Al Qaeda group releases photo of Mali hotel gunmen

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Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) media outlet, Ifriqiyah Muslimah, has released a photograph of the gunmen who carried out the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako earlier this month.

The two gunmen, identified as Abdul Karim and Muaz al Fulani, stormed the Radisson Blue in Bamako, killing 22 civilians and taking more than 100 people hostage before being killed in a joint raid led by Malian forces. The Al Murabitoon said it was responsible in conjunction with the “Sahara Emirate” of AQIM, according to a statement sent to Al Jazeera. Another jihadist group, the Macina Liberation Movement, a front of the al Qaeda group Ansar Dine, which is itself a front of AQIM, also claimed the attack. However, this photo released by AQIM provides more confirmation of the group’s claim.

The attack in Bamako heralded the reintigration of Al Murabitoon into AQIM. On Dec. 4, AQIM’s Al Andalus Media released an audio statement from Abdelmalek Droukdel, the emir of AQIM, announcing the merger of Al Murabitoon into its ranks. The same statement also said that the Bamako attack was the first joint assault carried out by the two.

Al Murabitoon is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran African jihadist who is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri and has denounced the Islamic State. Belmokhtar was originally a commander in AQIM before splitting with the group over personal disagreements with Droukdel and other leaders. Belmokhtar and his followers have been behind several spectacular attacks in West Africa over the past several years, including the January 2013 suicide assault on the In Amenas gas facility in southeastern Algeria, and the May 2013 suicide assaults in Niger that targeted a military barracks and a uranium mine.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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2 Comments

  • Brad says:

    This whole situation seems like a serious power grab for Belmokhtar. Belmokhtar formed his own group to rival Droukdel, now they re-join to do…what? Fight against the forces of ISIS who have become an ever increasing presence in the region? Despite calling for Belmokhtar’s death in August, he seems to have been making alliances with DAESH as well. They realize they need the one militant who intimately knows the trade and smuggling routes of the sub-Saharan and Sahelian Deserts. Belmokhtar is not going to allow Baghdadi to advance on his territory without something in return. I believe Belmokhtar will have Droukdel assassinated, positioning himself up as leader of AQIM, which is what he’s always wanted. He couldn’t do it before rejoining the group, and he’ll probably have ISIS fighters do it for him so as to not arouse suspicion. Coming together to battle France/ISIS was his way back in, nobody in their right mind (the DRS) can possibly take this merger at face value..

  • Arjuna says:

    These two pups the only ones? The one who grilled the steak sounded older. Two people is a pipsqueak op on a target like that. Doesn’t seem like Mr Marlboro was doing much planning. If he could have taken out Droukdel by now we’d have seen an attempt.

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