News / Africa

Sahara Jihadist Groups Merge, Threaten French Interests

Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media on January 21, 2013.
Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media on January 21, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Two Islamist groups that broke away from al-Qaida's North African wing and fought in Mali have merged, pledging to attack French interests, according to a statement published on Thursday.
 
Terror leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar

  • Part of new alliance with Mali-based militant group MUJAO
  • Leads Masked Men Brigade
  • Former commander with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
  • Accused of involvement in deadly gas plant attack in Algeria
  • Born in Algeria, received al-Qaida training in Afghanistan
The move unites fighters led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the alleged mastermind of an attack on an Algerian gas plant in January, with MUJWA, an Islamist group that was scattered by a French offensive on al-Qaida-linked rebels in Mali this year.
 
The two groups had already jointly claimed responsibility for raids in May that killed dozens at a barracks and damaged a uranium mine operated by France's Areva in Niger.
 
“It is the birth of a group that includes Mujahideen and even Muslims in North Africa from the country of the Nile and the Atlantic,” Mauritania's Nouakchott Information Agency, ANI, quoted Belmokhtar as saying in a statement it received.
 
It was not possible to independently verify the report but North African Islamist militants frequently use ANI to publish their statements.
 
The new name for the group was given as Al-Mourabitoun. It was not immediately clear who had been named its leader.
 
Belmokhtar is quoted as saying the group aimed to create an Islamic state and recent events in Egypt had shown how the “Zionist and Crusader” forces wanted to destroy Islam.
 
France sent warplanes and thousands of troops to Mali in January and officials say hundreds of Islamists were killed in bombing raids and battles in Mali's mountains and deserts.
 
Chad, which took part in some of the heaviest fighting alongside French troops, had claimed to have killed Belmokhtar. But no evidence was provided and diplomats in the region have long doubted the claim.
 
MUJWA and Belmokhtar's fighters appear to have escaped the brunt of the offensive, security officials say, a view backed up by their raid on neighboring Niger.
 
In the statement sent to ANI, Belmokhtar said the group would concentrate on attacking French interests.
 
“We say to France and its allies in the region ... the Mujahideen have met and agreed to defeat your armies and destroy your plans and projects,” he said.
 
Belmokhtar was charged by U.S. prosecutors in July with participating in the In Amenas gas plant attack that killed dozens of workers.
 
He formed his own group after years as a commander of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the Sahara, where he acquired a reputation as a smuggler as well as a jihadist.
 
MUJWA emerged in late 2011, it too claiming to have split from AQIM. However, the Islamists collaborated during their nine-month occupation of northern Mali last year.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid