Malian army says it has “neutralized” around 30 jihadists ~ #REUTERS:
Jihadist groups in the Sahel affiliated to Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda have been fighting each other since the beginning of 2020 in deadly fighting in Mali and Burkina Faso, after years of more or less frank cooperation, experts and local sources.
Historical rivals on other fronts like Syria, the nebula created by Osama bin Laden and the Islamic State group rather joined forces in this part of the Sahel where thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the breakup. of a multifaceted crisis in northern Mali in 2012.
Hundreds of soldiers from states in the region have died in recent months in attacks attributed to the jihadists.
Since the start of the year, sporadic clashes between the IS and al-Qaeda movements have turned into clashes that have left dozens dead in central Mali and western Burkina Faso.
It is difficult to obtain reliable information on this struggle with fuzzy causes, waged in areas where jihadist activities are mixed with intercommunal violence, robbery and, according to a recent UN report, the increasing abuses national armies.
But these clashes “are no longer a secret,” said the representative of the UN secretary general in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, in late April.
“There are quarrels in the field, we don’t know where it will end, each wants to take over the other,” he said.
The groups linked to Al-Qaeda, grouped since 2017 under the banner of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), have been established in northern Mali since 2012 and in the center since 2015.
As for the group affiliated to ISIS, born in 2015 from a split led by Adnan Abou Walid Sahraoui, it operates mainly in the so-called “three borders” area, between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
Without collaborating officially, these groups had “several times joined forces”, carrying out joint attacks or employing the same combatants who pass from one group to another, said a Western diplomat in Bamako.
Although there are ideological differences, the reasons for joining one group or the other are “often very local” and meet, says the diplomat: belonging to a poorly integrated minority, having grievances against the state or being unemployed.
“These (recent) conflicts should not be seen only from an ideological perspective, there are also and above all very local dynamics”, adds Ibrahim Maïga, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Bamako.
The first months of the year, which correspond to the dry period, are conducive for example to quarrels around the bourgou, a fodder that grows in the swamps of the interior delta of the Niger river.
“The jihadists, like everyone else in this area, also fight for the” bourgoutières “and their cattle,” said a security expert in Mopti, the main town in central Mali.
In early 2020, IS fighters arrived in central Mali “mostly from Burkina Faso” through the border region of Gourma where clashes were reported, ensures a local notable, confirming the words of several interlocutors.
In the Dialloubé area, where the Macina katiba, one of the GSIM’s branches historically operates, IS fighters went “village to village” in January and February to spread their messages, “he said.
“More than 60 jihadists were killed” in mid-March near Dialloubé, reports a source close to the governorate of Mopti.
In Burkina Faso, IS propaganda claimed that its fighters had killed “over 35” GSIM members in late April in a fight near the Malian border. She also reported the use of a car bomb by an ISIS “martyr” against a GSIM base in the same area.
Information from these areas is questionable because “often contradictory or exaggerated,” warns Ibrahim Maïga, the ISS researcher.
Unlike attacks on military camps, which are increasingly sophisticated videos, no image of the clashes has been published by the belligerents.