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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid