The Mali War has been ongoing since 2012. The war has three sides. One side is Mali, who are supported by many other countries. Another, many of whom are Tuareg people, are separatists who want northern Mali - which they call Azawad - to become a separate country. Northern Mali is hot desert and is in the southern part of the Sahara. The third side is Islamist groups - including Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaeda - who want Mali to be part of an Islamist caliphate.
The United Nations has reported many human rights violations, both by the forces close to the government, and by the different rebel groups. Allegedly, there have been amputations, floggings, and extrajudicial executions. A couple was stoned in 2012, for allegedly having an extramarital affair. Based on these reports, the International Criminal Court started investigations into war crimes and human rights abuses. According to the BBC, about 250,000 people have left because of the fighting. They are now refugees and internally displaced people. Another problem is that World Heritage Sites are threatened by the war. There are mosques built of mud, in Timbuktu, which are threatened. In September 2021, a contract was signed between the Malian state and a private Russian military company linked to the Russian military group Wagner. The document provides for the deployment of mercenaries in the country, in liaison with the Malian army, and the protection of senior figures.