Bottom Line: We are back to the drawing board in Mali, and oil exploration in the north should be dismissed out of hand.
Analysis: Two French journalists were kidnapped and then executed in Kidal, in northern Mali. The journalists, working for Radio France Internationale, were allegedly kidnapped after having interviewed an official from the Tuareg separatist organization, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the killings in retribution for renewed French offensives in Northern Mali. The fact that the journalists were almost immediately executed and not held for ransom poses many questions. If recent French intelligence leaks are true, the French recently paid 25 million euros for the release of four French miners taken hostage in Niger in September 2010. It is plausible that AQIM was hedging its bets that the French would not be paying another hefty ransom any time soon. It is also plausible that the AQIM was attempting to send the French a message but also to undermine its secularist Tuareg rivals in northern Mali, which whom it vies for power, by abducting journalists who had only just interviewed an elite Tuareg community leader.
Recommendation: The July elections in Mali were anything but decisive because they virtually excluded the north. The new government has no jurisdiction over places like Kidal and the what we are seeing now is a continuation of a crisis that was never resolved. The Tuareg have given up on the peace process, which has failed to make them stakeholders and which has not addressed any Tuareg grievances. The coming weeks and months should see another restructuring of alliances as various Tuareg groups once again hedge their bets against the government and French forces, while radical Islamist forces regroup and take a second shot at Mali.