Mali: 18 months of unrest

Key events in the west African state of Mali, which announced on Friday it would hold a second-round presidential election on August 11, in the first polls since a coup last year.


- 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 Moamer Kadhafi in Libya, launch 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.

- 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.

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

- July 5: Malian troops enter the rebel-held northeastern town of Kidal, to secure it for the election, following a ceasefire accord signed in Ouagadougou on June 18 between the government and Tuareg rebels.

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

- July 28: Mali votes for a new president, under heavy security but without incident, in the first election since the 2012 coup. The European Union says turnout is 50 percent.

- July 29: Malian and French leaders praise the high turnout and smooth running of the vote.

- August 2: The government announces the election will go to a second round on August 11 between former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who garnered 39.2 percent of the first round vote, and Soumaila Cisse who attracted 19.4 percent.