Attack on Base in Mali Brings Conflict to Doorstep of Capital

A second coup followed in May 2021, and after the new military junta refused to organize democratic elections, the Economic Community of West African States imposed sanctions that further crippled the country’s economy. The regional organization lifted the sanctions this month after the junta proposed a February 2024 deadline for the next elections.

For months, Col. Assimi Goïta, Mali’s leader, and his government have touted the “rise in power” of the military, vowing to secure the country’s center, where Islamist militants have spread since 2015.

But the violence now seems to be ratcheting up. On Thursday, assailants carried out “complex and simultaneous” raids targeting another camp, various military posts and personnel in six locations across Mali, the armed forces said in a previous statement. All of the attacks were contained, the statement added.

While the attacks multiply, French troops — which once numbered more than 5,000 in the region, most of them in Mali — have been packing up their bases and preparing to withdraw from the country altogether, moving the bulk of their operations across the border to Niger. The last French soldiers are expected to leave their biggest base, in Gao, a city in northern Mali, in mid-August.

Criticism of France, the former colonial power, has increased sharply in Mali in recent years, and the withdrawal is popular with many in the West African country.

Some also want the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, or Minusma, which has more than 15,000 personnel, to leave. Yerewolo, a civil society group that organized demonstrations demanding France’s departure, has now turned its sights on the peacekeeping mission, which it describes as an “occupying force.”