Jihadists who are associated with the Islamic State group have taken control of the town of Tidermene in Mali, further isolating the regional seat of Menaka. According to officials and witnesses who spoke to AFP journalists on Wednesday (April 12), they claim this to be the case.
The Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (ISGS) fought for months to capture the northeastern community of Tidermene, which had a population of a few thousand people and was located approximately 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of Menaka. Tidermene eventually fell under ISGS control. The group’s control now extends to encompass all of the primary administrative subdivisions of the region.
The community was taken control of late Monday (10 April). “Tidermene has fallen into the hands of Daesh,” an elected official from the town who has retreated to Menaka told AFP, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State organization. “Tidermene has fallen into the hands of Daesh.”
“They are moving around town with weapons and distributing Korans to the population,” he claimed. “They are distributing Korans to the population.” Others who spoke with him did so under the condition that they remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. Another elected official stated that the jihadists had urged the residents of the village to carry on with their daily activities as normal but to be prepared to begin paying the “zakat,” which is a form of Islamic taxation.
Since the beginning of 2022, the ISGS has been waging a significant offensive in the region of Menaka and that of GAO, which is located farther to the west. Former Tuareg independence fighters who signed a peace settlement in 2015 and loyalists who earlier opposed the independence fighters have been involved in intense fighting in these regions with ISGS fighters and members of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), which has ties to Al-Qaeda.
According to the opinions of the experts, the jihadists moved into the power void that was created after the French military withdrew last year. The violence has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent citizens, and it has forced entire communities to flee their homes. A few of them have made their way across the border into Niger.
The United Nations and many human rights organizations have stated that jihadists have carried out punitive attacks on communities that they accuse of assisting the state or of refusing to join their ranks. Given that Menaka was once a JNIM stronghold, one Tidermene refugee who has just relocated to Menaka reported that ISGS militants are now searching the town for people who are in possession of weapons or walkie-talkies.
When asked about the conquest of Tidermene, an officer in the Malian army told AFP, “The Malian army controls Menaka and is ensuring the protection of civilians.” The officer was responding to a question concerning the capture of Tidermene. Additionally present are armed groups as well as military troops from the Minusma.