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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.