From the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Mali, including in the capital Bamako. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be especially vigilant in places such as hotels, restaurants and places of worship, and be aware that there may be a heightened risk of attack during Ramadan and the run up to the Presidential elections on 29 July. You should always avoid areas where public marches and demonstrations are taking place.

Following French/African military intervention in Mali in January 2013, there’s a high threat of retaliatory kidnap or attack against western interests, especially in areas north of Mopti, though the threat exists throughout the country. There have been a number of recent bomb attacks in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and In Khalil. Further attacks are likely.

In February 2017, the US Embassy in Bamako issued a warning to its citizens about the threat of terrorist attack against large gatherings, including music festivals. The Festival au Désert in Timbuktu was cancelled in January 2017 due to security concerns. Festivals in other parts of the country, such as the Festival sur le Niger in Segou, are vulnerable to attack.

As seen in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, terrorist groups continue to mount attacks on hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners. Be especially vigilant in these places.

Methods of attack have included complex attacks by militants, kidnappings, small arms fire and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDS).

Recent attacks include:

  • 7 May 2017 – 7 Malian soldiers killed and 7 others reported wounded in an attack on a military position in the village of Almoustrat in the northwest of Mali
  • 3 May 2017 – an attack on MINUSMA Camp at Timbuktu airport killed one person and 9 UN peacekeepers were reported injured
  • 18 April 2017 – military barracks in Tagharoust located 150 km south of Timbuktu was captured by a terrorist group with an unspecified number of soldiers killed and wounded
  • 16 April 2017 – attack on MINUSMA unit near to the city of Kidal
  • 25 March 2017 – attack on army checkpoint 150 km from the city of Gao; 3 Malian soldiers reported dead and 4 wounded
  • 18 January 2017 – a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated inside a military camp in Gao, northern Mali; over 50 people, including Malian armed forces and UN contractors, were killed

In early 2017 the government of Mali joined Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania (G5 Sahel countries) in announcing an agreement to set up a joint counter-terrorism force to tackle the jihadist threat.

The threat is likely to continue as groups remain intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the region. This threat has been demonstrated by the March 2017 merger of AQ-M Sahel, Ansar al-Dine and al-Murabitun into the new group ‘Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen’. The threat to western interests in the region remains. Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.

Kidnap

There’s a high threat of kidnapping by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and other regional Islamist groups These groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya. Although the kidnap threat is most significant in Northern Mali, there is a risk of kidnap in all areas of Mali including the capital Bamako and areas in the south of Mali where the FCO advises against all but essential travel. Westerners have been kidnapped in Mali and the wider Sahel region, including in Kidal, Kayes, Timbuktu, Gao and Hombori.

The kidnap threat isn’t limited to northern Mali as AQ-IM and other terrorist groups have a proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out kidnaps, including in neighboring countries. Western nationals were abducted from the Tambau region in Burkina Faso by armed groups in April 2015 and January 2016.

If you’re working or travelling in Mali, you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping. You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times, including when travelling, in crowded public places, including camps for displaced people, religious gatherings and insecure spaces like places of worship, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants and transport hubs. You should make sure you have carefully considered the threat and have reasonable, proportionate mitigation measures in place.

The terrorist threat in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin

There is a very high threat of kidnapping by terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region. A number of western nationals including tourists, NGO workers and diplomats have been kidnapped in the Sahel over the last ten years, and several are still being held. Some, including several British nationals, have been killed by their captors. Those engaged in humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

There are a number of terrorist groups active in the region. These include Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Murabitoun, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram. These groups are capable of carrying out attacks and kidnaps over long distances. Kidnapping for ransom is the primary source of finance for Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). Criminal gangs also carry out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards.

Read more about the threat from terrorism in the Sahel region.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

from Travel Advice Summary, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/mali

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