MALI
 
Incident comments
The three main rebel groups in northern Mali have agreed to merge, creating a united front in an ongoing peace process with the government. A Tuareg uprising in northern Mali last year plunged the country into chaos, leading to a coup in the capital Bamako and the occupation of the north by rebels. Since a French-led invasion in January to drive out the fighters, rebel groups have been scattered and reconciliation with them is one of the greatest challenges for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The three groups that merged on Monday were the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA) and the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA). The merger will take effect in 45 days, they said. As part of a peace deal signed with the government in Burkina Faso in June, the three groups said they would disarm.
 
Incident comments
French and Malian forces increased efforts to find the suspects in last week’s kidnapping and murder of two French radio journalists. The two journalists were discovered on November 2 after being kidnapped from the north Mali city of Kidal and subsequently executed. Security forces raided a camp of former Tuareg rebels, arrested and questioning several. The kidnapping happened four days after the release of other French hostages by al-Qaeda’s North African wing.
 
Incident comments
French, Malian and UN forces have launched a "large-scale" operation in Mali, France's military said Thursday. Spokesman Col Gilles Jaron told the media that several hundred French soldiers were involved in the mission in the north of the country. It was aimed at preventing a resurgence of "terrorist movements," he added.
 
Incident comments
Two UN peacekeepers from Chad have been killed and six others wounded - some "severely" - in a suicide attack in northern Mali, the UN said Wednesday. Civilians also died when a bomber drove an explosives-laden vehicle to the checkpoint in Tessalit before blowing himself up, the statement said. One child was killed and another injured, the media quoted Mali government officials as saying. Mali's defense ministry said four bombers took part in the raid and all died.
 
Incident comments
The United Nations has appealed for more troops and equipment for its peacekeeping force in Mali. The UN force, which took over security duties in July, has less than half of its mandated strength of more than 12,000 military personnel. Bert Koenders, the UN's special representative to Mali, said recent attacks had been a "wake-up call." He said the force, known as Minusma, needed more resources in order to stabilize the north of the country. French forces led an operation to oust Islamist militants from the region in January. A presidential election was held in Mali in July but militant attacks have resumed in the north where separatist Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters are based.
 
Incident comments
French Special Forces killed around 10 militants in a gun battle in northern Mali this month, Paris said on Thursday, as simmering violence threatens security at November elections and will delay a French troop withdrawal. France, which sent soldiers to its former colony in January to oust militants who had taken over swathes of the West African country, will not draw down troop numbers to 1,000, from 3,200 by year-end as initially planned, a spokesman confirmed. French officials have previously said the withdrawal could be pushed back due to planned legislative elections on November 24. Despite the French troops and a U.N. peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA), there have been several attacks this month targeting in particular Malian forces.
 
Incident comments
Suspected Islamists have blown up a bridge near Mali's northern town of Gao, the army says. The bridge near Bentia is on the only route between Gao and neighboring Niger. The attack comes a day after shells were fired into Gao, also by suspected Islamists. Islamist militants controlled the whole of northern Mali until France and several African countries ousted them earlier this year.
 
Incident comments
Suspected Islamist militants hit the northern Malian city of Gao with artillery fire on Monday, in the first attack on the insurgents' former stronghold in months, city residents, military and local government officials said. Gao was the first city freed from Islamist occupation by a French-led military intervention that drove al Qaeda-linked fighters from the country's north earlier this year. One Malian soldier was wounded and a house was damaged in the incident.