Innocent Civilians Forced To Flee East As Mali Continues Its Battle Against Armed Rebel Groups

Mali’s constant struggle to combat armed group violence shows no signs of stopping as 11 people were killed and 53 injured when a bus collided with an explosive device in central Mali on Thursday, October 13th. According to Al Jazeera, the explosion took place on a road in between Bandiagara and Goundaka, located in the Mopti area, a region known for persistent violence by recurring armed group presence.

Mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have increasingly become the weapon of choice amongst rebel groups throughout Mali. As of August 31st, MINUSMA, the United Nations mission in Mali, has reported 72 deaths at the hands of IEDs. A quarter of those deaths were innocent civilians, and the rest were soldiers. Just in 2021, 103 were killed, and 297 injured by IEDs and mines. Outside of the Mopti area, Action on Armed Violence cited that Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal have been some of the most impacted areas from threats of IED and mine explosion, most notably incited by al-Qaeda affiliated groups like the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and pro-Bamako militia GATIA.

Islamist militants continued to progress into eastern Mali, following up to the IED attack in Mopti. In the days following, Reuters reported the killing of hundreds of civilians that had resulted in the forcible fleeing of thousands of civilians from eastern Mali. The death of innocent Malian civilians in attacks orchestrated by Mali’s army, jihadist grounds associated with al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State has amassed the death of over 107 civilians over the course of recent months.

There are multiple actors at play that continue to jeopardize the peace and security that ought to be granted to the people of Mali. Major offensives between Tuareg separatists and the Islamic State have been exacerbated by the power vacuums left as France continues to pull out its soldiers. Other international troops have also withdrawn from Mali, leaving grounds for regular militant attacks on Mali’s army and people.

Mali’s withdrawal from the G5 Sahel on May 15th individualizes its fight against rebel attacks without proper funding or equipment. The recent IED and vicious attacks orchestrated by militant groups signal the upcoming continuation of the long journey that awaits Mali in its efforts to repel the multiplication of extremist groups throughout the country. Corinne Dufka, the Sahel director for the Human Rights Watch exclaims the “complete disregard for human life, which includes apparent war crimes, should be investigated and those found to be implicated, appropriately punished.” The abuses of innocent lives in Mali has not and will not go unnoticed, as the conflict continues since the Malian coup in 2012.