Islamic State combatants threaten to take control of territories controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Mali

The security situation in northern Mali remains unstable. Since March 2022, the activities of extremist elements affiliated with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Al-Qaeda (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), who fight for territorial control, in the Menaka and Gao regions intensified considerably. In addition, the situation of general insecurity for the population of the regions of Gao, Kidal and Menaka is caused by massacres and systematic looting of livestock and all property of civilians by armed fighters of the ISGS. Although these two jihadist armed groups, ISGS and JNIM, once cohabited and sometimes cooperated, since 2020 they have sparked a struggle for territory and influence. This insecurity has caused significant population displacements. Residents are fleeing their homes to take refuge around the towns of Ansongo, Gao and Menaka.

In order to establish Sharia, ISGS fighters continue their offensives in the regions of Gao and Menaka. The main victims of these attacks are civilians. Jihadists engage in truck robberies, attacks against populations, cattle thefts. On October 23, ISGS elements prevented vehicles leaving Tessit, the Gao region, from continuing their journey, in their desire to impose a blockade against the inhabitants of this locality. On October 11, ISGS jihadists ordered residents of Tessit to leave their village within three days.

In addition to terrorizing civilians, the Islamic State also confronts the Malian army. Thus, on August 29, fighting opposed the FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) to the ISGS, in the Tessit sector, Gao region. The Malian army neutralized 44 combatants and lost two soldiers. On August 7, following the attack on the Tessit camp by elements of the ISGS, the FAMa lost 42 men, neutralizing 39 elements of the terrorist group.

Violent fighting opposes the combatants of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the JNIM which benefits from the reinforcements of the Katiba Macina combatants. On October 21, ISGS units chased JNIM fighters from the Intillit sector in the Gao region. On October 12, it was reported that two terrorist groups were preparing to clash in the Menaka and Tessit regions. On September 6, JNIM clashed with ISGS in Talataye, the Gao region, and lost the battle, leaving the city in the hands of ISGS. Earlier, on August 26, the ISGS suffered a defeat against the JNIM in the confrontations of Tidarmene, in the region of Menaka and lost more than ten men.

An anonymous source recently revealed that the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara does not consider armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda as a serious adversary. Moreover, ISGS field commanders claim that they will soon eliminate these Al-Qaeda groups in Mali and take their territories under their control. According to statements by elements affiliated with ISGS, Katiba Macina elements most often attack civilians to keep them in fear. As for the ISGS group, the combatants intend to establish control over the territories currently controlled by groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

It can be said that the conflict between these two terrorist groups is only growing and that the confrontations for the control of the territories will continue.

The Malian Armed Forces are fighting against ISGS and Al-Qaeda groups in Mali (JNIM, Katiba Macina). The Malian army conducts reconnaissance operations, carries out air strikes on terrorist positions and conducts population reassurance patrols in order to stabilize the regions.