Emir of Ansar Dine added to US, UN’s terrorist lists


Both the United States and the United Nations have added Iyad ag Ghali, the emir of the Mali-based, al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine, to their lists of global terrorists. Ghali was instrumental in the takeover of northern Mali and has worked with al Qaeda to establish an Islamic state in the Sahel region.

The UN designation notes that Ghali’s group, Ansar Dine, is an affiliate of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but that Ansar Dine itself has not been designated; similarly, the US notes the affiliation but has not added Ansar Dine to its terrorist list. The UN designation also mentions Ghali’s ties with the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which has been designated by both the UN and by the US as a terrorist organization.

Ghali “cooperates closely with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the US State Department said in its designation today. He “created [Ansar Dine] in late 2011 because his effort to take over a secular Tuareg organization failed due to his extremist views.”

“Ghali has received backing from AQIM in [Ansar Dine’s] fight against Malian and French forces, most notably in the capture of the Malian towns of Agulhok, Tessalit, Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, between January and April 2012,” State continued. “Before French intervention in January 2013, Malian citizens in towns that had been under [Ansar Dine’s] control who did not comply with [Ansar Dine’s] laws had faced harassment, torture, or execution.”

Despite his failure to take over the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Ghali worked with the secular Tuareg separatist to seize control of northern Mali last year. After northern Mali fell, Ansar Dine, backed by AQIM and the Movement for the Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), quickly and easily brushed aside the MNLA and established sharia, or Islamic law, in the north. The French intervened in Mali in January only after the jihadist alliance pushed southward and threatened to capture the capital of Bamako.

Abdelmalek Droukdel, the emir of AQIM, saw Ansar Dine as a key component of his plan to use Mali as a base of operations for local, regional, and global jihad. Droukdel instructed his followers to mask their operations and “pretend to be a ‘domestic’ movement” so as not to draw international attention and intervention. Ansar Dine was to be the local face of the jihadist movement, while AQIM established training camps for external jihadist operations [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda in Mali sought to hide foreign designs].

After Ansar Dine, AQIM, and MUJAO took control of northern Mali, they enforced a harsh version of sharia and destroyed tombs and other Muslim shrines and heritage sites.

Additionally, the terror groups began recruiting and training foreign fighters, from West African countries such as Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast, as well as from other countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and Pakistan.

Since the French invasion of Mali in January, Ansar Dine, AQIM, and MUJAO have lost overt control of the north, but have been waging an insurgency against French, Malian, and African troops. Twenty-three Chadian troops have been killed while fighting jihadists in a mountainous area in the north, and five suicide attacks have been reported since Feb. 9. MUJAO has claimed credit for four of the attacks. Prior to Feb. 9, no suicide attacks were reported in Mali.

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

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  • mike merlo says:

    Drone bait

  • Gerald says:

    Sweet!! More murdering scumbags to target! Get em Fellas!!

  • M.H says:

    The only place where he and others will be hiding for safety is Sudan.
    He was under the Algerian protection until he changed sides to be under Sudan protection.

  • SlayerMill says:

    Look at Iyad ag Ghali in the stunner shades! Keepin it gangsta over there in Mali I see. This is definitely his match.com profile pic. Rockin his lily white headwear to accentuate his perfectly groomed beard, and stunner shades to conceal his eyes in order to add that level of mystery a woman usually enjoys in a man. “You think this was an accident? Premeditated pahtnuh!” I had to throw in the 40 Year Old Virgin quote.

  • AcademicGuerrilla82 says:

    @ SlayerMill
    I take it that this is the Mali’s new bachelor? Does he like long walks in the Sahel? Ghali certainly keeps it real, I mean didn’t the Muhammad wear the same brand of shades when he was defeating the Meccans in the 7th century?
    “After Ansar Dine, AQIM, and MUJAO took control of northern Mali, they enforced a harsh version of sharia and destroyed tombs and other Muslim shrines and heritage sites.”
    These autonomous Salafi-Jihadist insurgent groups have begun to ‘Sahelize’ their ‘ecosystem’ (Kilcullen, Counterinsurgency) by stringently enforcing their interpretation of Islam, which is most likely heavily influenced by tribal customs, laws, normative behavior, etc. Since 2012 sacking of Azawad, Ansar Dine has INFECTED (AQ or its affiliates establishing its presence in an area of conflict, Killcullen and the ‘Accidental Guerilla Syndrome’) Northern Mali, which has created a CONTAGION, where Ansar Dine has created a center of gravity (foot hold) to operate freely, enforce its ideology, and enact its interpretation of Sharia’.
    Now to lift the sanctimonious religious veil of Ansar Dine. We cannot let religious posturing and ideology disrupt our view of how insurgent groups are behaving or why they choose to wage irregular warfare against a state (I mean is Mali still a state honestly or an area with porous borders?) and its forces – insurgency cannot only disrupt geopolitical functions and obtain political power, or hold local sway amongst the local populace, but insurgency is a criminal enterprise beneath all the salafi-jihadi propaganda, lexicon, and symbolism.
    In the complicated and diverse contexts that accompany the Mali conflict, the myriad of groups fighting beneath the banner of AQIM are waging an insurgency as a means to “…become wealthy by taking over the cocaine and weapons business, as well as human trafficking operations” (Robert Malley).

  • http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57538697/terrorists-guns-and-cocaine-why-northern-mali-matters/
    This article presents another interesting take concerning the insurgency and its dynamics within the Mali context.
    Emir is an Emir; he’s not the only one residing within the diverse and militantly oriented human terrain of the Sahel. Since 2012 and the sacking of Azawad, Ansar Dine has INFECTED (an insurgent group with links to AQ takes advantage of a political opening when a gov’t fails and establishes its presence in a specific area, see Kilcullen and the ‘Accidental Guerrilla Syndrome) and created a CONTAGION effect (the insurgent group creates a safe haven, enforces its ideology, interpretation of Sharia’, as well as assimilates into the human terrain via political alliances and marriage, see Killcullen again) to control the local populace (the ‘spoils of war’ in an insurgency) and create a center of gravity.
    “After Ansar Dine, AQIM, and MUJAO took control of northern Mali, they enforced a harsh version of sharia and destroyed tombs and other Muslim shrines and heritage sites.”
    The myriad of jihadist groups in Northern Mali have essentially began the ‘Sahelization’ (on par with ‘Talibanization’) of their ‘ecosystem’ (See Killcullen, ‘Counterinsurgency’), which means that these insurgent groups have began to enforce their localized view of Islam (see ‘popular Islam’), which is heavily influenced by tribal norms and veiling tribal law practices as the divine law of Sharia’.
    We cannot let religious posturing and ideology disrupt our view in regards to the human dynamics of insurgency and the groups that which choose to gain power through the actions of irregular warfare. I think we have to keep in mind that insurgency is a criminal enterprise (interesting facts showcased in the article above) beneath the veil of jihadi propaganda, Islamic lexicon and symbolism; insurgents within the Mali context have gained power and legitimacy by way of intimidation and violence (not a new modus operandi in regards to insurgency). The insurgents operating in Mali are implementing their new found political power and legitimacy as a means to “…become wealthy by taking over the cocaine and weapons business, as well as human trafficking operations” (see Robert Mackey, forget the title of the article however).


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