News / Africa

Two Sahara-based Jihadist Groups Merge

This image released on December 25, 2012 by Sahara Media, shows one of the leaders of  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in an undisclosed place.
This image released on December 25, 2012 by Sahara Media, shows one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in an undisclosed place.
Anne Look
Two groups that fought in Mali earlier this year and carried out the deadly twin suicide bombings in Niger in May have become one to fight back against what they called the "crusader campaigns" of France and its allies against Muslims.   

Three months after they carried out the Arlit and Agadez suicide bomb attacks together in Niger, the two groups, MUJAO and the Those Who Sign in Blood Brigade, have decided to make it official.

In press releases published by Mauritanian press agency ANI, the two groups say they are merging into a new one.  They already had strong ties.  Both are offshoots of al-Qaida's Algerian-dominated franchise in the Maghreb, AQIM.

ANI quotes one written statement as saying that the new group brings together fighters "from the Nile to the Atlantic" to fight what it called a "Zionist campaign against Islam and Muslims."

The new group pledged support for Islamists in Egypt and promised attacks against France and its allies as revenge for the French-led military intervention against the militants in northern Mali this year.

The militants named their group the "Mourabitounes," Arabic for the Almoravids, the Islamist Berber dynasty based in Morocco nearly 1,000 years ago that reached as far south as Senegal.

Senegalese university professor Bakary Sambe studies radical Islamist movements in the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.

"It was these Berber armies from the Moor ethnicity in the Sahara that conquered North Africa and a part of southern Spain between the 11th and 12th centuries.  In taking this name, the new group is drawing on that history and the role that dynasty played in spreading Islam into West Africa.  The name also reflects the militants' desire to unite and regroup following losses in Mali," said Sambe.

Anthony Skinner, Head of Middle East and North Africa research for London-based risk analysis firm Maplecroft, called the announced merger a "publicity stunt."

"They are mindful of the fact that the regional dynamic in Libya, Mali and Egypt, and to a far lesser degree in Tunisia, is playing in their favor.  If we look at statements by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the chief of al-Qaida core, the overall narrative is well, look, trying to engage in the political process, trying to engage in democracy, is futile as witnessed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, because a coup was launched to oust former president [Mohamed] Morsi.  So, the hope is that this narrative, this rhetoric, will actually encourage disaffected, disillusioned frustrated youths who can relate to Islam, or be it a warped version of Islam, and that they will join their ranks," said Skinner.

Still, Skinner said the threat of asymmetric attacks in North Africa and the Sahel remains high in large part due to porous borders and ongoing instability in Libya.  

Analysts say it is hard to know this new group's strength.

MUJAO, or the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, broke off from AQIM in 2011, pledging to spread the fight farther south on the continent.  MUJAO controlled the northern Malian town of Gao until French air strikes and ground troops pushed them out in January.

Former AQIM commander and wanted Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar founded his breakaway group, the Those who Sign with Blood Brigade, just before that French-led intervention.

The brigade carried out one of the most ambitious terror attacks the region has ever seen in January.  Fighters raided a natural gas plant in Ain Amenas in eastern Algeria, taking 600 people hostage and ultimately killing at least 37.  All but one of the dead were foreigners.

This new, merged group has not yet announced a leader, although Mauritanian press reports that it is not an Algerian.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid