Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Mali

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 31 July 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Mali, 31 July 2012, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) maintained encampments in remote parts of northern Mali during 2011, principally as rear bases for its activities in neighboring countries.

Mali reaffirmed its support for activities countering AQIM and has been an advocate for enhanced regional cooperation. Mali-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation was strong in 2011. U.S.-led Joint Combined Exercises and Trainings have built the capacity of Malian mobile units called Echelons Tactiques Inter-armes, and the 33rd Paratrooper Regiment to conduct effective patrols and interrupt the activities of AQIM. Mali has participated in the multinational military exercise, FLINTLOCK, since its inception. Malian National Police, Gendarmerie, and National Guard have benefitted from Anti-Terrorism Assistance programs.

2011 Terrorist Incidents: Mali experienced a significant uptick in terrorist activity during 2011, including kidnappings and hostages held on Malian soil. In the past year, AQIM has expanded its area of operation to southern Mali, particularly along Mali's northern border with Mauritania.

  • On January 5, Bechir Sinoun, a Tunisian national who had received training in AQIM camps in the north of Mali, repeatedly fired a handgun and attempted to detonate an improvised explosive device in front of the main gate of the French Embassy in Bamako. He was eventually overcome by a Malian pedestrian and was subsequently arrested.

  • On October 23, an AQIM-affiliated group kidnapped three aid workers – two Spanish and one Italian – from a Polisario-run refugee camp near Tindouf. AQIM are suspected of holding the hostages on Malian soil.

  • On the night of November 23-24, armed individuals possibly affiliated with AQIM kidnapped two French nationals in Hombori, Mopti Region, and reportedly delivered them to AQIM, which is believed to be holding them on Malian soil. Malian security forces arrested two suspects involved in the kidnapping; investigations continued at year's end.

  • On November 25, armed assailants possibly affiliated with AQIM kidnapped three European tourists and killed a fourth in Timbuktu city, Timbuktu Region. The hostages – Dutch, Swedish, and South African/British nationals – were reportedly being held on Malian soil; the individual who was killed, a German national, died while resisting the kidnapping attempt. Malian security forces reportedly arrested two of the assailants. The investigation continued at year's end.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Mali's law enforcement efforts have increased over the past year, including the arrest of Bechir Sinoun for the attempted bombing of the French Embassy in Bamako, the detention of two individuals affiliated with AQIM in Bamako, and the arrest of two individuals implicated in the Hombori kidnapping. The Malian judiciary tried and convicted Bechir Sinoun, sentencing him to death on November 29; however, the Malian government subsequently repatriated Sinoun to Tunisia at the request of the Tunisian government so he could be tried there. Mali continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Mali is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, or GIABA, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Mali's Financial Intelligence Unit, the Cellule Nationale de Traitement des Informations Financières (CENTIF), organized training in November for bank employees, key civil servants, and judicial officials in Kayes Region, which received one of the highest volumes of remittances in Mali. Following Mali's accession to the Egmont Group in July, CENTIF personnel attended an Egmont-sponsored Counterterrorist Finance seminar in Bamako on August 16-19. CENTIF also participated in a workshop sponsored by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Dakar, Senegal on March 9-11 related to freezing assets belonging to individuals suspected of money laundering or terrorist finance. The main impediments to improving law enforcement response to terrorist finance were a lack of coordination between CENTIF and the law enforcement community as well as insufficient judicial capacity to transform CENTIF investigations into effective prosecutions.

Mali lacked the capacity to trace informal networks and money/value transfer systems including hawala. Like most West African countries, Mali relies on cash for virtually all daily transactions. While businesses were technically required to report cash transactions over approximately U.S. $10,000, most do not.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Mali has significantly increased its cooperation with regional partners both politically and operationally. Mali has been a member of the Combined Operational General Staff Committee (CEMOC), based in Tamanrasset, Algeria, since its creation in 2010. It chaired the CEMOC for the year ending November 21, at which time the chairmanship passed to Mauritania. Mali has hosted ministerial level conferences including a summit of foreign ministers as well as periodic meetings of the armed forces chiefs of staff of the CEMOC partner countries. Mali also participated in joint operations with Mauritania, driving AQIM elements out of the Ouagadou Forest region for a period of time. Malian military elements were reported to be training with Algerian military counterparts in Kidal Region in December.

In addition to the United States, Mali continued to work closely with other international partners including Canada, France, the European Union, and United Nations (UN) Agencies. Mali's security forces have benefitted from French counterterrorism and UN Office on Drugs and Crime training.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Malian officials and prominent religious leaders routinely condemned violent extremist ideology and terrorist acts. In general, violent extremist ideologies have not found a receptive audience among Malians. In September, the Malian government secured funding and began work on the Special Program for Peace, Security and Development in the North. The program's overarching goal is to reestablish state authority in northern Mali, but it also provides development assistance and a communications program that may have a countering violent extremism component.

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