Photo of Ansaroul Islam militants in northern Burkina Faso (Photo provided by Héni Nsaibia)
Earlier this week, Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Security released its wanted list for various individuals accused of terrorism charges inside the country. In doing so, it provided more details into the relatively unknown inner-workings of the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group Ansaroul Islam.
The list begins with Ansaroul Islam’s current leader Abdoul Salam Dicko (aka Djaffar), who replaced his brother after he died of purported natural causes last year. It then outlined various roles within the jihadist group, including regional leaders, security details, its own intelligence wing, and even tax collectors. Some entries included details such as which attacks the wanted individual were involved.
Some entries also highlighted Ansaroul Islam’s activities in neighboring Mali. Several detailed terrorists responsible for Ansaroul Islam’s activities in the Foulséré forest in Mali’s central Mopti region, while others shed light on its relationship with al Qaeda front group Ansar Dine. Many figures falling within the latter category had already previously been tied to Ansar Dine. Others demonstrated the link between the jihadist group and weapon smugglers, a common theme in the Sahel.
Burkinabe authorities also detailed some activities of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara’s (ISGS) branch inside the country within the list. While ISGS has made headlines in Niger, it claimed its first ever attack inside Burkina Faso and continues to operate in the country.
Ansaroul Islam (AI) was formed in 2016 in the forests of Mondoro, Mali by Boureima Dicko (also known as Ibrahim Dicko), a radical Burkinabe imam who had previously joined Ansar Dine’s Katibat Macina in central Mali. According to a defector from the group, Macina’s leader – Amadou Kouffa – played a large role in the creation of Ansaroul Islam. Indeed, AI has received considerable support and training from Katibat Macina as well as from Katibat Serma. AI has taken part in many assaults in central Mali alongside the two units, as well.
In March 2017, Ansar Dine and its battalions, AQIM in the Sahara, and Al Murabitoon merged to form the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). It is unclear exactly what AI’s role is within the jihadist conglomerate, but JNIM still assists the Burkinabe group. The aforementioned defector said that AI maintains “ideological, operational and logistical links” with JNIM. Earlier this year, the US State Department designated Ansaroul Islam as a terrorist organization though it did not mention its deep ties to al Qaeda’s network in Mali.
Ansaroul Islam and JNIM share most of the blame for the rise in jihadist violence in northern Burkina Faso over the last year. These assaults have steadily risen since Dec. 2016 and show no sign of slowing anytime soon. State responses to these attacks have also further alienated the local population, which helps in jihadist recruitment.
A look at select individuals in Burkina Faso’s wanted list:
Abdoul Salam Dicko alias Djaffar: Confirmed as the current overall emir of Ansaroul Islam. He is the brother of Ansaroul Islam founder and first leader Ibrahim Dicko.
Aboubacar Sawadogo: Identified as Ansaroul Islam’s military adviser and trainer. Sawadogo has a long history with al Qaeda’s Ansar Dine in Mali and was responsible for an Ansar Dine wing inside Burkina Faso in late 2015. However, Sawadogo was arrested in Mali in 2016. It is unknown why Burkina Faso still added him to the list.
Amadou Dicko: Identified as Ansaroul Islam’s leader responsible for the areas between Inata and Koutoukou in Burkina Faso’s Soum region.
Oumarou Dicko alias Motard: Identified as Ansaroul Islam’s leader responsible for the areas between Tounté and Gomdé in Burkina Faso’s Soum region, as well as cross-border raids into Mali near Koungna.
Hassane Nouh Gorane Dicko: Identified as the emir of an Ansaroul Islam unit in Mali’s Foulséré forest, which constitutes around 20 people.
Ngassi Gourma Eggorou: Identified as another emir of an Ansaroul Islam unit in Mali, which also has around 20 people.
Oumarou Salou Dicko: Reportedly in charge of coordinating activities and operations in Mali’s Foulséré forest.
Oumarou Hassane Dicko: Reportedly the commander of Ansaroul Islam’s base in the Foulséré forest.
Oumarou Dicko: Reported to be the leader of Ansaroul Islam’s intelligence wing.
Oumarou Hassan: He was reported to have been an intelligence agent for Ansar Dine’s Almansour Ag Alkassoum, a jihadist that researcher Héni Nsaibia has previously identified as the coordinator of all jihadist units in the tri-border region between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. He was arrested by Burkinabe forces on June 20.
Sita Amadou dit Anga: Identified as being responsible for the acquisition of motorcycles and mobile phones for Ansar Dine’s Almansour Ag Alkassoum.
Oumarou Amadou Dicko: Identified as a member of Ansaroul Islam’s intelligence wing.
Hamma Pâté Diallo: Identified as a member of Djaffar’s bodyguard team.
Adama Moussa Coulibaly: Member of Ansaroul Islam and former member of Ansar Dine.
Boureima Alassane: Reported to have been a collector of “taxes” imposed on civilians in northern Burkina Faso by Ansaroul Islam. He was also said to have been responsible for all currency exchanges for the group. He was arrested by Burkinabe forces on June 20.
Hamadoum Alaye Cissé: Reportedly one of the main logistic facilitators for the jihadist group.
Boukari Yérane Dicko: Purportedly responsible for an IED on Burkinabe troops, however, he was also a city councilor for the locality of Touronata.
Onguéba N-Dame alias Goro N-Dame: Identified as an arms smuggler and main weapons supplier for Ansaroul Islam.
Fogasse: Identified as a weapons smuggler and close guide for the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in Burkina Faso. He also reportedly maintains relations with the Ansaroul Islam unit led by Amadou Dicko near Koutoukou, demonstrating the two groups maintain a working relationship.