Following a military coup in 2012, Islamic extremists took control of northern Mali, prompting a French-led military intervention in early 2013 that forced the extremists from northern towns and cities, though the north remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year.
In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako, located in Mali's south, that is popular with foreigners, killing five people.
Bamako is seen during a harmattan dust storm, in this file picture taken February 19, 2014. Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked a luxury hotel full of foreigners in Mali's capital Bamako early on the morning of November 20, 2015, taking 170 people hostage, a senior security source and the hotel's operator said. (Source: Reuters)