In contrast to 2008, 2009 saw increased terrorist activity on Malian soil, although at the end of the year it was unclear if this increased activity was indicative of a long-term change in the terrorist environment in Mali.
On May 31, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) executed a British citizen, Edwin Dyer, who had been kidnapped in Niger on January 22 and held in northern Mali along with several other western hostages.
On June 10, AQIM elements assassinated Malian State Security officer Colonel Lamana Ould Bou at his residence in Timbuktu.
On November 29, three Spanish aid workers were kidnapped by AQIM in Mauritania, but were brought to northern Mali, where they were still being held at year's end.
On December 18, AQIM kidnapped two Italians in Mauritania, but brought them to northern Mali, where they were still being held at year's end.Although the Malian government was aware that northern Mali was being used by AQIM as a safe haven, Mali's long, porous borders and a general lack of resources have hindered the country's ability to combat AQIM effectively.
Although the kidnapping of westerners is a continuation of AQIM's tactics of prior years, the execution of Edwin Dyer, the kidnapping of Pierre Camatte on Malian soil, and the attacks against Colonel Ould Bou and the Malian army represented a significant departure from AQIM's prior tactics in northern Mali.
Following the assassination of Colonel Ould Bou, the Malians launched a military operation in northern Mali targeting AQIM. The Malian military effort included extended patrols through areas where AQIM was thought to be present, and resulted in engagements on June 15 and in July. The beginning of the rainy season led to a lull in military action.
Mali continued to address terrorist financing issues. Mali's National Section for the Processing of Financial Information, which began operations in May 2008, received eight reports of suspicious financial activities during the year, although ongoing investigations have not yet revealed any links to terrorist financing or terrorist activity.
Mali has expressed a willingness to increase regional cooperation against AQIM and terrorism generally. Mali is a Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership country. Mali also works with other regional partners and organizations to support its counterterrorism efforts, notably the Algerian-led counterterrorism coalition comprised of Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania. Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure has long called for a regional Heads of State Summit to be held in Bamako to discuss coordination of counterterrorism efforts, including improved border monitoring and security. On August 12 in Algeria, Mali participated in a meeting with military chiefs of staff from Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger to draft a counterterrorism strategy for the Sahara.
Mali is an engaged and active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. It is also an active participant in U.S. programs including bilateral, joint combined exchange and regional military training, and the Antiterrorism Assistance Training program.