News from Mali. Hat tip from Instapundit.
Mali is one of the most stable democracies in Africa. They have orderly elections and relatively little disturbance, and up until this point little in the way of Islamic extremism problems. That seems to be changing.
The desert regions of the far north of the country, up against the Algerian frontier, are not only the most thinly populated region, but also the least well-controlled by the central government. Banditry and feuds among the largely Tuareg Berber tribes are common in the north. In addition, the region seems to have attracted Islamist fundamentalists fleeing defeat in Algeria, who have reportedly set up base camps in order to regroup. This is causing concern not only in Mali, but also in Algeria and nearby Mauritania. All three countries have recently reached a number of agreements to promote greater security in the region, and these include rights of "hot pursuit" during operations against extremists.
There’s long term animosity between the Tuareg tribes of the northern Sahara and the darker skinned, southern cultures of sub Saharan Africa that stretches back thousands of years. Islamic terrorists are trying to take advantage of that, not just in Mali, but in all countries surrounding the Sahara. It’ll be interesting to see how the Tuareg take to Al Qaeda’s form of Islam (which is different than theirs, in that they incorporate lots of ancient Tuareg practices) and how the nations in that area are able to deal with it.