Safety and Security
Continued insecurity exists in Mali. Major cities in northern Mali (including Gao and Timbutktu) were liberated by French, Malian, and other international forces in January 2013, but Islamic extremist elements including Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO), and al-Qaida in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), remain active in the region. As noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution, both the United States and the European Union have designated AQIM as a terrorist organization. AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (including Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), and has claimed responsibility for numerous recent kidnappings/attempted kidnappings and other violent events in the region. Given these threats, on January 19, the U.S. Embassy advised U.S. citizens in Mali to consider leaving the country.
On January 10, the Islamic extremist elements captured the northern town of Konna, but after French military intervention and heavy fighting, extremists were driven out of the city. On January 11, the Malian government declared a State of Emergency in Mali, allowing the government to take extraordinary measures to deal with the crisis in the north. French, Malian, and other international forces continued to push into northern Mali, liberating Timbuktu and Gao by January 25, but asymmetrical attacks remain a threat throughout the entire country. On February 9-10, military checkpoints in Gao were hit by two separate suicide bombers, injuring one Malian soldier. Also on February 10, French forces repelled an attack on Gao by rebel forces, which led to heavy fighting inside the city.
Large and small street demonstrations occur regularly in Bamako. U.S. citizens should avoid street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically begin in January and February and continue through May. You should be particularly vigilant at these times.
For hundreds of years, the Sahel has been used by traffickers of arms, drugs, and persons because of its remoteness and centralized location between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. While these elements usually attempt to avoid contact with outsiders, even an accidental encounter could generate a violent response due to the illicit nature of their activities.
The U.S. Embassy in Bamako has restricted all travel outside of the city of Bamako for its direct-hire official employees. Prior to traveling outside of Bamako, U.S. government employees are required to have the written approval of the U.S. Ambassador to Mali. Though this restriction does not apply to private U.S. citizens, it should be taken into account by all U.S. citizens contemplating travel to and within Mali.
Although we place the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped U.S. citizens, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to kidnappers. This, along with the vast and remote territory where kidnappers usually hold their victims, limits our ability to assist kidnap victims.