Mali fell into turmoil after a March 2012 coup created a security vacuum that allowed secular Tuareg rebels to take over half of the north as a new homeland. Months later, the rebels were kicked out by Islamic jihadists who imposed strict Shariah law in the north.
When the Islamists started moving into government-controlled areas in the south, France launched a military offensive on Jan. 11 to oust them. The fighters, many linked to al-Qaida, fled the major towns in the north but many went into hiding in the desert and continue to carry out attacks.
Also read: Pearl Harbor: Timeline of the attack