Overview:  Terrorist activities increased in number and lethality throughout the country, and terrorists continued to attack civilians, Mali’s Armed Forces (FAMa), international Peacekeepers, and international military forces.  Terrorist groups active in Mali included ISIS-Sahel (formerly ISIS-GS), and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).  ISIS-Sahel’s actions over the reporting period demonstrated its intention to establish territorial control in the Sahel.  Mali’s longstanding counterterrorism partnerships with foreign forces were disrupted significantly in 2022.  Notably, France’s Operation Barkhane completed a full withdrawal from Mali, with the last of the French troops departing Mali on August 15.  Meanwhile, the FAMa moved to occupy the vacated bases along with Kremlin-backed Wagner Group forces.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  Available data indicated 2022 was the deadliest year in Mali’s history resulting both from terrorist attacks and FAMa’s counterterrorism efforts alongside Wagner forces.  JNIM and ISIS-Sahel clashed in the eastern part of the country and continued to conduct terrorist attacks, primarily attacking Malian and international peacekeeping and military forces.  While attacks principally occurred in the central area of Mali, terrorist groups continued to press farther south along the Burkinabe border into the Sikasso Region.  Additionally, attacks occurred along Mali’s borders with Côte d’Ivoire and Mauritania, further enveloping Bamako and other population centers.  Methods included IEDs, vehicle borne IEDs, ambushes, and kidnappings.

In 2022 there were hundreds of terrorist attacks, including the following significant incidents:

  • During June 18-19, JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina killed 132 civilians in multiple attacks in central Mali.
  • On July 22, JNIM conducted a complex attack against the Malian military base in Kati — 15 kilometers from Bamako — killing one soldier.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  There were no changes to Mali’s counterterrorism legal framework in 2022.  However, draft amendments to the penal code and the criminal code of procedure would further criminalize association with acts of terrorism, concealment of terrorists, and recruitment of terrorists.  Mali’s vast and porous borders extend some 4,500 miles and touch seven neighboring countries.  The Gendarmerie, the National Border Police, and the Special Intervention Brigade (BIS) all provide security and law enforcement support to prevent and deter criminal activity.  The BIS has demonstrated a continuing willingness to exchange information on individuals accused of international terrorism with U.S. law enforcement partners, including the FBI, and is actively seeking additional assistance.  However, all agencies are understaffed, are poorly trained, and lack essential equipment and resources as well as access to terrorism-related crime scenes.

In late March, FAMa reported it had “neutralized” more than 200 jihadists in a major operation in Moura (in Mopti region).  NGO Human Rights Watch reported the operation as an alleged massacre committed by FAMa and Wagner forces of up to 300 civilians.  The transition government of Mali and the United Nations have yet to release a report of their investigation on the incident after nearly one year.

Exit and entry stamps used by border officials have inconsistent size and shape, undermining efforts to authenticate travel documents.  The government receives Public Key Infrastructure certificates for passport security information from the International Civil Aviation Organization; however, the information sharing is done manually and inconsistently.  Security features for Malian passports remain unchanged.  Imposters obtain fraudulent documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, with relative ease, undermining the veracity of Malian identification documents.

The transition government has shown willingness to honor extradition requests from the United States for individuals accused of acts of international terrorism against U.S. citizens or interests.  Fawaz Ould Ahmed Ould Ahemeid, a Mauritanian national previously in Malian custody, was extradited to the United States in December after being indicted on multiple terrorism offenses in the Eastern District of New York.

The transition government has made little progress toward implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2396 regarding border security.  Mali previously implemented biometric fingerprint and facial recognition screening at established ports of entry.  However, Mali has little or no control over its many and vast territorial borders, allowing terrorists to move across borders with ease.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Mali is a member of the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa.  Its FIU, the National Financial Intelligence Processing Unit (CENTIF-Mali), is a member of the Egmont Group.  Mali remained on the FATF “gray list” in 2022.  In 2022, FATF reported that Mali took steps toward improving its Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime, including by adopting its national risk assessment, conducting AML/CFT trainings for financial institutions and designated nonfinancial businesses and professions, and enhancing the FIU and law enforcement agency cooperation mechanisms on the use of financial intelligence.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Despite the inclusion of armed group representatives in the transition government, progress on the implementation of the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali (the Algiers Accord) remains stalled.  This lack of progress is due to disagreements between transition government officials and signatory groups on meeting participation; disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants stalling; and to signatory armed groups’ lacking authority to implement local governance.  The transition government finalized a 2021-25 national action plan to counter and prevent violent extremism.  FAMa reports of widespread success against terrorist organizations remained difficult to verify.  ISIS-Sahel’s growing sophistication and capability over the reporting period demonstrated its intent to establish a caliphate in the Sahel.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The transition government has grown increasingly insular since the May 2021 consolidation of military power.  It continues to build its relationship with Russia and other non-Western partners.  Following the 2020 military coup, U.S. foreign assistance for the Government of Mali has been restricted pursuant to section 7008 of the annual appropriations act and because of Child Soldiers Prevention Act restrictions.  Mali is currently suspended from the Economic Community of West African States and the AU.  In April the European Union announced the full suspension of the EU Capacity Building Mission and the EU Training Mission in Mali.  In May, Mali withdrew from the G-5 Sahel.

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