Mali, Nigeria and France: Islamists Attacked in Mali and Northern Nigeria

Mali, Nigeria and France: Islamists Attacked in Mali and Northern Nigeria

Helmut Joachim Schmidt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The continuing attack against Islamists in Mali being led by France is gaining in momentum. At the same time, Nigeria launched a military attack against Islamist insurgents in northern Nigeria. Nigeria is also intent on helping Mali to crush Islamists in the north which had threatened this nation prior to France taking a leading role in rolling back their past gains. Therefore, the role of Nigeria in facing the Islamist threat throughout the region is clear for all.

Boko Haram in Nigeria is a brutal Islamist insurgent group which seeks to impose a Gulf version of Islamic Sharia law on society. In the past few years the Islamist insurgents have done countless terrorist attacks against Christians in northern Nigeria. Mainstream Muslims are also killed by Boko Haram because Islamists only see “a one world view” whereby all who oppose them are deemed worthy to be killed.

Indeed, the reality about the crisis in Mali is that you have unity between the mainly Muslim Malian armed forces and France. Likewise, the military forces of Nigeria are mixed between mainly Muslim and Christian troops alongside other minority faith groups. Also, regional African nations which are supporting Mali are showing the world that religion is secondary. This applies to the diverse nature of the nations which are being represented in Mali.

The multi-religious armed forces of Nigeria clearly need to step up their military offensive against Boko Haram and other offshoots. After all, over the last few years you have had too many massacres by Islamists in Nigeria. This applies to attacking Christian churches, killing Muslim religious leaders for being moderate and other brutal methods. Therefore, it is essential that the military and political angles are used against Boko Haram because clearly the Islamist agenda is to trigger a Christian backlash, in order to sow the seed of disunity within Nigeria.

Political leaders in Nigeria also link Mali with the Islamist insurgents in their own country. The Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Olugbenga Ashiru, commented that “because we know that there was a linkage between them and the groups in Mali…(because)…Some of those characters were trained in northern Mali…So if we can destroy their capability in northern Mali it will help us at home.”

In the last few days the armed forces of Nigeria have killed at least 17 Islamist insurgents after launching military strikes against two Boko Haram training camps. It is estimated that at least 1,400 people have been killed in central and northern parts of Nigeria in the last few years. At the same time, Islamist indoctrination is ongoing and traditional Muslim leaders face threats in certain strongholds for not following their draconian mindset.

Lt Col Sagir Musa of the Nigerian armed forces stated that the army “conducted two special operations supported by Nigerian Airforce helicopter gunship[s] to dislodge Boko Haram training camps…The camp was properly… fortified and had training facilities, an armory, accommodation, a drug store, kitchen, vehicle holding area, latrine and water points”

Meanwhile, in Mali the armed forces of France are currently bombing Islamist bases in various parts of northern Mali. The purpose of this is to dislodge Islamists from important bases and to cut off all major supply routes in order to spread further disarray within their ranks. Therefore, military air strikes have been targeting Tessalit and other places whereby the mountainous region may provide cover for Islamists in the north of Mali. This notably applies to the Adrar des Ifoghas Mountains which may become a sanctuary for Islamists fleeing the French led military offensive.

The BBC reports that the President of France was well received in Mali because this media agency states that “Mr Hollande received a warm welcome on Saturday as he visited the northern desert city of Timbuktu, which was recaptured by French and Malian troops a week ago.”

BBC further reports that “On Monday, Mr Fabius said France intended to hand over control of cities and towns to African forces as soon as possible.  He said: In the cities that we are holding we want to be quickly replaced by the African forces.”

It is known that nearly 2,000 military personnel from several African nations are helping to further consolidate all the recent military gains in Mali. Nigeria and other nations will further increase the power of the International Support Mission to Mali which is being led by regional African nations.

Interim President Dioncounda Traoré of Mali praised the armed forces of France because of their “efficiency” and “professionalism.” He further stated that “Every Malian is grateful to France for having responded promptly and forcefully to our call for help…Together we have freed Konna and Diabaly, together we have freed Gao and Timbuktu, together we will free Kidal, Tessalit and together we will track down these terrorists to their last hideouts.”

Hollande wisely visited many Muslim shrines during his visit to Mali alongside Muslim religious leaders. This reality is evidence that the “real colonialists” are Islamists which have taken on views which emanate from the Gulf region in the Middle East. Therefore, various Islamist terrorist groups were intent on destroying traditional African Mali Islam and turning Sufi shrines into dust.

The current problems in Mali and Nigeria are very different but the threat of Islamist ideology is very real in both nations. It is essential that issues related to marginalization in northern Mali, poverty, ethnic discrimination, and other powerful issues, are addressed in this part of the country. Similarly, state institutions throughout Mali need to be restored and the internal political crisis needs to be resolved.

In Nigeria the Islamist insurgency needs to be firstly contained and then driven back from all major strongholds. Likewise, Nigeria will provide a helping hand to Mali during the current crisis. Internal issues in Nigeria related to poverty, corruption, countering Islamist indoctrination and other important areas, also need to be tackled in Nigeria.

The “olive branch” could feasibly work in Mali providing the political and economic angles are given the highest priority. This isn’t “second guessing” the current outcome of the French led military attack in Mali because war is always unpredictable. Despite this, it is clear that the opportunity is available because the Islamists don’t have a firm internal base within the various communities in Mali.

For Nigeria, the Islamist issue appears much more complex because Boko Haram appears to be a growing menace throughout parts of this country. The last few years also testify to the tenaciousness of this Islamist organization which rules by terror. Therefore, it is essential that major powers work more closely with Nigeria because this nation is a regional power in its own right. Also, the potential of Nigeria is enormous despite the many negative realities that must be overcome.

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