West and Central Africa Correspondent
David's Feed
Jan 15, 2013

Analysis: Mali’s Islamist groups united by war threat

DAKAR (Reuters) – A powerful southern offensive by Islamists in Mali last week, halted only by French air strikes, showed that a loose alliance of rebels from al Qaeda’s North African wing and local groups has been united by the threat of foreign intervention.

When the coalition of Islamists swept across northern Mali last year, massacring army troops and carving up the vast desert zone, ties between Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and local groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA had looked opportunistic, and regional mediators believed they could prize them apart.

Nov 21, 2012

U.N. defends failed attempt to halt capture of Congo’s Goma

KINSHASA/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations defended its failed effort to prevent rebels from seizing the Congolese city of Goma, saying on Wednesday its helicopters had fired hundreds of rockets at rebels but were unable to beat them back as their ranks swelled.

Advancing M23 rebels seized the North Kivu capital on Tuesday after Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers fled.

Nov 16, 2012

Mali war against Islamists unlikely before mid-2013

DAKAR/PARIS (Reuters) – Any foreign-backed offensive to retake control of northern Mali from al Qaeda-linked Islamists will take at least six months to prepare, plans seen by Reuters show, a delay that runs counter to the expectations of many Malians.

The timing allows space for talks aimed at fragmenting the Islamist militias and stabilising a shaky Bamako government, but it risks giving Islamist hardliners an opportunity to dig in.

Nov 16, 2012

Exclusive: Mali war against Islamists unlikely before mid-2013

DAKAR/PARIS (Reuters) – Any foreign-backed offensive to retake control of northern Mali from al Qaeda-linked Islamists will take at least six months to prepare, plans seen by Reuters show, a delay that runs counter to the expectations of many Malians.

The timing allows space for talks aimed at fragmenting the Islamist militias and stabilizing a shaky Bamako government, but it risks giving Islamist hardliners an opportunity to dig in.

Oct 25, 2012

In the land of ‘gangster-jihadists’

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – A military helicopter arced through the dusty yellow haze and dropped onto the sand a few kilometres from Timbuktu on April 24, settling inside a ring of Islamists armed with AK47s and anti-aircraft guns.

A general from neighbouring Burkina Faso and a Swiss government aid worker emerged and joined an Islamist leader sheltering in a tent; they exchanged pleasantries over roast goat and cans of fruit juice. About an hour later, after the Swiss official and Islamist leader had spent five minutes alone in the helicopter, a pick-up truck arrived carrying Beatrice Stockly, a Swiss missionary who had been kidnapped nine days earlier.

Oct 25, 2012

Special Report: In the land of “gangster-jihadists”

TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) – A military helicopter arced through the dusty yellow haze and dropped onto the sand a few kilometers from Timbuktu on April 24, settling inside a ring of Islamists armed with AK47s and anti-aircraft guns.

A general from neighboring Burkina Faso and a Swiss government aid worker emerged and joined an Islamist leader sheltering in a tent; they exchanged pleasantries over roast goat and cans of fruit juice. About an hour later, after the Swiss official and Islamist leader had spent five minutes alone in the helicopter, a pick-up truck arrived carrying Beatrice Stockly, a Swiss missionary who had been kidnapped nine days earlier.

Oct 19, 2012

Leaders meet on Mali crisis but little progress made

BAMAKO/DAKAR (Reuters) – Regional leaders and international organizations met in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday to seek a response to the occupation of the north of the country by al Qaeda-linked Islamists, but failed to resolve differences on how to tackle the growing security threat.

Mali remains paralyzed by twin crises, with the leadership in Bamako still divided since a March coup that toppled the president and the rebel takeover of the north of the country.

Oct 19, 2012

Meeting to weigh Mali military action/dialogue but opinion split

BAMAKO/DAKAR (Reuters) – Regional leaders will join international organizations in Bamako on Friday to try to narrow their differences over whether al Qaeda-linked Islamists in the north of Mali should be dislodged via military intervention or a more gradual political approach.

Mali remains paralyzed by a twin crisis with the leadership in Bamako still divided since a March coup that toppled the president and accelerated a rebel take-over of the north of the country, now firmly under Islamist control.

Sep 11, 2012

Locusts threaten African Sahel food supply next year

DAKAR (Reuters) – Locusts nesting in northern Mali and Niger threaten next year’s food crop, the U.N.’s top aid official in the region said, after donors and governments across Africa’s Sahel zone have contained a crisis caused by shortages this year.

Rains falling across the Sahel bode well for a healthy 2013 harvest but the pests, due to start moving across the region within weeks, add to long-term problems like high food prices and low production which must be tackled to end cyclical crises, David Gressly told Reuters in an interview.

Sep 6, 2012

Guinea blocks arms shipment to Mali as distrust grows

DAKAR/CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea has blocked a shipment of heavy weapons to Mali fearing they could end up in the wrong hands, Guinean and regional diplomats said on Thursday, a further sign of distrust between regional powers and Mali’s former junta.

The weeks-long weapons stand-off underscores a deep regional crisis as Mali’s neighbors and Western nations fear a new global security threat but are struggling to respond to it.