UN Reports: ISIL Expands Territory in Mali at an Alarming Rate within a Year

Un Reports: Isil Expands Territory In Mali At An Alarming Rate Within A Year

ISIS has significantly expanded its territory in Mali, according to experts from the United Nations. In less than a year, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has almost doubled its control of rural areas in eastern Menaka and large parts of the Ansongo area in northern Gao. These gains have been achieved amidst stalled peace efforts and have further eroded trust in the signatories of the 2015 peace agreement. The extremist group, along with its Al Qaeda-affiliated rivals, has capitalized on the implementation delay to carry out attacks and make a bid for the re-establishment of an Islamist state in the northern region, replicating what happened in 2012.

According to the report shared by the Associated Press, the Al Qaeda affiliate, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), is now positioning itself as the sole protector of populations against the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. The political instability in Mali, which has experienced several coups in recent years, continues to hamper efforts to counter terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa. France and the US, both having troops in Niger, have suspended their counterterror operations following the coup. Meanwhile, Mali’s leaders have warned against military intervention in Niger by Ecowas, the bloc of West African states, as it would be viewed as a declaration of war against them.

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As ISIS’ presence dwindles in the Middle East, it is gaining strength in Africa. Experts have previously noted its growing influence in countries such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In June, the UN peacekeeping force and its international troops were ordered to leave Mali by the junta. The Security Council terminated the mission’s mandate on June 30. The UN peacekeeping force, Minusma, played a vital role in facilitating peace talks and monitoring violations of the peace agreement. Throughout its mandate in Mali, over 300 Minusma personnel lost their lives, making it the world’s deadliest peacekeeping mission.

The UN expert panel also raised concerns about the potential collapse of the 2015 peace deal without UN mediation, which could lead to another uprising in the northern regions. Additionally, the report accused Russia’s Wagner Group of involvement in persistent sexual violence in central and eastern Mali. This panel believes that foreign security partners, including the Wagner Group, are using violence against women and other grave human rights abuses to spread fear among the population. Last month, the US sanctioned Malian officials, including the Minister of Defense, over alleged connections to the Wagner Group. Washington also accused the paramilitary group of orchestrating Minusma’s departure from Mali.

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