Mali's violent years
Despite a UN mission and peace agreements, the situation in Mali hasn't improved. Tuareg rebels and Islamists have been fighting the central government in Bamako since 2012, and foreigners have repeatedly been targeted.
Attack on the heart of the capital
It remains unclear who exactly carried out Friday's attack on the Radisson Blu in Bamako, which houses a large number of diplomats and journalists from around the world. While dozens of hotel guests and staff were able to escape, some 170 were taken hostage.
Islamists in the north
One of many armed groups in Mali could be responsible for the hostage taking, among them the Islamist group Ansar Dine, the self-proclaimed "Defenders of the Faith," led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. They've been fighting for an Islamist state in Mali's northern region since 2012.
Terrorism, destruction of culture
In 2012, Ansar Dine quickly won control over large swathes of northern Mali and set up a regime of terror, hacking off the hands of alleged thieves and stoning alleged adulterers. Worldwide, the fighters drew attention by intentionally destroying precious cultural treasures, such as this 15th century mosque in Timbuktu.
Bombs in Tripoli, aftershock in Mali
The conflict in Mali was intensified by the war in Libya. Many weapons and numerous fighters made their way into northern Mali in 2011 as a result of the chaos and fighting after the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Azawad or Sharia state?
After a period of cooperation Islamist militants ousted the religiously moderate Tuareg rebels, such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which is fighting for its own territory in that region.
In January 2013, the potential for an Islamist invasion of the capital, Bamako, loomed. French President Francois Hollande ordered a military operation to combat the rebels. By the summer, the French were able to retake key cities with the cooperation of Malian and other West African troops as part of "Operation Serval."
Stability with the help of MINUSMA
Some 10,000 UN soldiers are supposed to ensure the fragile peace in Mali. Germany's army has sent 200 soldiers to the country's south, plus 50 soldiers to Bamako as part of a training mission for Mali's army. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited the troops in February 2014.
A little peace
But rebels and bandits still haven't left the country in peace. Again and again, there have been reports of attacks and kidnappings. Hundreds of thousands of Malians have left their homes in recent years. These children are living in a refugee camp in Mentao, located in neighboring Burkina Faso.