Mali: Ménaka region has become terrorists’ “priority target”

Mali: Ménaka region has become terrorists’ “priority target”

Published on: 08/19/2022 – 07:12

The city of Ménaka in north-eastern Mali is coming under increasing pressure from terrorists from the “Islamic State” group. This has been the case across the Dreiländereck region for months, but in recent days the noose has tightened dangerously around the city itself. On Thursday, August 18, there was an uneasy calm on the ground.

On August 12, twenty civilians were killed in Esseylel, less than 20 kilometers from Ménaka. Three days later, on Monday the 15th, Islamic State group fighters on motorbikes stole livestock outside the city gates, sparking a panic movement: the governor and several civilian officials took refuge in the military camp and spent the night there. .

worrying situation

Since then, the situation has calmed down, the representatives of the Malian state have returned to their offices and an official public ceremony was even held on Wednesday 17 August. But the situation remains more than worrying: Since March, according to sources, between 300 and 700 civilians have been murdered in the region by the Islamic State group, which the United Nations says controls three-quarters of them. “They have made Ménaka their priority target,” confirms a leader of a local armed group.

Present in Ménaka are the Gatia-MSA coalition, armed groups, signatories to the peace agreement and allies of Bamako, the Minusma peacekeepers and the Malian army – who have not responded to requests from RFI; Hence as his Russian auxiliaries. The latter would currently be 20 to 50 men who, according to several local sources, sometimes but rarely leave their camp.

Several Malian security sources say they do not believe in an immediate offensive on the city. That Jihadists who remain present around Ménaka would ride about twenty or thirty motorcycles—the kind that usually carry two gunmen. During the most massive offensives in recent months, there were several hundred.

“Big Battles”

“A new group of fighters linked to ISIS and stationed in the Andéramboukane sector is gaining strength,” explains one of these sources, at the moment they are stealing cattle to resell to finance themselves and grow. But great battles are to be expected.

According to the United Nations, more than 50,000 displaced people have found refuge in the city, which is “packed to capacity,” a Menaka socialite said, concerned about the humanitarian situation. And he concludes: “I hope that the leaders in Bamako have finally taken measure of what is happening here”.

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