As reported by Reuters news agency today, Al Qaeda endorsed the merger of Mali’s main militant groups and encouraged the unification of others. Various groups have attacked Malian, French and U.N. peacekeeping forces in the region. In 2013, French troops and UN peacekeepers were sent to Mali after the vast northern desert was invaded by the militants. However, the militants are still able to use the desert as a base and attack neighboring countries.
Reuters story found here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mali-security-idUSKBN16O2E1?il=0