Since Monday, there have been reports of fighting in Mali around Mopti (map), Sevare (map), Konna (map), and Gnimignama (map, possibly inaccurate) between the Malian army and fighters from the Islamist coalition that includes Ansar al Din. These reports suggest an organized push southward by Ansar al Din and its allies. I had hoped to write an analysis of these events for today, but the situation remains too murky for that in my view. As the journalist Peter Tinti remarked on Twitter yesterday, in a comment that eloquently characterizes the reaction to many unfolding news stories, “Lots of people buy account X, others Y, all are peddling educated guesses and calling them certainty.” So instead of aiming at certainty I’ve rounded up some relevant stories that give a partial picture of the competing accounts.
- BBC: “The army used artillery [on Tuesday] against the Islamist fighters in the village of Gnimignama, 30km (19 miles) from army positions, according to army sources.”
- Al Jazeera: “Rebel fighters in Mali have captured at least 12 government soldiers along with their vehicle and equipment, reports say. The incident on Monday took place during a government patrol outside the town of Kona and near the city of Mopti, as fears rise that the rebels, who seized vast swathes of Mali’s north, are moving increasingly closer to areas under government control.”
- Reuters has a brief quotation from the Malian Ministry of Defense, saying, “The armed forces have driven off this attempted attack.”
- WSJ: “The Islamist rebels on Tuesday took new positions near the outskirts of a Niger River trading town that marks the south’s last outpost under government control, Mali’s army spokesman Lt. Col. Idrissa Traore said. The rebels entered the area around the sparsely populated town, Mopti, on Monday, he said.”
- Al Akhbar (Arabic) describes an Islamist attack on a Malian military unit and says, “Prominent leaders from Al Qa’ida are taking leadership of the ongoing military operations at present.”
- ANI (Arabic): “The Malian Army Fires Warning Shots in Konna.”
- Al Akhbar (French): Islamists attempted “to take control of the airport situated around twenty kilometers from the entrance to [Mopti]…the international airport of Mopti could serve as a forward base for African forces in case of intervention in northern Mali.”
- Sahara Medias (Arabic, from Monday) on fighting in Konna between Ansar al Din and the Malian army “without losses.”
Also of interest is an IRIN report from Sevare published January 3.