The Russian mercenary group, Wagner, has met their match in Mali, Western Africa. Earlier this week, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the main jihadist alliance in the region, claimed they killed four Wagner mercenaries during an ambush in central Mali.
GSIM reportedly ambushed Wagner soldiers as they rode motorcycles in the Bandiagara region towards the mountains. Two local officials also confirmed the news to AFP.
“Four Russians were killed over the weekend by jihadists near Bandiagara,” one of the local officials, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
In addition to the locals, sources from the hospital also confirmed the death of “four Russians” where one “passed through Mopti hospital.”
GSIM, a known Al-Qaeda affiliate, is gaining traction in Western Africa with surprising speed. In just the course of three years, they were able to push out French soldiers’ advances and mitigate risks involving the Wagner Group.
“It has gained in influence and territorial power these past few months,” a high-ranking French officer told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that GSIM had become both “more combative and better structured.”
The GSIM is reportedly led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, a veteran of Tuareg militant forces.
“Based on what he has accomplished so far, continuing to expand and to exist despite the aggressive counterterrorism operations, he is among the most respected Al-Qaeda leaders currently,”Rida Lyammouri, an associate fellow at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, said of Ag Ghaly.
As previously covered here in SOFREP, the Wagner Group entered Mozambique in August 2019 to develop its regional reach and influence. Though Moscow denies any direct relation with the Wagner Group, sources say they are an essential aspect of Russian state policy.
The Mozambican government opted to hire Wagner because of budgetary constraints. It was believed that Wagner Group could send about 200 mercs for $1,800-$4,7000 per month. It looks like a pretty good deal compared to other firms that offer $15,000-$25,000 for each mercenary.
But, the price point is also indicative of their performance.
While the Wagner Group continues to work with the local government, rebel groups like GSIM are heading to end their terror.
Coups in Mali, Other Regions, Arise
As rebel forces in Mali grow, international intervention is getting weaker. On Monday, France released a statement saying they’re withdrawing their last soldier from the region because of “deteriorating relations with Bamako rulers,” according to reports. One other reason why instability is still rampant is because of the Wagner Group’s interference.
“France remains committed in the (wider region) Sahel, in the Gulf of Guinea and the Lake Chad region with all partners committed to stability and the fight against terrorism,” the French presidency said in a statement.
France’s alliances in its former colonies like Chad, Mali, and Burkina Faso are weakening as fearsome jihadists come to the spotlight. About 300-400 soldiers were reportedly sent to these regions for special operations with local military from Niger to deflect rebels in the border areas of Burkina and Mali. Another 700-1,000 commandos were stationed in Chad. Meanwhile, the number of special operations units was not disclosed in writing.
Germany also ended its mission that was supposed to be aligned with United Nations, hoping to liberate rebel forces in these African regions. German spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said they are willing to support the UN’s peacekeeping mission only if the Malian government coordinates with them.
However, it is not verified whether the local government officials are working with the GSIM rebel forces or not.
Earlier this week, another network called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), a known Al-Qaeda affiliate, attacked Malian military soldiers and killed 42 of them. The *AFP* report also added that four civilians died during the confrontation.
This attack occurred in the town of Tessit, a three-border region.
The ISGS claimed their mission was successful because they were able to deploy “drone and artillery suppport and [used] explosives and an explosives-laden vehicle.”
Last March, ISGS also claimed they were able to ambush Malian soldiers yet again, and they reported 33 confirmed kills, with 40 civilians “massacred.”
Sporadic attacks from multiple rebel groups continue to plague Mali and other regions. With the withdrawal of Germany and France, the civilians struggle to find ways to survive without fear of random attacks (either from mercenaries or the rebel group).