WaPo: Al Qaeda affiliate ‘directing the fight’ in Mali

The Washington Post had an interesting account of the war in Mali a few days ago. According to the newspaper’s report, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is directing the jihadist coalition. There’s no surprise there, but the reporting is granular, giving the story added import.

The Post reports:

DIABALY, Mali — Most of the rebels who took over this central town for five days this month were Malian and spoke the local languages of the north and the south. But their commanders were different, local residents said. They were foreigners who spoke Arabic.

Six bodyguards protected the most senior commander, with a gray-speckled beard and a black turban. The Islamist militant ate Algerian-made spaghetti and Mauritanian-made canned tomato sauce. Malian fighters served only as his interpreters or brought him intelligence reports.

“The Arabic speakers were in charge,” recalled Moussa Sangire, 71, a retired soldier who lives next to a house taken over by a group of foreign fighters.

What began as a homegrown, Malian-led rebellion is now entrenched as a conflict directed by al Qaeda’s West and North Africa wing, mostly foreign fighters from Algeria and Mauritania, according to Western diplomats, Malian military officials and analysts.

They are an enemy that appears determined to broaden the conflict into a wider struggle against the West. The first reaction by the insurgents to the French forces’ takeover of parts of the town of Gao on Saturday came from a top regional al Qaeda leader, published on the Arabic Web site of the al-Jazeera television network. He vowed to resist what he described as a “new Crusader aggression,” adding that a “jihadist Islamist emirate” would be created in northern Mali.

“It seems that these groups are being led by AQIM,” said Bertrand Soret, chief political adviser to the European Union delegation in Mali, referring to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. “The tactical backbone of the rebels is more influenced by AQIM.”

As they say, read the whole thing.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Gerald says:

    Funny how the “Holy Warriors” always go for the softest targets.

  • Larry says:

    The only thing here that comes as any surprise to me at all is the fact that Arabs are leading sub-Saharan African soldiers (aka “black” people). I would be curious to know why they following an Arab commander and how they feel about following an outsider in what, per my understanding, started out at least as a regional conflict.

    I guess true Salafi jihadists don’t recognize nationalities (in theory) and thus may not care about the fact that an Arab is leading them.

    Interesting stuff.

  • mike merlo says:

    This just another example of a little delved into matter deserving of much more comprehensive investigation & publicity. This goes to the heart of the matter of
    The Islamic Internationale’s force composition & the nether world nexus between the Islamic Internationale, the various Intelligence Services of certain Islamic nations, Islamic Governments, & the ideology that’s one of the primary ‘engines’ driving this war making ‘machine.’

  • Arjuna says:

    Gerald, don’t forget these holy warriors also hit the Pentagon and recently took out a Marine air wing and its CO. Their tactics may be (and are) beyond vile and evil, but they view human life and death in starkly different terms than normal people. See the enemy clearly, and in time we may defeat him. Keep thinking in “mad mullah” terms and America will certainly lose. My personal flashpoint these days is the health workers who are being murdured so viciously. This is blowback for the Polio/Hep program operation in Abbotabad. The CIA will be responsible if polio spreads to other countries where it had previously been eradicated. This is a serious business, Gerald. Both sides fight dirty and both sides see themselves as right.

  • Keith says:

    Mike Merlo.
    You may find this interesting as to who is who in the Mali Islamic leadership and the reason for the French military action. Good background reading.

  • Keith says:

    Mike Merlo.
    You may find this interesting as to who is who in the Mali Islamic leadership and the reason for the French military action. Good background reading.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram