#MaliAttacks: Why this is not a Mali or Africa issue

Last week Friday, gunmen took about 170 people hostage in the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali. At least 20 people, including one American, were killed along with two gunmen during the more than seven-hour siege, a Malian military commander said. The attack occurred barely a week after terror attacks in Paris killed 129 people and two days after terrorists bombed two Nigerian cities.

According to Conal Duffy, Vice President, Alliant Emerging Markets, there is a need to view the attack on the Radisson Hotel in Bamako within the context of the recent spate of IS-directed attacks in Lebanon, Egypt, and in Paris. “Al-Mourabitoune, an Algerian terrorist group led by Mokhtar Bel Mokhtar, who led the attack on the Algerian gas facility, and which is affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) and IS, has claimed responsibility. Initial reports, to be confirmed, indicate that one or more of the terrorists may have been Nigerian, perhaps suggesting a link-up with Boko Haram.” Conal Duffy explained that the tactics involved include: the use of automatic weaponry and selecting hostages on the basis of ethnicity and religion, has corollaries with the tactics of the Boko Haram.

Duffy also stated that the trove of weapons and munitions which terrorists became equipped with After the ‘the fall of Ghaddafi’ have found their way to conflicts in Mali. Therefore “seceding”  its northern province for a period of time under the rule of an Islamic State-like apparatus that was subsequently defeated by French and African forces, and been used by the Boko Haram as they have terrorized northern Nigeria and surrounding bordering areas.

Even though Mali is a predominantly Muslim country, radical Islam has very few followers, most of whom are found in the country’s sparsely populated far north, hundreds of kilometers from Bamako.  According to Duffy, Mali is also a country that is closely aligned with the West, France and the USA have recently shown support in the fight against terrorists in Mali’s far north and to help the new government elected following a coup, and has a very ethnically diverse population.  “As a result, an attack of this kind, while devastating in regards to loss of life and disruption of livelihoods, has little chance to destabilize the government and most likely will mean that France and the United States will now further bolster their military efforts and increase economic assistance in the days ahead.”

Managing Partner, Plexus Consulting LLC Kai U. Wulff told Ventures Africa that it is virtually impossible to protect soft targets and that this is hardly an Africa or Mali issue. “Bamaku as such is a peaceful place and an incident like this or like the Westgate Mall in Kenya could happen at any time in any place around the globe,” said Wulff.

Mr Wulff explained that the problem will not be solved by more guards or less travel, it can only be resolved based on our ability to understand and correct the roots while taking care of each other and the surroundings. “Every radical of any religion or system has a history and if society keeps an open eye and acts/interacts early enough we can avoid mass radicalization,” he said.  “For now we will have to live with the fact that there will always be soft targets and the more sites we protect with force, the less we are free. At the same time we would bind the force at certain places keeping other spots even more exposed.”

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