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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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  #376  
Old 7 Apr 2012
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MNLA heading for a clash with Islamist extremists?

Below source mentions that AQMI could be overplaying its hand resulting in possibly being attacked by MNLA at all positions they hold in the region.

Seems to me, MNLA could use some backup in their struggle from both African as Western countries however there are no signs that any are going to support their cause at this point.

Les rebelles touareg en guerre contre Al Qaida au Maghreb islamique ? | L'Afrique en chemin
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Last edited by Jagoil; 16 Apr 2012 at 18:07.
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  #377  
Old 7 Apr 2012
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Very good analysis of what's been going on between MNLA and Ansar Dine before and since their take over in the north of Mali.

http://thewasat.wordpress.com/2012/0...flies-in-mali/
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  #378  
Old 7 Apr 2012
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Algeria to rescue their diplomats?

Mali : les forces spéciales Algériennes se préparent à intervenir - NessNews
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  #379  
Old 7 Apr 2012
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Belmokhtar seen in Gao friday/saturday:

Mali: présence à Gao de Mokhtar Belmokhtar, un des chefs d’Aqmi | MaliActu
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  #380  
Old 8 Apr 2012
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Algerian diplomats reportedly freed sunday morning:

Urgent : Mali : Les diplomates algériens libérés - Actualité - El Watan
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  #381  
Old 9 Apr 2012
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El Watan reporting not always reliable, but always interesting:

"Yesterday, whole columns of members and close to al Qaeda have left the town of Kidal, others settled in Gao, have started from yesterday. All these terrorists were heading to the region Taoudenni, northwest of Mali, near the border with Mauritania. The area is known to be their stronghold long enough, we are told".

Les chefs du MNLA optimistes : «Nous attendons le retour des otages» - International - El Watan
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  #382  
Old 10 Apr 2012
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Serious equipment arrives in Timbuktu with conflict in the making

Al Jazeera Youtube video from Timbuktu
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  #383  
Old 11 Apr 2012
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The escalation evident in nomadic's posting is bad news for Mali desert travel. The kit shown, such as the APC, is a big step towards conventional engagement rather than hit and run. To me it indicates that it will be some time till the place returns to normal. What is interesting from the youtube clip is the lack of explicit reference to AQIM.

The Malian government had this coming. For 10 years they have let this issue directly fester. Press is quick to blame the outfall from Libya but the truth is the Malian officials did nothing about the north and allowed free reign there. Its no surprise really.
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  #384  
Old 13 Apr 2012
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The new Mali interim president - Dioncounda Traore;

"We will never negotiate the partition of Mali,"

"We prefer peace, but if war is the only way out, we will wage it,"

Interim Mali leader promises vote, anti-rebel fight

Not good....
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  #385  
Old 16 Apr 2012
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round-up

The last three AQIM kidnappings in the Sahara have taken place in Mali (assuming the April 2012 event was AQIM). Where once Mali seemed to be exempt from kidnappings, by way of some agreement between AQIM and the Malian Government, that agreement has clearly folded alongside the government control of the desert in Mali.

So far it seems that AQIM have more room to roam in the desert than before given the withdrawal of government troops from their patch following the Taureg uprising. The open question for westerners going to the Sahara is whether AQIM are now going to operate mainly in N Mali. If so, it would imply other parts of the Sahara are safer. From the perspective of the Taureg rebels, if it is as simple as there being one voice which represents them - and it isn't that simple - the open question seems to be what the Taureg view on AQIM is. There were reports of AQIM packing off to W Mali. From a Taureg perspective this makes some sense because it won't help the Taureg case when viewed outside of Mali to be seen to be aligning with AQIM.

Taking a broader view, the interesting thing to me is that every geopolitical move in the Sahara seems somehow to favour AQIM. Why is this? It can only be because their strategy is as smart as it is flexible. They respond fast and make the most of every chance. Countries and governments can't react in this way. For example, when word of the Libyan chaos reached AQIM, I imagine they sat round the fire for a couple of nights before sending off a dozen or so with a few million euros to see what they could find in the Libyan supermarkets. Within a week they were onsite bidding for kit. A government cannot react to analogous opportunities that fast or that flexibly. Institutions get bogged down with protocol, representation, policy, precedent - dare I say democracy. By the time they have a decision, which is usually a horrible compromise, things have moved on. AQIM is like a small platoon of special forces. The organisations trying to combat AQIM are like a conscripted army.

So where are we in the Sahara at the moment safety-wise when it comes to kidnapping? Clearly there is a focus on Mali. An optimistic view is that other regions (Algeria and Mauri) are better off now. AQIM get what they want in Mali and are pre-occupied with events inside the Malian political borders. Ransoms are slow and hostages are held for record lengths. AQIM has the potential to further carve out its niche but this is happening inside Mali only at the moment.

A pessimistic view is that AQIM have even more space in N Mali to operate and are linking across the Sahel to Nigeria. They might throw in the occasional op in Algeria and Mauri to show their worth. It doesn't take much to scare off the tourist trade across an enormous swathe of the Sahara. AQIM can't go anywhere and with their wealth, they are unlikely to dissolve. There is no prospect of a military defeat and in any case that is less likely now with the Libyan kit AQIM has. Its hard to see how AQIM could go away.

My view of Saharan travel? There is scope in Sudan and Egypt (which accounts now for a lot of the STF postings). Mali is off. No travellers go to the desert in Niger as far as I can tell. A few carefully scoped trips happen in Mauri and these are exactly the way to do these trips. Chad is still looking OK. Algeria has slowed down hugely to a tiny trickle. Libya has new potential particularly with trans-Sahara trips to Chad - but those are not for the inexperienced.

Its the hot season now anyway. Travel wouldn't resume until November even in a good year. So there are 6 or so months to see what happens in Mali and Libya and to hope that Chad holds out.
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  #386  
Old 16 Apr 2012
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So Chad or Mauretania it is

The tuareg take-over in Mali unleashed all sorts of bearded youth with Kalashnikovs, jihadists coming from all countries east and west. Reports from Gao of a large group of Nigerians saying they are Boko Harum.
I don't think the tuareg-led rebellion movement MNLA anticipated this, at least not the extent of it. And they certainly didn't imagine that one of their own leaders Iyad Ag Ghaly would come out as a new-born hard core islamist tieing up with Aqim and demanding sharia not only in Azawad but all of Mali (and therefore being opposed to independence). He did appoint the Aqim leader as new governor of Timbuktu. Totally crazy.
AQIM leader named Timbuktu governor (Magharebia.com)
Now MNLA has promised to eradicate all foreign armed individuals from their territory, and disarm the rest. But they show reluctance to do so - and are playing a game where they use Aqim to get leverage for support. "Why should we have to do this alone?"
Fighting jihadists will be much harder than running out the malian army.
I think the latest tally is 22 people kidnapped. One Brit/SA, one Dutch, one Swede, six French, seven Algerians, one German, two Italian, two Spanish and the latest one Swiss lady, the last westerner in TB2. And noone is looking to pay a ransom. Sarkozy is desperate for some progress before elections; he may cut a deal with MNLA?
Mauretania was asked yesterday to intervene by a Mali envoy, but they would probably only do that in cooperation with MNLA - how would Bamako fancy that? (The MNLA have their command centers in Paris and Nouakchott).
On top of it all there was a coup d'etat in Bamako and noone knows how that will develop.
South Libya there is fighting between tobou and arabs. Tobou demands for independence; that would spill over into Chad and Niger as well.
Perhaps the maps will be re-written quite a bit in the coming decade?
Interesting times ahead. Ideally, MNLA will hold their word and take control of their desert, chasing Aqim back into Algeria and other neighbouring countries. With some assistance from Mauretania and, perhaps, French and US lurking in the background.
Worst case, north of Mali will be like Afghanistan, with jihadism spreading in all directions.

edit: the sad state of the Malian army Mali : quelle armée pour la reconquête du Nord ? | Jeuneafrique

For some entertainment, here's Jeremy Keenan's take on it all: Algerian DRS is behind it all, including the purported beheading of Malian soldiers at Aguelhoc in March. With Us & UK backup, of course. They were all training for the job at the DRS led AQIM training camp in Tassili n'Ajjer Menas Associates: Algerian troops in Mali
(anyone seen this camp on the plateau?).

Last edited by priffe; 17 Apr 2012 at 00:47.
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  #387  
Old 16 Apr 2012
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Account of a German woman who escaped from Timbuktu very recently:

" They put indigo on my skin for me to look less white. I was dressed in traditional clothing. I blacked hair, put on sunglasses and then we left in the desert. I did not know where we were going, how long we would wait. We stayed there for an hour then we went to another place and then when they were assured it was safe for me to go to the airport, they have taken me there. I stayed at the airport in Timbuktu a night and Sunday morning we left with two vehicles in the desert. We even changed cars, we went through Nianfounké, Lere and finally we arrived at the Mauritanian border where I was given to the authorities. Well, there it was over . "

Mali : plusieurs Occidentaux exfiltrés de Tombouctou pour échapper aux rapts - Mali - RFI
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  #388  
Old 17 Apr 2012
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The Malian army going in for an offense in the North seems like a total disaster to me and drains country resources even more.

Maybe let the area soak for a while in the complexities of tribalism mixed jihad dudes and bandits. Won't be long for internal struggles to start to form a new order. Anyone can hold a gun, but building a tribal nation is something completely different.

Anyhow, visibility of the various groups involved has increased tremendously. They have a geo-position to defend making them much more vulnerable and in need for supplies of all sorts. Has to come from somewhere...

Nevertheless, it's a sad development. But it just may be inevitable - a struggle that simply has to be fought out.
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  #389  
Old 20 Apr 2012
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AQIM asking for release of prisoners rather than a ransom for the 2 French taken in Hombori, according to this report:

Les familles des deux otages français au Mali vont visionner une vidéo envoyée par les ravisseurs - Le Nouvel Observateur
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  #390  
Old 29 May 2012
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Mauritania stepping up military action along the Mali border

Mauritanian troops stage border drills (Magharebia.com)
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