organisation (VEO) Related Incidents

03 May 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED while another vehicle was set on fire at Agoufou, 25km of Gossi, Timbuktu region. Two peacekeepers injured.

03 – 04 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked Malian military post at Nampala, near borders with Mauritania. Reportedly no victims but attackers seized one Malian Army vehicle when security forces abandoned their post at checkpoint.

04 May 2016: United Nations Mine Action Services (UNMAS) discovered and destroyed an IED near Malian Army checkpoint in Ménaka.

06 May 2016: Four gunmen on motorcycles attacked Malian forces guarding Tassiga Bridge, near Ansongo. One Malian soldier, one assailant killed and one arrested while others managed to escape. MUJWA attempted to blow-up and damaged the same bridge in January 2013.

09 May 2016: Important figure of Ansar al-Din arrested. Identified as Souleymane Keïta, he was reportedly in charge of arms and other logistical support for Ansar al-Din southern brigade.

10 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked Malian Army post in Bamba, Gao region. One Malian soldier and one attacker killed.

11 May 2016: Malian Army vehicle struck an IED in Ebanguimalane, between Gossi and Hombori in Gao region. Two Malian soldiers killed and three injured, including a high-ranked Colonel.

12 May 2016: Suspected AQIM members conducted a kidnapping attempt on village chief in Farach, Timbuktu region. Reportedly, fighters of CMA clashed and repelled AQIM attempt. Two AQIM and two CMA fighters reportedly killed.

14 May 2016: Suspected jihadists assassinated Malian Military surgeon in Gao city.

14 May 2016: French forces targeted and destroyed a vehicle belonging to unknown jihadist group in Tabankort, Gao region. Three suspected jihadists killed.

18 May 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED then ambushed 15km north of Aguelhok, Kidal region. Five Chadian peacekeepers killed and three severely injured. Three civilians were arrested by Chadian peacekeepers following the attack. Reportedly one died later on after being beaten by Chadian peacekeepers while two others released.

21 May 2016: Gunmen attacked Malian Army protecting logistical site of SATOM between Goundam and Timbuktu. One soldier killed and four injured.

22 May 2016: Gunmen abducted vehicle of Orange, French network provider, between Goundam and Timbuktu. The driver/Orange employee killed.

22 May 2016: MINUSMA vehicle struck an IED then ambushed while traveling from Sévaré to Dioura, central Mali. Five peacekeepers suffered minor injuries.

23 May 2016: Local witness said unidentified gunmen attacked MNLA vehicle in Kidal. Two injured.

24 May 2016: Gunmen attacked Malian Army convoy between In-Tillit and Gao. Two suspects arrested.

24 May 2016: Citerne carrying water escorted by Malian Army struck an IED between Gossi and Hombori. No casualties reported. Source: Radio Naata 

27 May 2016: Malian Army vehicles struck two IEDs then ambushed between Ménaka and Ansongo, near In-Delimane. Five soldiers killed and four injured.

27 May 2016: Civilian truck struck an IED in Ménaka city. No casualties reported.

29 May 2016: MINUSMA convoy struck an IED then ambushed 30km west of Sévaré, central Mali. Five peacekeepers killed and one severely injured.

31 May 2016: Double attacks targeted MINUSMA and UNMAS sites in Gao. First was reportedly a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack against Chinese peacekeepers post. One Chinese peacekeeper killed and two others severely injured. Almost simultaneously gunmen attacked a hotel hosting UNMAS experts. Three contractors total killed including two Malian private security officers and one French UNMAS expert.

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AQIM statement claiming 31 May 2016 Gao attacks through al-Andalus.

Attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger near Malian Borders

17 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked police station at Koutougou, Soum commune near borders with Mali. Two policemen injured and despite reinforcements managed to escape and remain at large.

31 May 2016: Unknown gunmen attacked police station at Intangon of Oudalan, 25km from Tin Akoff, Burkina Faso. Three policemen killed. In 15 January 2016 similar attack took place when three gendarmes were killed.

23-24 May 2016: Unknown gunmen abducted NGO vehicle near Mangaize refugee camp in Tillabéry, Niger. Two NGO workers were also taken but released later on unharmed.


Violence Related to Tribal Tensions 

31 April – 01 May 2016 recorded alarming violent clashes between Fulani and Bambara communities at Karéri commune, Ténenkou Circle, Mopti region in central Mali. Reportedly at least 22 killed from Fulani community when Bambara militia acted in revenge to the killing of three Bambara members, including Mayor deputy of Karéri

01 May 2016: Reportedly, at least 8 civilians killed in clashes between Fulani and Bambara communities in Mopti region, central Mali.

01 May 2016: Local witness reported three Fulani and one Tuareg killed by Bambara militia at Malemana, 40km west of Dioura, central Mali. A man identified as Bachoura Coulibaly leads the Bambara militia. During burial ceremony, same militia fired at the crowd present at the cemetery killing unknown number of civilians present at the cemetery.

11 May 2016: As a result of ongoing tensions between Fulani and Bambara communities, one armed Bambara killed by armed Fulani men at Tjikéré-Finadji, 50km west of Dioura, Mopti region.

14 May 2016: Reportedly, members of GATIA attacked a GandaIzo post at Ndaki in Gossi commune. The incident recorded three victims.

26 May 2016: Local witness reported armed men from Fulani community assassinated two Imghad Tuareg 30km south of In-Tellit.

Armed Robberies

02 May 2016: Six armed men abducted vehicle of a water supply company in Timbuktu. Driver said robbers also took his cellphone and a bottle of water. Radio Alfarook

05 May 2016: Armed men abducted vehicle of DDRG (Développement Durable de la Région de Gao), a local NGO, 5km of Tessit, Ansongo Circle, Gao Region. Radio Aadar Koukia

07 May 2016: Gunmen attacked transportation bus at Firchindi near Ansongo. Bandits robbed all passengers from their belongings before tying the driver. Radio Aadar Koukia

07 May 2016: Reportedly, two Malian soldiers killed and five injured during an accident while pursuing armed robbers near Ansongo.

10 May 2016: Armed men attacked and looted two major shops at Goundam. Three Sanili motorcycles were also taken. Radio Djimba Bodo

16 May 2016: Unknown gunmen abducted a vehicle belonging to an NGO in Gao at district 7.

16 May 2016: Civilian vehicle taken by armed men between Douentza and Bambara-Maoude. Two passengers injured and their goods were stolen.

18 May 2016: Two vehicles belonging to an NGO taken by six armed men near Ménaka, including employees of Medecin Sans Frontiere (MSF) that were released.

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NGO vehicles and citerne truck near Ménaka. Source: Maghreb and Sahel Blog

18 May 2016: Unknown gunmen fired at a local merchant at the main market in Kidal.

21 May 2016: Three trucks robbed by armed robbers near In-Delimane between Ménaka and Ansongo. Source: Radio Aadar Koukia

22 May 2016: Four gunmen abducted civilian vehicle arriving from Douékiré, 40km from Goundam. Armed robbers seized all goods and money from passengers and no casualties reported. Source: Radio Djimba Bodo

23 May 2016: Gunmen carried an attack on Dabi village, 20km of Niafunké. Motorcycles taken.

24 May 2016: Four gunmen robbed a truck transporting civilians 40km from Ménaka. Source: Radio Aadar Koukia

30 May 2016: Two armed robbers attempted to rob a bus transporting civilians between Ansongo and Ménaka. Passengers succeeded at disarming and killing the two bandits. Weapons were returned to Malian gendarmerie based in Ansongo. Source: Radio Aadar Koukia


Fulani Refugees at M’berra, Mauritania, Chased by Malian Army

By Rida Lyammouri

May 20th, 2016

After rising to prominence in early 2015 the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) became popular for executing civilians suspected to have collaborated with the Malian forces. The  MLF also repeatedly targeted Malian forces in central and southern Mali, especially in Mopti region. However the Malian Army mishandled the situation and responded by conducting acts of abuse against civilians from Fulani community. Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released in February 2016 highlighted number of these acts from both sides. The recent violence between Bambara and Fulani communities was inevitable. The following comments recorded in May 2015 by Fulani families and notables indicates the seriousness of the issue that was never addressed. While majority of observers and journalists attribute violence in central Mali to the MLF, this appears to be more like settling accounts between armed Fulani and Malian Army. [I will talk in detail about this in a different post]

Note: Transcription is a full translation word by word and not being modified. I do have the full video but I only included screenshots. The recording is about 4mn06s. I am aware recently screenshots from this video circulated on social media speculating an MLF video to come out. This video has nothing to do with the MLF, but more about extractions against civilians and tensions between Bambara and Fulani communities.

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Video title

Video Title: “Fulani Refugees at M’berra, Mauritania, Chased Out by Malian Army”

Fulani notable: “Malian State started something that could not be tolerated. The way they started treating Fulani people will have consequences against them. I am calling all Fulani community in Mali, from Kayes to Kidal. Either the state [Malian] will chase us, or we will achieve our goal. We invite all Fulani of Macina and Nampala to wake up, either we will chase the Malian Army out or they will eradicate us. We can’t understand that we have inherited this land from out ancestors so that the Malian government and France would occupy us. We all have to fight to the last of us standing. Either we win this fight or loose. The cohabitation of Fulani and Bambara communities has ended; they will reap what they sow [get what they deserve].”

Fulani woman: “It’s a conflict imposed by the Malian government that brought us here. Malian Army stole our goods, tortured and executed our men. The Army left us nothing, stole our jewelry, our money, etc. They have arrested me with a Marabout (Modibo Gualel). They [captives] have all been shot or tortured and beaten by rifles. These are marks [showing her hands] when they put handcuffs on me all the way to Nampala.”

“Before were Tuareg and Maures [Arabs], and now Fulani. They [Fulani] became a project for the Malian Army. They kill us, torture us, steal our goods, and poison our wells. What’s left? So they want to kill us as well as our animals, and leave with the rest.”


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Short Assessment on Violent Extremism Threat in Burkina Faso

By Rida Lyammouri

May 18th, 2016

In less than a year Burkina Faso experienced attacks by different extremist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) or Ansar al-Din south, and al-Murabitun of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui. Attacks on Burkina Faso reported to be carried by foreign nationals but recent report of Burkinabe leader within Ansar al-Din confirms recruitment efforts by extremist groups in the country. However this does not necessarily indicate a trend of radicalization among Burkina Faso population.

Compared to neighboring countries in the Sahel Burkina Faso have been relatively peaceful. However there is a noticeable increase of attacks and kidnappings conducted by violent extremist organizations (VEOs) operating in the area. In less than a year two kidnapping incidents and at least four violent attacks were registered in the country. On 04 April 2015, al-Murabitun while still have ties with the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) kidnapped a Romanian security officer from a mine in Tambao near borders with Mali and Niger. The hostage remains in hands of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui branch that pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in May 2015. On 15 January 2016, an Australian couple was taken in Baraboule, also near the Malian border. The abduction was claimed by AQIM, the husband remains in caption while the wife was released in Niger days later.

The attack on Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino restaurant was the deadliest on Burkina Faso soil and garnered most of the media coverage. The incident took place 15 January 2016 when members of AQIM conducted suicide mission downtown Ouagadougou, killing 29 and injuring 100. In the same day at Tin Akoff near borders with Mali, suspected jihadists killed two gendarmes. The Australian couple was also abducted the same day. On 23 August 2015 a police station was attacked in the Oudalan region on the borders with Mali and Niger where al-Murabitun under Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui is suspected to operate. Three police officers injured in the attack. On 09 October 2015 three gendarmes killed in an attack by unidentified gunmen but suspected to be members of the MLF or Ansar al-Din south. Reportedly there is now an Ansar al-Din branch in charge of operations inside Burkina Faso borders, and is led by a local identified as Boubacar Sawadogo. His name surfaced after the arrest of suspected number two man of Ansar al-Din south, Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade, identified as Yacouba Touré. Yacouba Touré was reported to be in charge of supplying weapons to other members of the group in Mali but also in Burkina Faso.

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Splendid hotel after 15 January 2016 attack, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Source: AFP

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) are posing real threat on Burkina Faso, especially on the borders with Mali and Niger. Security installations are the main target as 17 May 2016 incident demonstrated. Two policemen injured and attackers remain at large. Trend of attacking security forces likely to continue, as groups will seek to seize weapons and also to undermine local authorities. Armed groups will also exploit opportunities of kidnapping foreign nationals for ransoms. Furthermore, these types of attacks are an attempt to garner popularity among local population for recruitment purposes. However local communities in Burkina Faso have demonstrated more resilience to extremism than its neighbors. For instance, during my visit earlier this month I was told that local population and local religious figures recently stood up against a radical preacher in Djori, north of the country on the borders with Mali. To maintain and duplicate this type of resilience, Burkina Faso government and its local and international partners has to tackle grievances addressed by local population after recent political transition. This is important because VEOs in the region will continue to seek alternative refuge and sanctuary in countries like Burkina Faso due to increased pressure from French, MINUSMA, and Malian forces in Mali.