Islamic State in the Greater Sahara branch films clashes with Tuareg militias

Screenshot from Katibat Salahadin’s video

Katibat Salahadin, a sub-unit within the larger Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), recently filmed itself clashing in Mali’s northern Menaka region with members from the pro-Mali Tuareg alliance of the Imghad and Allies Self Defense Movement (GATIA) and the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA).

The footage, which was uploaded online by third-party accounts, purports to show jihadists of Katibat Salahadin firing at the Tuareg militias somewhere in Menaka. Tuareg and Fulani fighters are shown within the unit, which only has small arms, including Kalashnikovs, PK machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. The footage was uploaded earlier this week and is undated, however, strikes between ISGS and the militias have been steadily reported since February of this year. The attack most likely took place within the last few months.

This is the second video released this week showing Katibat Salahadin and its activities against the GATIA-MSA alliance. Earlier this week, analyst and researcher Héni Nsaibia first reported that the group had produced a video showing spoils it had taken from GATIA in the Menaka region. The two videos mark a considerable uptick in social media activity linked to ISGS.

Katibat Salahadin is led by veteran Malian jihadist Sultan Ould Bady. Bady has a long history with various al Qaeda groups in Mali, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). He and his group were once independent from MUJAO, but he eventually rejoined the fold and would later join al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM). However, he later defected from JNIM and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi of the Islamic State and joined the ISGS group led by former MUJAO leader Abu Walid al Sahrawi. 

ISGS has claimed several attacks in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso since 2016. It has gained little publicity from Islamic State central, with its pledge of allegiance only being acknowledged in an Amaq video one year later. Nevertheless, the group continues to operate in the Sahel with loyalty to the Islamic State.

Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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