Violence is tearing Mali and the Sahel apart. But who are the armed groups behind the bloodshed? Where are international actors stationed in the region? And what motivates them all? This project maps jihadist and non-jihadist groups and pinpoints the presence of external actors in the region as of May 2019.

“Katibat Sèrma” and Katibat AAA

According to local sources as well as international security observers, these groups are largely autonomous collections of fighters associated with JNIM. One was formerly headed by a Malian National Guard member and Imghad Tuareg Almansour Ag Alkassoum (whose initials constitute the “AAA”), and the group has continued to operate extensively between the Malian towns of Douentza, Boni, and Hombori. It is also believed to have conducted some operations in Burkina Faso in support of the Burkinabe jihadist group Ansarul Islam, though the group very rarely claims attacks. Despite Ag Alkassoum’s death during a French military operation in November 2018, the group remains active in conducting improvised explosive device (IED) and other attacks on Malian and UN forces. The area between Douentza, Boni, and Hombori remains one of the major areas of attacks recently against these forces, while also purportedly operating at times both with JNIM and groups close to JNIM like Ansarul Islam. The other represents a loose collection of fighters operating largely in the Sèrma forest near Burkina Faso, with the appellation “Katibat Sèrma” coined by the analyst Hèni Nsaibia.