4 Threat Matrix: Ansar al Sharia in Mali
Written by Thomas Joscelyn on December 18, 2012 4:09 PM to 4 Threat Matrix
Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2012/12/ansar_al_sharia_in_mali.php
Magharebia published a piece on Dec. 14 about a new group calling itself Ansar al Sharia in Mali. The subtitle of the piece reads, "Libyan extremists are reportedly linking up with jihadists in Mali, creating a new branch of Ansar al-Sharia."
Here are some excerpts:
Malian Islamists last Sunday (December 9th) announced the creation of their own "Ansar al-Sharia" group in Gao, the largest city in northern Mali.
Most of the new group's leaders hail from the Barabiche tribe in Timbuktu and are close to Ansar al-Din official spokesman Sanad Ould Bouamama.
According to Mauritania's al-Akhbar, the announcement raises the number of armed groups in the region known as Azawad to five: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's Sahara emirate, the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), al-Qaeda's El Moulethemine Brigade, Ansar al-Din and now Ansar al-Sharia.
Creating such a group at this time came as no surprise, since the terrorist groups and allied movements believe that Ansar al-Sharia, whose influence has been growing in the Maghreb, represents a real solution for the northern Mali crisis.
According to Djazair News, new intelligence reports have confirmed that al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leaders in northern Mali are exerting concerted efforts to establish links with Ansar al-Sharia in Libya so they can set up a base to hit Western interests in the region in response to calls for waging a war on terrorist groups in Mali.
At the same time, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia called for waging jihad against those whom he described as enemies of religion in Tunisia.
Ansar al-Sharia first appeared in Yemen in April 2011, where the group was established by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The group is largely believed to have been created in response to Osama Bin Laden's request to rebrand al-Qaeda.
An article published by Al Sharq al Awsat (London) in Arabic ("Azawad Arabs Announce New Al Qaeda-Linked Armed Movement") on Dec. 11 also discussed the new Ansar al Sharia group in Mali. That article reports that "a new armed group in Northern Mali, called Ansar al Sharia, has emerged adding to...the [four other] organizations in control of the security situation of the region."
Citing Mauritania's Alakhbar Info, the article concludes by noting that "gunmen from among the Arabs of the Azawad region announced yesterday the formation of a new-armed movement, Ansar al Sharia." (Magharebia cited the same account.) The "majority of the leaders of the new group are from the Al Barabiche tribe, which is spread over the region of Tombouctou, and ... some of the families of the tribe have relations by marriage with elements of al Qaeda."