Mali: key dates in the French intervention

20th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

Northern Mali fell under the control of Islamist groups in 2012, before being pushed back in an international intervention led by France nine months later.

That mission was replaced in August 2014 by the French-led Operation Barkhane, which covers a broader zone that includes the Sahel and Saharan regions of northern Africa.

Here are the key dates since France intervened:

- France's Operation Serval -

- January 11, 2013: France launches Operation Serval to stem an advance by Islamist militants threatening southern parts of Mali. On January 14, the insurgents evacuate major northern cities following French air strikes and commando operations.

- January 26 and 28: French and Malian troops retake the Islamist stronghold of Gao, northeastern Mali, and reach the centre of Timbuktu without a fight.

On January 30, French-led troops retake control of Kidal's airport, and the city itself is secured by Chadian troops a few days later.

- In February an operation is launched in the Ifoghas mountains in the far northeast, with French and Chadian soldiers involved in fierce clashes with jihadists.

- In late February French forces kill one of the key Algerian leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

- October 20: French, Malian and UN troops launch an operation in northern Mali to stop violent attacks by Islamist groups that erupted again in September.

- UN mission -

- July 1, 2013: The UN peace mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is established, taking over from a pan-African force.

- Election -

- June 18, 2013: Malian authorities and Tuareg rebels in Kidal sign a ceasefire agreement that allows for progressive deployment by the Malian army and billeting of Tuareg fighters.

The accord leads to a presidential election that is won in August by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

- Kidal falls to rebels -

- May 21, 2014: Tuareg militants and Arab rebels claim control of Kidal and other northeastern towns after fighting the Malian army.

Keita negotiates a ceasefire with three armed groups, including the Tuareg.

- French Operation Barkhane -

- July 13, 2014: Operation Serval is replaced by Operation Barkhane, a broader offensive against Islamist fighters that mobilises 3,000 French troops in five north African countries from early August.

- Jihadist attacks -

- October 3, 2014: Nine MINUSMA soldiers from Nigeria are killed during an attack in the region near Gao that is claimed by a jihadist group.

- January 5, 2015: An attack claimed by AQIM kills 11 Malian soldiers in Nampala, near the border with Mauritania.

- Attack in the capital -

- March 7, 2015: An attack against a nightclub, the first targeting Westerners in Bamako, leaves three Malians, a Frenchman and a Belgian dead. Al-Murabitoune, the jihadist group of Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claims responsibility.

- Attacks by rebels, pro-government groups -

- April 27, 2015 to date: Pro-government militants seize rebel positions in the northern town of Menaka. The Tuareg retaliate with a series of attacks on the army resulting in numerous deaths on both sides in the most intense fighting since May 2014.

- Peace accord without the rebels -

- May 15, 2015: The government, armed groups and international mediators sign the Algiers peace accord, in the absence of the main Tuareg rebel groups.

- Rebels to sign the accord -

- June 5, 2015: The head of Mali's main Tuareg-led rebel groups says his movement will sign a final deal on June 20.

- June 19: The government drops arrest warrants for several rebels and pro-government militia leaders agree to evacuate Menaka, removing the last obstacles to a peace deal, according to the players.

© 2015 AFP

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