Threat level: Medium-High
Travellers to Mali are advised to remain vigilant as there is a very high threat from terrorism as well as high crime rates in all areas of the country. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is known to operate freely in parts of Mali and have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of western nationals living in Mali in 2016. There is a high threat of kidnapping by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. There have been a multiple recent bomb attacks in Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and In Khalil and further attacks are highly likely.
There is also a threat from unexploded landmines, Improvised Explosive Devices and other ordinance. North and North East Mali are the most at risk.
Recent Security Risk Events
On the 18th of June 2017, terrorists killed two tourists, at a luxury resort popular with Westerners near Mali’s capital city of Bamako. 32 tourists were rescued during the attack on the Le Campement resort. A number of eopel were injured including three UN Staff. Two attackers were killed at the scene and one evaded capture.
In January 2017, a car bomb exploded in a military base in the city of Gao, located in Northern Mali. It is thought that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are responsible for this attack.
Hotels, cafes and restaurants visited by foreigners can be the targetted by terrorist groups so you should remain on high alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Hotel Nord Sud in Bamako was attacked in March 2016, targeting the EU Training Mission’s HQ located inside the hotel where nearly 600 foreign nationals live. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is thought to have been responsible for this attack.
A number of festivals take place in Mali each year. There have been some cases where tourists have been kidnapped from the Mali-Niger border after attending a festival and later executed. Although this is rare and extremely unlikely, it is advised that you avoid attending such festivals or similar events as western travellers are at high risk of being kidnapped. Kidnapping for ransom is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s primary source of finance.
The French/African military intervened in Mali in 2013 causing tensions within the country. This has led to widespread unrest and occasionally violence such as the 19th July 2016 attack on soldiers in which a gunman killed at least 19 people and injured over 30 more. It is believed that an armed group with ethnic and jihadist concerns is responsible.
There is tension near the northern borders of Mali along with high risk from banditry and human trafficking. Armed bandits are also known to use landmines on roads and have been responsible for the deaths of multiple travellers in recent years. The risk of banditry increases significantly at night and it is best not to travel without armed security and all travel at night time is highly advised against.
There are some reports of bandits impersonating police officers to scam travellers out of their money and travel documents. You should ask to see ID if stopped by police but do not resist if they are armed. It is further recommended that you carry only copies of your ID with you and leave all important documents in a safe in your accommodation.
Mali has been an independent country since the 1960s and is a member of the African Union and the United Nations. US-Mali relations are very strong and the US has a lot of input into the development of the country. France has played a major role in helping Mali via military support in the Northern Mali conflict, and ties between the two countries are continuingly growing.
The country is aiming to help resolve conflicts in many African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire. It is seeking to prevent or refuse the spill over of conflict from neighbouring states into Mali as much as possible.
The road conditions in Mali are very poor outside of the main cities, and the average driving standard is erratic and unpredictable. Night-time checkpoints operate in Mali at various locations spread across the country and are in place from 9pm until sun rise. You should keep vehicle and personal identification on you or in your vehicle at all times when travelling in Mali.
You can drive with most national driving licences including UK, EU and US licences. It is advised not to drive unless you are experienced who is familiar with the unpredictable Mali terrain.