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UN: Al-Qaeda and Islamic State fuel insecurity in Mali


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UNITED NATIONS — Extremist groups from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are fueling insecurity in central Mali and continue to clash near populated areas in the northern regions of Gao and Ménaka, the head of the the UN in a new report released on Monday.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres said “the level and frequency of incidents of violence remain exceptionally high”, with attacks by “violent extremist groups” against civilians accounting for the majority of documented human rights violations.

“Attacks on civilians by terrorist groups, the struggle for influence between them and the violent activities carried out by community militias remain a chilling daily reality, as do the attacks on the Malian Defense and Security Forces and on the MINUSMA,” the UN peacekeeper said. strength, he said.

António Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council that “in the future, military operations against extremist groups will continue to be a crucial element for the restoration of security”.

In central Mali, he said, extremists are taking advantage of intercommunal conflict to expand their influence and secure new recruits.

In the northern regions of Gao and Ménaka, António Guterres said fighters from al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin known as JNIM and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara also continue to clash, causing civilian casualties and thousands of people to flee. violence.

He said the number of displaced people in Mali had risen from 397,000 to 442,620 in October, with the closure of some 1,950 schools affecting more than 587,000 children. Humanitarian aid is reaching only 2.5 million people out of the 5.3 million who need it, he said.

The Secretary-General stressed that ultimate success against extremist groups will depend on whether operations are accompanied by efforts “to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, foster social cohesion, address the fragility structure and provide basic services”.

Mali has been struggling to contain an extremist Islamic insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were driven from power in towns in northern Mali with the help of a French-led military operation, but they have regrouped in the desert and began to launch attacks against the Malian army and its allies. . Insecurity has worsened with attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers.

In August 2020, the president of Mali was overthrown in a coup that involved then-army colonel Assimi Goita. In June 2021, Goita was sworn in as president of a transitional government after leading his second coup in nine months. France, Mali’s former colonial power, withdrew the last of thousands of French forces in August 2022 amid acrimonious exchanges with the transitional government.

In late 2021, Goita reportedly decided to allow the deployment of Russia’s Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked private military contractor that also operates in Ukraine to support Moscow’s troops during the 11-month war.

The report does not name Wagner, but states that MINUSMA “documented violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed during military operations carried out by the Malian armed forces, accompanied by foreign security personnel. and dozos”, who are traditional hunters.

It says the UN force has also documented “some instances in which foreign security personnel appear to have committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law while conducting military air and ground operations in the center of the country”.

On the political level, the Malian presidential election which was scheduled for February 2022 should now take place in February 2024.

António Guterres highlighted the progress made in setting up a single electoral management body and submitting a draft constitution. He urged the authorities to speed up the implementation of the electoral calendar published in July 2022.

Equally important to lasting stabilization in Mali, he said, is the implementation of the 2015 peace accord signed by three parties – the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordination des Mouvements de l’ Azawad which includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs seeking autonomy in northern Mali, and a pro-government militia known as the Platform.

“However,” said António Guterres, “the movements’ recent decision to suspend their participation in the implementation process is a source of grave concern.”

The Secretary-General stressed that the primary responsibility for moving the peace process forward rests with the parties, and he urged them “to engage constructively with each other and with the international mediation team to overcome the obstacles current”.

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