Mali: 18 months of unrest

Key events in the west African state of Mali, which in the past 18 months has lived through a coup, the occupation of two thirds of its territory by armed Islamists and a foreign military intervention.


- January 17: Tuareg fighters from The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and other rebels, some of whom recently returned from fighting for strongman Moamer Kadhafi in Libya, carry out an offensive to seize several northern towns.

- March 22: Mutinous Malian soldiers led by Captain Amadou Sanogo announce they have overthrown the Bamako government, saying it has failed to give the armed forces the means to defeat the rebellion. The junta leaders detain President Amadou Toumani Toure and suspend the constitution.

- March 30-April 1: Tuareg and Islamist rebels allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) capture capitals of the three northern regions: Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

Several armed groups take part in the offensive alongside the Tuareg MNLA, including the Islamist Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith), Al-Qaeda offshoot MUJAO (the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa), and members of AQIM.

The Tuaregs are quickly ousted by the Islamists, who dominate the northern region.

- April 12: New interim leader Dioncounda Traore takes the oath of office in Bamako, under an accord between Captain Sanogo and regional grouping ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States) providing for a return to civilian rule.


- January 11: The French military launch an operation to back the Malian army and drive back the Islamists, who are pushing south towards the capital Bamako.

Air raids in the centre and north of the country drive Islamists from several strongholds in the north, in what experts say appears to be a tactical withdrawal to regroup and plan their next move.

- January 26-28: French-led troops recapture Gao and Timbuktu. On the 30th, French troops retake control of Kidal airport.

- February 18: The start of an operation aimed at expelling Islamists from the mountainous Ifoghas region in the northeast. Violent clashes oppose French and Chadian soldiers and Islamists. In late February one of the key leaders of AQIM, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, is killed by the French army.

- June 18: The government and Tuareg rebels occupying Kidal sign a ceasefire accord in Burkina Faso, enabling Malian troops to enter the city to secure polls scheduled to take place on July 28. However the situation there remains tense.

- July 1: United Nations peacekeeping force MINUSMA takes over security duties from African troops.

- July 7: Campaigning for the election officially begins, a day after the transitional government lifts a nearly six-month state of emergency.