News / Africa

Islamic Militant Group in Northern Mali Expanding Southward

Fighters of the Islamic group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa - an Al-Qaida offshoot - stand guard on a tank abandoned by the Malian Army, near Gao airport, Mali, August 7, 2012.
Fighters of the Islamic group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa - an Al-Qaida offshoot - stand guard on a tank abandoned by the Malian Army, near Gao airport, Mali, August 7, 2012.
Anne Look
DAKAR, Senegal — A relatively new al-Qaida offshoot in northern Mali has pushed south, seizing a town less than 200 kilometers from the Malian army frontline. 

Since 2011, the militant Islamist sect has been involved in kidnapping for ransom, a suicide bombing in Algeria, and most recently the execution of an Algerian diplomat, taken hostage in northern Mali in April. Analysts say the sect is still defining itself.  
 
The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, more commonly known by its French acronym MUJAO, is one of a kaleidoscope of allied, armed Islamist groups in control of northern Mali.

The group emerged from al-Qaida's North Africa branch in 2011 with the aim of spreading jihad further south beyond the Sahara.

Ambitions

MUJAO seized the northern town of Douentza from a local self-defense militia on September 1. The town, in the Mopti region of Mali, marks the southernmost point of Islamist occupied territory, and its seizure has sparked concern in Bamako.

Northern community leader and analyst, Mohamed Ould Mahmoud, said MUJAO is eager to flex its muscle.

He said they want to show that they can move south, that they can go anywhere they want. He said MUJAO calls itself a West African jihadist movement and it has larger regional ambitions than the other Islamist groups in the north. Mahmoud said they want to prove themselves and are more unpredictable.

MUJAO was among the armed groups that took control of northern Mali following a military coup March 22 in Bamako. It has since consolidated its position in the northern town of Gao after pushing out Tuareg separatist rebels.

Solutions

Malian authorities continue to explore a negotiated solution to the crisis, as well as a possible military intervention, with support from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

MUJAO's spokesman and security chief Oumar Ould Hamaha said this is a divine mission, just days before the group seized Douentza. He said that for now their fight is national, but if ECOWAS intervenes, the fight will go beyond Mali's borders. He said that if NATO countries intervene, they will attack those countries and their citizens. He said if the Malian army tries to retake the north and stop them from applying Sharia law, they will plant an Islamic flag at the presidential palace within 24 hours.

Hamaha is Malian, reportedly from the Timbuktu region.

The MUJAO group is believed to have Mauritanian leadership, but is said to have drawn militants from many West African nations.

Northern leaders and residents of Gao say that MUJAO appears to making a calculated effort to put a more local, Malian face on the movement. And that, they say, has included the recruiting local teenagers and young men into their ranks, though many also say the recruits are drawn by money, not ideology.

Town of Gao fights back

MUJAO continues to harden its approach to Sharia in Gao. The town, however, also has been the site of some of the strongest rejections of Islamist rule. Youth have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest and succeeded in preventing MUJAO from chopping off the hand of an alleged thief in early August.

The group's funding remains a mystery. MUJAO said it took in $18.4 million in July, as ransom payment for three European hostages.

Some Malians say MUJAO's extremist ideology is a mask for criminal activity, including cocaine trafficking. Evidence to support that theory is murky at best, though, and even if it were true, analysts say the two endeavors would not be mutually exclusive.

You May Like

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Nigerian Islamic School Tries to Combat Boko Haram

Kaduna school headmaster teaches his students that what militants are doing is are doing is 'a total misunderstanding of the Islamic religion' More

University Trains Students to Advocate for Deaf People Worldwide

Program prepares graduates to advocate internationally for access to education, jobs for people with disabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: john from: german
September 04, 2012 9:39 PM
where there is Islamist, there is war and bled. It just like the plague spreading everywhere. I'm sure the Europe and Africa will be completely occupied by the Islam in short future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid