Youth organizations held a protest march in the capital city of Bamako on Wednesday, January 10. Approximately 100 protesters initially gathered at Liberty Square before attempting to march to the French Embassy, but were dispersed by police using tear gas. Another group of demonstrators were reportedly able to reach the embassy before also being forced from the area by security forces. Further protests in Bamako may occur in the coming days and clashes between demonstrators and security forces cannot be ruled out.
The organizations were protesting against the ongoing French military operations in Mali and the Sahel region. French forces launched Operation Serval on January 11, 2013, to prevent jihadist groups from moving into central regions of the country. The operation forced many extremists from their strongholds in the north, but militants still conduct daily attacks against Malian and international security forces. France maintains approximately 4000 troops stationed throughout the Sahel.
Individuals in Bamako are advised to avoid all demonstrations as a precaution due to the risk of associated violence.
The security environment in Mali remains complex, particularly in the north and central regions. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.