Making sense of the Mali attack
What’s worrying about the assault isn’t the target. It’s the timing.
When the world woke up to news of a terrorist attack at a luxury hotel in the West African country of Mali, there was a natural impulse to consider the attacks in the context of Paris. As with the massacre at the Bataclan theatre, the assailants in Bamako held hostages for hours before Malian Special Forces secured the building with the help of French and American Special Forces. The symmetry of the two attacks, combined with the fact that France maintains a sizeable military presence in the former French colony, lent itself to speculation on how the violence in Bamako might be related to Paris and ISIL.
Yet as more details emerged, and Al Mourabitoun — an Al-Qaeda affiliate that considers itself an ISIL rival rather than an ally — took credit for the attacks, implicit linkages to Paris became more tenuous.
We can find some comfort in knowing that ISIL is not behind every dark terror plot, but there is little comfort to be found in grappling with the implications of Friday’s attacks and what they represent for Mali and the international community going forward. Paris and ISIL, it turns out, are part of this story, but not in the way you might think.
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