Suspected Islamists on trial for Mali hotel attack
BBC World Service
There's tight security at a court in the Malian capital, Bamako, where three alleged Islamists are standing trial on charges of planning and executing two attacks targeting foreigners in 2015.
Only two of the accused were present; one, Fawaz Ould Ahmed, a Mauritanian who is seen as one of the leading jihadists in the Sahel, is charged with shooting six people at a nightclub and of planning the storming of the Radisson hotel in Bamako.
A Russian flight crew, Chinese construction executives, a Belgian politician, an American aid worker and nine Malians were among the victims of the latter attack.
It's rare for such cases to come to trial; much of the Sahel is beyond the control of national governments.
Sahel worries top UN humanitarian 'most'
The UN's humanitarian chief has told BBC Focus on Africa that the "place that worries [him] most" is the central Sahel.
Mark Lowcock of Ocha pointed to conflicts arising from people having to compete for already strained resources - and the combination of "low development", high poverty, accelerating climate change and rapid population growth.
"You're seeing clashes, for example, between farming families and families who make a living through nomadic pastoralism," Mr Lowcock said.
"All of those things, together with the fact that this is not the region where the empowerment of women and girls is advanced as much as in some other places, are causing grievances."
His comments come as the UN hopes to raise $1bn (£770m) with a virtual donor conference hosted with Denmark, Germany and the EU.
Armed militia operate in the Sahel, which has become a frontline in the war against Islamist militancy for almost a decade.
"The extremist groups are one manifestation of that, there's also an uptick in organised crime," Mr Lowcock told the BBC.
He said that people being forced from their homes is "a symptom of these underlying problems".
"Not much short of two million people are now displaced across the region - a massive increase over the last couple of years."
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Mali civil servants demand release of colleagues
Hundreds of civil servants in Mali demonstrated in the capital, Bamako, to call for the release of local administrators held by jihadists.
The protesters walked to the prime minister's office on Thursday where they presented their petition.
They said more than 10 local administrators were being held by the jihadists.
Last week, the jihadists released French aid worker Sophie Pétronin, 75, and veteran opposition and former presidential candidate Soumaïla Cissé, 70,
The releases are part of a deal that includes more than 100 imprisoned jihadists being set free by the authorities.
Several killed in fresh Mali attacks
Dozens of civilians and soldiers have been killed in a series of attacks in Mali. Two of the attacks targeted the army while one was towards civilians.
A base in Sokoura near the border with Burkina Faso was the first to be attacked, according to an army statement.
The number of soldiers who died in the attack has been placed at nine by news agencies.
The attackers ambushed other soldiers near the base who were responding to the attack killing three of them.
A vehicle transporting civilians to Bankass was attacked leaving 12 civilians dead, according to local mayor.
This is the first time the country has experienced deadly attacks since the 18 August coup.
Former President Ibrahim Keïta had been accused of failing to secure the country from attacks. Protesters called for his resignation for months until a military junta took over.
A civilian transitional president has since been appointed and is deputised by the leader of the junta.
Attackers kill nine civilians in Mali
BBC World Service
At least nine civilians have been killed in the Mopti region of central Mali.
Officials are blaming the attack on al-Qaeda linked jihadists.
The attackers - on motorbikes and in 4x4 vehicles - opened fire on people in Sokoura village who are from the Dogon ethnic group.
Separate reports say several Malian soldiers were also killed.
Last Friday nine civilians were killed in the Dogon village of Farabougou in Ségou region and 22 others were abducted.
Violence between the Muslim cattle herding Fulani and the mostly farming Dogon community has been fuelled by the growing presence of Islamist militants in Mali.
The authorities in Mali have announced the release of a dozen political and military figures arrested during a coup in August.
They include the former Prime Minister, Boubou Cissé.
An official statement said the former detainees would remain at the disposition of the courts if needed.
On Monday the transitional government announced a new cabinet in which members of the junta were handed several key posts including defence, security, territorial administration and national reconciliation.
The West African regional bloc, Ecowas, has lifted sanctions on Mali, acknowledging what it called "notable advances towards constitutional normalisation".
French hostage freed in Mali - family
BBC World Service
The family of the last French hostage held by Islamists in Mali say she has been released, though Malian and French authorities have not confirmed or denied the claim.
Sophie Pétronin - a 75 year old aid worker - was on her way to the capital, Bamako, the family said on Tuesday.
Ms Pétronin was abducted by al-Qaeda- linked gunmen in the northern city of Gao where she had been running a charity.
Reports from Mali say that another hostage, the veteran opposition and former presidential candidate Soumaïla Cissé, 70, has also been released by the militants.
He'd been held since March.
There are indications that the releases are part of a deal that includes more than 100 imprisoned jihadists being set free by the authorities.
Son of kidnapped French aid worker travels to Mali
BBC World Service
The son of a French aid worker who was kidnapped by Islamist militants in Mali almost four years ago has said he is flying to the capital Bamako ahead of her possible release.
Sophie Pétronin was seized by al-Qaeda linked gunmen in the northern city of Gao.
She's thought to be the last French national held hostage anywhere in the world.
In recent days around 130 imprisoned jihadists are reported to have been released in Mali as part of negotiations for the release of Ms Pétronin and the Malian opposition politician Soumaïla Cissé.
The 75-year-old, three-time presidential candidate was abducted in March whilst campaigning in his home region of Niafunké ahead of legislative elections.
Ecowas lifts Mali sanctions
The West African regional group - Ecowas - has lifted sanctions imposed on Mali following a coup that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August.
This comes after military authorities formed a transitional government comprising of army officials and civilians.
"Taking into account the notable progress made towards a constitutional normalisation, and the support the process, the heads of states have decided to lift the sanctions on Mali, and called on partners to support Mali," Ecowas said in a statement.
Mali's transitional leaders announced a new government on Monday, with some of the top posts going to military officials.
Col Bah Ndaw was named as interim president, and Moctar Ouane as prime minister.
Mali's transitional President, Bah Ndaw, has appointed a 25-member government in which senior military personnel have been given several key posts.
According to a presidential decree read out on state television, the ministries of defence, security, territorial administration and national reconciliation are all to be led by colonels in the Malian military.
Mr Ndaw - who had a career in the air force - was hand-picked to be president of the country by the coup leader.
Following the subsequent appointment of a civilian prime minister, the West African regional block - Ecowas - is expected to soon lift the sanctions it imposed after August's coup.
Col Sadio Camara, one of the leaders of the junta, will become the minister of defence, while the spokesman for the military junta, Col-Maj Ismaël Wagué, will be in charge of
Some significant posts also went to civilians
with the former prosecutor, Mohamed Sidda Dicko, heading the justice department.
Only four posts were given to women and just two posts to members
of the opposition, M5, the group that led protests against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta leading to his ouster by the military.
The US government has termed the establishment of a transitional government in Mali "an initial step toward a return to democracy".
The US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus urged the transitional government to honour the promise of holding elections within 18 months.
"It will also be important for the transitional government to fulfil its pledges to the Malian people to strengthen governance, combat corruption, reform electoral processes and implement the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali," she said in a statement.
Ms Ortagus said the US will remain Mali's partner and will work towards achieving the goals to a better Mali: