- UN experts have said in a new report that the Islamic State (IS) has almost doubled its territory in Mali in less than a year, adding that the country could again see 'the 2012 scenario,' in which militants took over Northern Mali and declared it an Islamic state.1
- The group now reportedly controls rural areas in eastern Menaka and large parts of the Ansongo area in northern Gao. The report also said that IS attacks in the area have eroded trust in the 2015 peace agreement, with communities still being vulnerable to extremists.2
- The report claims that IS and other Al Qaeda-affiliated rival groups have taken advantage of the delay in implementing the 2015 deal, staging attacks and planning to re-establish an Islamist state in the north of the country.2
- The UN experts said that sustained IS attacks helped empower the al-Qaeda-linked Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) as it vies for power in the north, stating the group now presents itself as the 'sole actor capable of protecting populations' of the Greater Sahara from IS.3
- Though a French-led military campaign prevented the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012, the militants managed to regroup. In June, the ruling junta — which has come to power in two coups since 2020 — announced that UN forces had failed their mission in Mali and were no longer welcome.4
- The report comes amid escalating tensions following a military coup in neighboring Niger in July. In response to the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military intervention in Niger, prompting military leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso to back Niamey.5
- Narrative A, as provided by ISS Africa. Though violent extremism is spilling over from the Sahel to coastal states in West Africa, a purely military response to the existential threat will fall short of protecting innocent citizens. Such actions would fail to tackle the root causes enabling and fueling the emergence of jihadis in the region or stop retaliatory attacks. Governments must focus on breaking terrorists' supply chains if they are serious about addressing domestic terrorism.
- Narrative B, as provided by E. While the Sahel and West Africa attacks have been linked to jihadists for decades, the Westphalian state crisis has been a potent force behind continuous aggression. Violent extremist groups, ethnic leaders, and foreign powers are operating in the region, and they are very much part of the years-long multi-dimensional conflict in West Africa. Simply blaming terrorism for the region's apathy will not help it recover.