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Confronting Violent Extremism In Mali


Fighters of the Islamic group, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa [MUJAO] - an Al-Qaida offshoot - stand guard on a tank abandoned by the Malian Army, near Gao airport, Mali, August 7, 2012.

The United States is committed to helping confront the threat and restoring stability and security throughout the West African nation.

Though preliminary peace talks are underway between Mali’s interim government and two of the rebel groups that took control of the northern half of the country this spring, the threat of violent extremism there remains a major concern. The United States is committed to helping confront the threat and restoring stability and security throughout the West African nation.


Mali faces four distinct, but overlapping challenges. These include restoring a democratically-elected government following the 2012 military coup; negotiations with groups that renounce terrorism and accept Mali’s territorial integrity; confronting extremists in northern Mali; and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. It is also important that perpetrators of gross human rights abuses and violations are held accountable.

The armed extremists who have taken advantage of the political vacuum in the north and seized territory could, if left unchecked, destabilize surrounding countries and the broader region.

To help confront the threat, the U.S. Department of State has designated one of the groups, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and two of the organization’s leaders -- Hamad el Khairy and Ahmed el Tilemsi -- as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. As a result of the designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which the group, Khairy or Tilemsi has any interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them or to their benefit. The United Nations has taken similar action, targeting the group and its leaders for international sanctions.

The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa was created in September 2011 after members broke off from al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb in order to spread their activities into West Africa. It has been behind violent terrorist attacks and kidnappings throughout the region, including the October 2011 abduction of three aid workers from a refugee camp in western Algeria; a March 2012 suicide attack on a police base in Tamanrasset, Algeria, which wounded 23 people; and a June 2012 attack in Ouargla, Algeria, which killed one and injured three. It was also responsible for the April 2012 kidnapping of seven Algerian diplomats in Gao, Mali.
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