Mali. Mali authorities received harsh criticism from several neighboring countries after releasing four members of the al-Qaeda terrorist movement in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in February after threatening to kill a Frenchman taken hostage. Algeria and Mauritania temporarily called their ambassadors from Bamako in protest against the releases, which, according to the Mauritanian government, exposed the entire region to great risks.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Mali has a population of 19.08 million (2018). AQIM, the majority of which are Algerians, has in recent years conducted a series of kidnappings of Westerners in the desert areas of Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. The four countries, trained in counter-terrorism by US experts, decided in April to establish a joint military headquarters in the southern Algerian desert town of Tamanrasset to coordinate efforts against AQIM. Several Western governments warned their citizens to travel to northeast Mali, which, among other things, hit hard on ongoing aid projects.
In early November, Mauritanian soldiers came to northern Mali for the first time to patrol the desert there along with Malian allies.