In a statement attributed to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the veteran al Qaeda jihadist allegedly denies reports that he and his organization, al Murabitoon, swore allegiance to the Islamic State. However, The Long War Journal cannot independently confirm the statement’s authenticity.
Two days ago, the Mauritanian news agency Al Akhbar published an audio clip from Al Murabitoon. The clip featured a message from Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi, a former spokesman for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). In the message, Sahrawi claimed to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, seemingly on behalf of the entire Al Murabitoon group. This led to some reports that Belmokhtar had also defected from al Qaeda to the Islamic State. (See LWJ report, Confusion surrounds West African jihadists’ loyalty to Islamic State)
However, in the statement attributed to him (shown above), Belmokhtar denies these rumors. The statement begins, “After the message addressed in the name of Al Murabitoon which dealt with the bayah (allegiance) to Baghdadi we announce, this does not abide by the terms and covenants of the Shura of the organization.” The message continues, “It clearly violates the founding statement, which identified the approach and behavior of the organization. As such, this does not represent the Shura of al Murabitoon.” Belmokhtar then reaffirms his and his group’s allegiance to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and says that another statement will be released soon. The statement is signed Khalid Abu Al Abbas, a known nom de guerre of Belmokhtar.
Al Murabitoon was formed in 2013 when MUJAO and Belmokhtar’s Al Mulathameen Brigade joined forces. Soon after Sahrawi’s message was released, it became clear that he was speaking on behalf of either MUJAO, or a part of MUJAO, and not Al Murabitoon as a whole.
Al Murabitoon has executed several attacks in Mali this year. It was responsible for the suicide attack in Ansongo on Apr. 17, which left 16 people wounded and three dead. It was also responsible for the terrorist attack in Mali’s capital in March, which left five dead. (For more on this attacks, see LWJ reports, Al Murabitoon claims Ansongo suicide attack and Al Murabitoon attacks nightclub in Mali capital. For other attacks, see this map made by The Long War Journal by clicking here.)