update has been compiled by Christer Wilkinson from a variety
February 2018 update:
A video with ‘proof of life’ of one of these hostages,
Sophie Pétronin (75), was shown by the ‘Jamaat Nosrat
Al-Islam Wal-Mouslimin’ (JNIM) group, and shows her taking medication.
This was interpreted by some reports as a medical SOS. No other information
about any other western hostages was published.
There were numerous reports of a significant
raid by the French military in the far north of Mali: dozens of members
of ‘Ansar Dine’ rebels were reported killed (the numbers
vary significantly between reports). However, this group’s leader,
Iyad Ag Ghaly, was not amongst those killed. This attack took place
near Tinzaouatène in the north of Mali, apparently less than
1 kilometre from the Algerian border.
More details emerged about the major conflict in mid Mali at Soumpi
near the Mauritania border in January, which indicated that Senegalese
troops were involved in the fight against the rebels.
There was yet another mine incident on the route to Kidal. Reports
indicate 18 people were wounded and five killed. Separate reports
indicate that two French soldiers were killed by another mine attack
north of Gao, and later four UN troops in mid Mali. There were also
the usual reports of occasional minor conflicts between various pro
and anti-government groups.
After the attack in Burkina Faso early in March, a new rebel grouping:
‘The Group of support to Islam and Muslims (GSIM)’, was
announced claiming responsibility for the attack. This new organization
is the result of the merger, of Ansar Dine groups of the Malian jihadist
Iyad Ag Ghaly, Al-Mourabitoune of Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, and
‘The Emirate of the Sahara’, a branch of al-Qaeda in Islamic
The economic woes of Tchad continue to make the news. The strikes
in the capital and elsewhere continue despite government counter measures,
But the Tchad government has managed to negotiate some mitigation
of the ‘Glencore’ debt which was necessary to allow Tchad
to receive IMF funds.
Under this new agreement, based on the most credible reports, the
interest rate is reduced from 7% over LIBOR to 2% over LIBOR, but
with several years of principal interest only, and an extended period
to repay the principal. (This sounds generous until you rack it out
on a spreadsheet; it actually commits Tchad to paying slightly more
in total, but over many more years)
Raids by ‘Boko Harem’ continue in the Lake Tchad area.
Over the frontier in Nigeria another other school was raided, and
in a reprise of the Chibok incident about 100 girls were kidnapped.
Reports vary and the number kidnapped is most uncertain.
In mid-February, a senior official of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior
said the leader of the Daesh (ISIS) group, Al Baghdadi, was alive
and well in a field hospital in north-eastern Syria and not in the
Tibesti mountains as previously reported.
Sonatrach, the Algeria Oil company announced an oil find in the Kafra
block in the far north of Niger near the Algerian border. This is
the second announcement in ten years of such a find. Last time it
Numerous press reports have been published on the role of the town
of Agades in the migrant smuggling routes and also its role in helping
migrants wishing to return to their home country. Migrant smuggling
was indicated to be a major economic factor, with tourism almost moribund.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released an edited propaganda
video of the deadly ambush of the American soldiers last year in western
Niger based on (captured) helmet camera images.
More details came available on the ‘artisanal’ gold mining
in Niger in a new report.
A new gold site called ‘Emzigar’, was identified near
the southern Air. This was reportedly named after a mountain, but
with a pix in the report which looks like it is much further out in
This was claimed to be one of hundreds (??) of such mining encampments.
One of these encampments, near Tchibarakaten in the far north of Niger,
(described in previous 153 news reports) was reported to be big enough
to have a private medical facility.
Closer to Agades, in the south of the Air Mountains Tabelot, a once
sleepy market town on the tourist route, has now reportedly swelled
from 4,000 inhabitants in 2014 to 38,000 (?) and has an area where
gold ore is crushed and processed, rather than at the mining sites,
by a reported 6000 (?) laborers.
Two other sites were mentioned in the report: Tazizalete, which was
now apparently abandoned after having attracted 2000 miners at one
time, and Fasso, which was still active. Neither location was further
identified in the report.