Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 18

Assassins believed to be with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) burst into the Timbuktu residence of a Malian intelligence officer on the evening of June 10, blowing half his head away with point-blank gunfire before making their escape. The veteran Arab officer had just made a number of high-profile arrests of AQIM members as part of an ongoing campaign against al-Qaeda elements in northern Mali (Le Challenger [Bamako], June 11; Nouvelle Libération, [Bamako], June 16).
Troops pursued the assassins of the well-known officer into the Tadoudeni area of Northern Mali (an important region for salt mines), with the Salafists laying landmines behind them as they withdrew to the north (Info-Matin [Bamako], June 17).
Lieutenant Colonel Lamana Ould Bou was with Mali’s military intelligence and led operations against AQIM in northern Mali. He was a former member of the Front Islamique Arabe de l’Azawad (Arab Islamic Front of Azawad – FIAA), a rebel movement based around northern Mali’s Arab minority. He became a member of the Malian security forces after a peace accord was signed in 1991. His valuable contribution to anti-terrorist operations was described by a fellow officer: “As a native of Timbuktu Region, he had very profound knowledge of the area and knew where to find the enemy. So, of late, he had been of great assistance in tracking and arresting a score of Islamists and terrorists" (L’Independent [Bamako], June 16).
After a funeral attended by thousands, the army took revenge in a June 16 attack on an AQIM base in the Tessalit Oasis, killing anywhere from 16 to 26 fighters, though some sources suggest these numbers may be inflated {Le Républicain, June 18; al-Hayat, June 18). According to Malian military sources, the Salafist camp was under the command of Abd al-Hamid Abu Za’id. Three Bérabich Arab militiamen and two Malian regulars were killed when their military vehicle struck an AQIM landmine during the pursuit (Nouvelle Libération [Bamako], June 17). Arab and Tuareg militias have been increasingly employed by the Malian government for desert operations in remote northern Mali. Algerian security sources said the raid was part of an attempt to encircle AQIM forces near the Algerian border and liberate a Swiss hostage (al-Hayat, June 18).
According to reports from the Malian capital of Bamako, President Amadou Toumani Touré has been reluctant to enter into a full-scale campaign in the vast lands and harsh conditions of northern Mali, preferring a path of negotiations. Since security operations were scaled back after the defeat of Ibrahim Ag Bahanga’s Tuareg rebels in February, trafficking in arms and other contraband has increased in the north as the tribes begin to rearm for what they regard as an inevitable resumption of hostilities in the region (Le Matin [Bamako], June 17; Info-Matin, June 17; for Ag Bahanga, see Terrorism Focus, February 26). The government in Bamako is dominated by the southern Bambara tribe, part of the larger West African Mande group.
Algeria has been providing the Malian military with arms, fuel and ammunition to combat the Salafist militants in northern Mali (Le Républicain [Bamako], June 18). There are approximately 300 U.S. Special Forces trainers and advisers in Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu, as well as a smaller number of British troops. There are reports of American and British officials following closely behind the Malian offensive, questioning local tribes about the location and strength of AQIM forces in the region (al-Hayat, June 18). AQIM executed British hostage Edwin Dyer in Malian territory on May 31 after its demand for the release of al-Qaeda ideologist Abu Qatada was refused by the U.K. government.

After the surprising detention of their leader in Chad, a Central African Republic (CAR) rebel group has mounted new attacks on government forces to press for his release, according to CAR government spokesmen. The rebels belong to the Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix (Convention of Patriots for Peace and Justice – CPJP), led by the recently detained Charles Massi, a former minister of mines and agriculture in the government of the CAR. Massi was ousted from his post when the government of President Ange-Félix Patassé was overthrown by General François Bozizé, the current ruler of the CAR. In recent years the violence in the CAR has become closely tied to political violence in neighboring Chad and Darfur.
Rebels claimed to have killed 24 soldiers in the June 12 attack, while government forces claimed 15 rebels and three soldiers killed (AFP, June 17). According to the Defense Ministry, fighting began after the CPJP rebels attacked a Forces armées Centrafricaines (Central African Armed Forces – FACA) column at Akroub Soulban in the Ndele region (Le Confident [Bangui], June 15). CPJP spokesman Assan M’bringa Togbo said the combat, lasting several hours, began when six heavily armed FACA vehicles attacked their camp (AFP, June 13).
Massi’s arrest came unexpectedly after Massi left Paris for N’Djamena, where he had meetings with leading Chadian officials and sought President Idriss Déby’s mediation in his dispute with the CAR government (Le Confident [Bangui], June 8; June 11). His arrest was reported to have come in mid-May as he headed towards the CAR border (Radio France Internationale, June 5).  CAR President Bozizé has close ties with the Déby regime and came to power with Chadian military assistance. Many members of the Presidential Guard, the best-equipped element of the ramshackle armed forces, are from Chad.
Massi has been charged with "attempted destabilisation of a neighbouring country." The CPJP has written Idriss Déby, asking for Massi’s release on the grounds he "in no way represents a danger either to internal or external security nor to the national and territorial security of Chad" (AFP, June 17).
It is difficult to say what direction the leaderless CPJP will now take, considering that the movement exists solely as a manifestation of Massi’s political ambitions. Junior Defense Minister Jean-Francis Bozizé (son of President Bozizé) says the CPJP is seeking to use any means “to maintain a climate of insecurity in the country” (AFP, June 17). The CPJP has established a stronghold in the Ndele region and has so far refused to participate in the CAR peace process, aimed at reconciling a host of rebel movements with the Bozizé government.
The other main rebel group still outside the peace process is led by General Abdoulaye Miskine (a.k.a. Martin Koumta-Madji), a Chadian mercenary who inserted himself into CAR politics after acting as a military adviser to President Patassé. With most of the CAR army based in Bangui, the rest of the country is open ground for rebel movements, cattle raiders and coupeurs de routes (highwaymen). Forming an armed group has become the standard way of expressing political viewpoints or resolving political disputes in the CAR. A Bangui daily reported the formation on May 23 of yet another rebel movement, the National Movement for the Fatherland’s Salvation, whose central dispute is with the leadership of an existing rebel movement, the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (L’Hirondelle, June 11).