By William Tucker
In an event that could seriously damage counterterrorism efforts in North Africa, Malian soldiers have mutinied and are now firing on the presidential palace. The recent unrest was sparked by a visit to a northern military base by the Minister of Defense. Malian soldiers have been fighting a Tuareg offensive in the north only to be constantly defeated. Government soldiers are complaining of inadequate training and arms in addition to word that the government may engage the Tuareg in peace talks. The leadership of this alleged coup is murky at the moment as most of the rebelling soldiers are lower ranking or new recruits. Media in Mali have confirmed the assault on the presidential palace, but there is no indication as to how long the assault can be sustained. Soldiers still loyal to the government are protecting the palace and were reinforce just before the assault began.
France and the U.S. have established a joint counterterrorism base in the region comprised of soldiers from nations across the region to battle al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. With the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya and the proliferation of weapons that resulted in the ensuing chaos, counterterrorism efforts are finding new urgency given these recent developments. It is still early in the Malian mutiny, but the events certainly do not bode well for the immediate future of counterterrorism in North Africa.