Overview: Following the March 2012 coup that toppled the elected government of President Amadou Toumani Touré, northern Mali – representing 10 percent of Mali's population and over half of its territory – was taken over by terrorist groups including al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Ansar al-Dine (AAD). The interim Government of Mali requested international support to reunite the country and combat the terrorist threat. At year's end, the UN, the AU, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were working with the United States and European partners to prepare and conduct a Malian-led and ECOWAS-supported military action to recapture the north and combat terrorist groups.
Consistent with the legislative restriction on assistance to the government of a country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'état, all U.S. assistance to the Government of Mali, including military and security assistance, was terminated following the coup.
2012 Terrorist Incidents: During the year, AQIM, MUJAO, and AAD captured the entire northern half of Mali, including the towns of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal. AAD destroyed UNESCO World Heritage sites, including sacred Sufi shrines in Timbuktu, and enforced a severe form of Sharia law, cutting off the hand of an alleged cattle thief and stoning to death an unmarried couple with two children. Other terrorist incidents included:
On April 5, seven Algerian diplomats were kidnapped by MUJAO from their post in Gao. At least four members of the group were being held at year's end; two of the hostages had been released, and one died in custody.
On October 14, MUJAO kidnapped six African aid workers in Niger and transported them to Mali. MUJAO had allegedly been targeting an Italian anthropologist working for the NGO Doctors without Borders in the region. Five Nigerien nationals were released at the Mali-Niger border on November 3, but the sixth victim, a Chadian national, died from his wounds.
On November 20, a French tourist was kidnapped by MUJAO in Diema, a town in northwestern Mali, as he traveled to Bamako.
In addition to these kidnapping victims, at year's end MUJAO and AQIM held nine other people hostage in northern Mali from kidnapping operations conducted in previous years.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Malian law enforcement arrested a number of alleged terrorists, both Malian and foreign, who were suspected of trying to join northern armed groups. Some were cases of mistaken identity, such as two al-Jazeera journalists arrested on December 1, who were later released. There were no successful prosecutions as a result of these arrests.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Mali is a member of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Mali's Financial Intelligence Unit is the National Center for the Treatment of Financial Information (CENTIF). In 2012, the director of the CENTIF received training on asset freezing, while the magistrate assigned to the CENTIF received training on prosecution-related issues. CENTIF is authorized by law to freeze assets for a maximum of 48 hours while conducting an investigation. The 48-hour period can be extended, but only by a magistrate. The main impediments to improving the Malian 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's capacity and will to freeze and confiscate assets remains unclear. Mali has yet to identify or freeze any assets under Malian jurisdiction of UN-designated terrorist individuals or entities. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: In the aftermath of the coup d'état, Mali was suspended from regional bodies such as ECOWAS and the AU, but was reinstated into the AU in October. Mali has been a member of the Combined Operational General Staff Committee (CEMOC), based in Tamanrasset, Algeria, since CEMOC's creation in 2010. An AU/ECOWAS sponsored military training mission has been planned cooperatively with members of the Malian Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff.
Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Malian officials and prominent religious leaders routinely condemned violent extremist ideology and terrorist acts. As a general matter, violent extremist ideologies have not found a receptive audience among Malians.