Violence In Mali Continues To Escalate As Jihadists Fuel Ethnic Tensions

(New York, N.Y.) – Violence amongst ethnic groups in Mali has sparked concern from human rights campaigners. The country experienced its deadliest year for civilians in 2019 since Mali’s political and military crisis in 2012. Jihadists from al-Qaeda and ISIS have been encouraging inter-ethnic attacks in the hopes of asserting their power throughout both the country and the West African region. In the past two years, these militants have also demonstrated their influence by forming an alliance called the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) and by establishing a new cell called the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. A new Human Rights Watch report has estimated that more than 456 people have died in the past year alone from the violence.

In Mali, hunters from the Dogon ethnic group have historically clashed over land access with herdsmen from the Fulani ethnic group. In March 2019, for example, suspected members of the Dogon killed more than 150 people in an attack on Fulani villages. Additionally, JNIM’s leader has used his radio sermons to exploit the historical rivalry between the Fulani and Dogon groups. Amadou Kouffa, an ethnic Fulani and founder of the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), started gaining popularity due in part to his mastery of radio as a tool for communication in his native Fulani language. Given the popularity of Kouffa’s radio sermons, many of Kouffa’s recruits are Fulanis, and the MLF is often considered in Malian media to be a “Fulani movement.”

In March 2017, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Dine (AAD), and al-Mourabitoun merged to form JNIM. Since its formation, JNIM has carried out a number of violent attacks and was designated as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the U.S. government on September 5, 2018. According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, JNIM absorbed the MLF, an AAD-affiliated Islamist group that seeks to establish an Islamic state in central and southern Mali.

To read CEP’s Mali resource, please click here.

To read CEP’s Amadou Kouffa resource, please click here.

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Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.

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