Al Qaeda group JNIM releases high-level production video

JNIM militants in the deserts of northern Mali

The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s branch in Western Africa and the Sahel, released a new video today highlighting its activities across the region. Multiple training camps and military raids were showcased in the group’s high-level production.

The video began with a short speech from Ayman al Zawahiri, to whom JNIM pledges allegiance, where the al Qaeda emir incited his followers in North Africa and across the Sahel to target France and its allies in the region. It then shifted to a well-produced clip showing JNIM fighters in various areas across Mali. This included the deserts of northern Mali to the Sahelien landscape of the country’s central region. In some areas, fighters were congregating in the open, indicating a lack of fear of aircraft or detection.

At least two training camps were then highlighted. One, which has been previously featured in photos, is located in central Mali. The other, referred to as the “Jerusalem” training camp, is located somewhere in the northern deserts.

JNIM assaults in various locations across the region were the main focus of the video.

The first JNIM attack featured occurred inside Burkina Faso, which was last year’s raid on a Burkinabe gendarme outpost near Arbinda. JNIM has claimed eight attacks in Burkina Faso since last year. Many more in Burkina Faso are carried out by Ansaroul Islam, a US-designated terrorist group with strong ties to JNIM.

Assaults in the northern Kidal region, as well as the central regions of Mali are featured. Scenes from the Gao region were also shown, including the May 2016 suicide bombing at Gao’s airport which killed a Chinese peacekeeper.

Special focus was given to the Jan. 27 assault on a Malian army position near Soumpi in the Timbuktu region. At least 14 Malian soldiers were killed in that raid. Jihadist fighters were seen overrunning the camp and graphically killing the Malian soldiers. JNIM showed its forces capturing copious amounts of weapons and ammunition before withdrawing from the base. At the time, JNIM announced it also lost four of its combatants during the battle. The four, which appear to be two Arabs, a Fulani, and a Tuareg, were given a eulogy in today’s video.

The production then ended with a short speech from the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman. Abdel Rahman has been featured in several videos from different al Qaeda groups across the world. Today’s JNIM video also represents a shift in its production capabilities. Several scenes were shot with GoPro (or similar) cameras, while others were shot with commercial drones. The overall quality was also better than other productions released by the group.

JNIM was formed early last year via a merger between al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Sahara branch, Ansar Dine and its Katibat Macina, and AQIM’s Al Murabitoon. The group swore allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, Abdelmalek Droukdel, the emir of AQIM, and Mullah Haibatullah of the Taliban. It is led by veteran Tuareg jihadist leader Iyad Ag Ghaly.

Despite a French counterterrorism operation, targeting from G5 Sahel troops, and a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, al Qaeda’s forces have persisted in expanding its insurgency. Al Qaeda still retains the ability to operate openly in Mali and strike in various locations across West Africa, including a large-scale terrorist attack in Burkina Faso’s capital earlier this month. Its violence is also spreading further south in Mali and into other areas of the Sahel. Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 53 al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal, while last year there were 276.

Screenshots from the video:

Militants in central Mali:

Burkina Faso attack footage:

Central Mali training camp:

Jerusalem training camp in northern Mali:

Drone footage:

Soumpi attack:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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