Addressing the threat posed by IEDs

National C-IED initiatives: Sahel – Mali


The IED threat in Mali has been constant since around 2013, and has predominantly targeted international and state security actors. In the last five years, there were 154 deaths and injuries from 22 IED attacks. Of these deaths and injuries 5% (8) were civilians. So far this year 14 have been killed or injured in three IED attacks.  All attacks targeted security personnel.

The most impacted areas have been those such as Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. Most threats come from al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), but the pro-Bamako militia known as GATIA has also been responsible for IED attacks in the country.


Malian Armed Forces and Air Forces under the MoD are responsible for Mali security against terrorism.

There is no specialised law enforcement for border security, with both the gendarmerie and police, who operate under different governmental bodies supporting terrorism prevention at the border. Customs officials monitor materials such as drugs and explosives moving across the border and at other points of entry. Though they have INTERPOL notices, this is often not available to the customs personnel at the points of entry,


The Malian Armed Forces have received training from the European Union Training Mission in Mali. At the old Malian military academy at Koulikoro, just outside Bamako, there are now more than 400 soldiers from 22 different EU countries that are there to aid Mali and build their capabilities. The training has focused on C-IED techniques and tactics. Many of those training the Malian forces are passing on C-IED lessons learnt from Afghanistan.

Malian counterterrorism experts also received training from the Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law on areas such as building counterterrorism systems and targeting networks.

UNMAS has operated in Mali since 2013 and have worked to improve Malian Armed Forces capability to cope with explosive threats. As part of this training some have also completed courses at the Centre de Perfectionnement aux Actions Post-Conflictuelles de Déminage et Dépollution (CPADD) in Benin. Training has included EOD techniques and tactics, as well as awareness raising amongst the troops.

The US assisted with training for those engaged in counterterrorism in Mali through the US Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program and other Department of Defense training. They have both assisted with counterterrorism training related to border security, crisis management, and police reform. In February 2015, the US facilitated an IED recognition course for 100 members of the police force.


Mali procured over £1.5 million worth of C-IED equipment from the UK between August 2013 and October 2015, including EOD equipment, equipment for initiating explosives, C-IED technology, and protection equipment such as bomb suits, alongside the IED decoy, disposal, detection and jamming equipment. Although it is indicated that most of this equipment is for military use, there was a procurement of C-IED equipment for an international organisation in October 2015 amounting to £883,776, and one amounting to £44,200 for civil use. They have also purchased bomb suits from South Africa.

MineWolf, as part of their contract for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), is tasked with equipping and training two MINUSMA peacekeeping mission contingent’s EOD companies in C-IED and EOD. They also provided two Mini MineWolf (MW240) systems to Mali in 2013. MineWolf also trained the relevant personnel from MINUSMA how to use the systems and its accessories.

As MINUSMA have been targeted by IEDs and their routes are often littered with the weapons, they have, alongside their training, also acquired mine-protection vehicles. As of May 2016, there were at least five Casspir NG2000 series armoured vehicles from South Africa.

Bilateral initiatives

Part of the aforementioned Operation Barkhane force is based in permanent support in Gao. Operation Barkhane has been operating in Mali since 2014 and sees the G5 Sahel – Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso – work in cooperation, sharing resources as well as information. The French forces support the G5 countries against armed terrorist groups and help prevent the reconstitution of terrorist sanctuaries in the region.

The operations carried out under Barkhane, alongside the Malian Armed Forces or in coordination with MINUSMA, saw the neutralisation of hundreds of terrorists in Mali. It also led to the discovery of about 200 tonnes of weapons, ammunition, and explosive materials, such as ammonium nitrate. French aircrafts dropped bombs on terrorists in the country and conducted surveillance missions. It was due to the success in Mali that France decided to expand its operations in the Sahel.

Regional support and initiatives

Mali is a member of the GIABA. Though GIABA was established in 1999 to fight money-laundering, its mandate was expanded in 2006 to incorporate countering terrorism financing. However, it is difficult to control the flow of transactions in Mali as they are generally cash-based. Moreover, the personnel at Mali’s financial intelligence unit, the Cellule Nationale de Traitement des Informations Financières (CENTIF-Mali), lack training and coordination. This makes CENTIF less effective, particularly as they already lack the resources.

A pressure plate, victim activated IED. Joanna Wright.

Mali is also part of the TSCTP. In Mali, the TSCTP saw the US military engage in building the capacity of counterterrorism units to counter AQIM. Mali is one of the states to have received the most funding through the TSCTP to tackle terrorism in the country, particularly for support of security sector reform.

International support and initiatives

Mali is part of the GCTF and participates in the GCTF events. Mali became a pilot state for the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund and $15 million was committed to the projects in Mali, Bangladesh and Nigeria in 2015.


MINUSMA, (from its French name Mission Multidimensionnelle Intégrée des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation au Mali,) is the UN peacekeeping force in Mali. According to its website, MINUSMA aims to support political processes and carry out “security-related tasks” as part of the stabilisation and transition processes.

In Mali, UNMAS is also mandated by UN Security Council resolution 2295 which prioritizes the protection of civilians and stabilisation efforts, as well as the enhancement of national capacities in EOD and weapons and ammunition management (WAM). UNMAS implements, supports and coordinates humanitarian mine action activities which include surveying, marking and clearance of prioritised dangerous areas, explosive hazards risk education, and victim assistance. UNMAS has field offices in Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Mopti and Tessalit.

In 2016, UNMAS directly supported the training and deployment of risk education teams which are operating in areas at risk to raise awareness among the population about the danger of mines and ERW, but also to map the extent of the contamination by conducting non-technical surveys. In Gao and Timbuktu, UNMAS promotes the empowerment of survivors of explosive incidents. At 30 June 2016, 8 survivors had been identified and trained to deliver risk education for communities, which will also enable the educators to advocate and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. In the same regions, and with UNMAS support, a project to respond to the needs of 50 additional survivors has also started through the delivery of socio-economic and physical rehabilitation support and within the broader responses to injury and disability. In parallel, humanitarian actors are trained as trainers in explosive awareness to enhance protection and humanitarian access in areas the most affected by the ongoing crisis.

UNMAS assists the national authorities in developing technical capacity to safely manage explosive threats, coordinate the explosive threat response and comply with International Mine Action Standards through the provision of training, technical equipment and support, and the mentorship of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF). In addition, UNMAS provides advice and training in weapons and ammunition storage and management to help the Malian authorities minimise the risk of accidental explosions or looting.

Furthermore, UNMAS provides explosive threat mitigation support to MINUSMA through technical advice and delivery of training, facilitating freedom of movement for peacekeeping and civilian personnel and improving safety for the delivery of the mission mandate. Specialised training, technical assistance and equipment have also been provided to the MINUSMA EOD companies.

UNMAS Mali is primarily funded through the MINUSMA Assessed Budget and through the following donors: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the UK, as well as donors contributing to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in Mali, and Benin, Switzerland and the Kingdom of the Netherlands for in-kind support.

UNMAS activities in Mali are implemented with participation of the MAG, Gender and Mine Action Programme (GMAP) and Handicap International, as well as TDI, Dynasafe, MineTech International and G4S.

NGO and private company support


DCA has been present in Mali since February 2013. Recent and on-going armed conflict has resulted in contamination of weapons and ERW. In addition to ERW, IEDs and landmines also adversely affect livelihoods, freedom of movement as well as the safe return of Internally Displaced People, and economic recovery.

DCA conducts two main operations in Mali. The first is conducting emergency Risk Education to prevent accidents and deaths among conflict affected populations in Timbuktu. The second is conducting surveys in Gao to map the location of ERW and mark dangerous areas both to protect civilians but also to speed up future clearance operations.

DCA is currently working in Mopti region where a multi-task team is providing risk education to at-risk groups such as children, young adults and in general the civil population, conducting surveys to mark dangerous areas and clearing UXO. DCA is also training national ACT Alliance partners in the basics of conducting surveys and providing Risk Education to remote communities.

Alongside their other work, the DCA established an Armed Violence Reduction project that began in the beginning of 2014. The overall aim of this project is to promote safe behavior in relation to guns and ammunitions. Medical training has also been provided by DCA to United Nations staff posted to Mali.


The DDG have established a Border Security and Management programme (BSM) in the Sahel region, covering Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The BSM aims to reduce armed violence through increased border security and management capacity. The operation is conducted with the support from Denmark, the UK, and the US. They have three offices in Mali: in Gao, Koro and Mondoro. It is hoped that the programme will result in better cross-border communication and cooperation and improved security presence and responsiveness.

The DDG has also been involved in sensitising communities to the risks associated with ERW, particularly in Douentza, Menaka, and Gao-Labezzanga axis. Within Northern Mali, the DDG are working to promote better trust between communities and security providers to promote cooperation, such as information sharing, and to enhance security.


The MAG has been involved in a variety of C-IED operations though they predominantly focus on mines. In Mali, MAG has surveyed the areas to better understand the contamination to carry out clearance work effectively. MAG has provided risk education to local communities and displaced people in Mali on the danger of landmines and UXO and what to do if they encounter such danger. They are training teachers and leaders to share this information, as well as to collect data about the contamination and any accidents that do arise.

MAG also conducts non-technical survey, collecting information about the presence, type, distribution and surrounding environment of mines and UXO, to better define where the contamination is. This allows better prioritisation of clearance. MAG is working with local communities to develop a network of Community Focal Points. This involves training men, women, young people, teachers and traditional leaders to share safety messages and collect data relating to accident victims and levels of contamination within communities.

They are also involved in arms management and destruction in Mali. This is to protect against their use elsewhere and to avoid accidental explosions. Their activities have included: technical risk assessments, training, refurbishing armouries to improve security, destruction of unserviceable arms and ammunition


TDI has been providing EOD and IEDD training in Mali in support of UNMAS’s operations in the country. The work was part of a contract they were awarded by UNOPS in 2013 to respond to the ERW, IEDs and landmines that were affecting not only UN agencies but also civilians and their livelihoods.

TDI has supplied training conducted by three experts, as well as international Mine Protected Vehicle Driver/Mechanic instructors to train Nepalese and Cambodian MPV drivers. Both from Troop Contributing Countries, the peacekeepers were trained in Gao and Kidal from March 2015 for three months.

They have also facilitated UNMAS’s work through a contract to provide fleet maintenance for vehicles in northern Mali. TDI were asked to provide repairs and maintenance in four key locations in Mali to ensure MINUSMA and UNMAS can continue to deliver their humanitarian support mission in Mali.

Furthermore, TDI has been contracted to deliver a C-IED and IED awareness programme to the MINUSMA forces. For this purpose, TDI have sub-contracted Optima Group to provide the highly specialist C-IED and IED skill set. The three-year contract started in September 2014 and to date 3,467 peacekeeping troops have been trained.

They have also been engaged in assessing the explosive threat more generally across Mali, conducting survey as well as the EOD operations.

Handicap International

Handicap International has been providing risk education to civilians since 2012, alongside some demining efforts. These sessions teach civilians to identify and avoid contact with dangerous weapons and explosive devices. Handicap International’s demining experts were also active in the region in the immediate wake of the conflict, working to clear ERW, which posed a threat to the general population and especially to children.

The staff in Mali also provides equipment and training to two regional orthopaedic-fitting and rehabilitation centres to aid victims of explosives, such as IEDs or mines, that have been left with physical disabilities. The psychological impacts of ERW are not forgotten, as Handicap provides a variety of support to the most vulnerable, such as group sessions for victims discuss their experiences.


G4S won a contract for the provision of C-IED and EOD training and mentoring to UN troops in Mali, and this training began in April 2016. The MINUSMA personnel will be delivered C-IED theory as well as practical training. The course will also cover components, threat mitigation, search operations, route search, specialised equipment, detection training with various detectors including minilab and VMR 3 GPR, and tactical training.

Teams had previously been deployed in Timbukto, Gao (3 teams), Kidal (2 teams), Tessalit, Aguelok, and Menaka, in 2014. They were engaged in capacity building and development of the MINUSMA EOD teams.

G4S have also provided C-IED training to the staff of commercial companies, such as the private company CrossBoundary Energy, which offers solar installations to African enterprises. G4S does not perform any clearance or research activities, mainly the training of personnel on the ground to mitigate the threat of IEDs, and only upon the client’s request. It does not have any formal C-IED training institution and does not provide any victim assistance of any sort. It does not face any shortage in equipment or personnel as it is a commercial company that can hire the rightly qualified ex-military personnel upon the demand of its clients.


Dynasafe was awarded a contract to provide Explosive and Narcotics Detection Dog Teams in Mali.  Dynasafe dog teams provide critical protection against IEDs to the UNMAS teams in Mali. The dogs are trained at a dedicated training facility, Dynasafe Canine Services, located in Pretoria, South Africa. The security canines provided can be used as patrol dogs and are capable of detecting explosives, narcotics, landmines and human remains.

Optima Group

TDI were contracted to deliver C-IED and IED awareness programmes to the MINUSMA forces. For this purpose, TDI sub-contracted Optima Group to provide the highly specialist C-IED and IED skill set. The three-year contract started in September 2014. Optima Group mobilised a team of 12 C-IED and Search experts, deployed them to Mali, prepared the course content and commenced the delivery of training. To date 3,467 peacekeeping troops have been trained.

Rich Williams, Optima Group’s Director International explains: “The work that Optima Group and TDI have been conducting in support of UNMAS in Mali is essential for improving collective understanding and mitigating the threat from IEDs.”

To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.