AQIM leader mixes populism with jihadism in criticism of France

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emir, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud (also known as Abdelmalek Droukdel), released a new audio message earlier today. His talk, which is nearly thirty minutes long, is spliced together with various images, including of the recent “Yellow Vest” protests in France.

Indeed, Wadoud’s message, titled “France Between The Curse Of Plundering Wealth And The Flames Of Protests,” focuses almost entirely on the French nation. It was released by AQIM’s propaganda arm, Al-Andalus Media, along with transcripts in French and English.

The AQIM honcho tries to exploit the unrest in France. He portrays French intervention in Africa as part of a plot by the “elite” to exploit the people both at home and abroad. Indeed, he uses the word “elite” at least three times: “corrupt French elite,” “corrupted French elite” and “corrupt elite.”

Thus, he ties France’s domestic political problems to its foreign policy in Africa.

Wadoud’s populist rhetoric is striking, as much of his critique could probably be uttered by politically active Western citizens. However, there’s a noteworthy exception. The AQIM head fuses his popular-minded criticisms with jihadism. He seeks to take advantage of the political turmoil in France to advance his own ideological cause.

Al Qaeda’s leaders have frequently argued that the economic costs of the 9/11 wars have drained America’s resources. There is truth in that claim, of course. Wadoud makes a similar argument, claiming that the “real cause of the economic crisis in France lies in military spending, the looting by the corrupt French elite, and the policy of occupation and war.” He reiterates versions of this claim more than once, reducing complex social forces and changes to a single root problem: France’s military intervention in Africa.

Wadoud argues that the “French people” should “listen to the voice of the people [in Africa]”… “who are crushed under the feet of the French soldiers and their corrupted politicians, who are looting the goods of these people for the interest of the owners of the big companies.”

In this telling, France’s involvement in Africa is motivated by corporate interests. There’s even a mention of the Rothschild family, which is often at the center of various conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, the “French people” have to “finance their continuous wars from their meager salaries, which [are] decreasing in value over time.” Wadoud cites the “costly war in Mali,” as well as France’s “military intervention in Libya, Central Africa, and other African countries.”

“A war that appears to defend the interests of the French people and alleged democracy is in fact to enrich the corrupted French elite and impoverish our oppressed people and the French masses who are misled by the excuses of the lying French media,” Wadoud claims.

AQIM leader says America has been humiliated in Afghanistan

Wadoud appeals directly to the French people, claiming that their country’s wars are responsible for “their low purchasing power and low standard of living.” Wadoud points to France’s experience in Algeria, arguing that the nation is “continuing the mistakes of the past” and this “will inevitably lead to the same results.”

Despite all of “the suffering of the French people,” President Emmanuel Macron is trying to increase military spending as a percentage of France’s GDP (to 2.5% of GDP in 2025) in order “to secure the expensive wars of your country.” This will only mean “more trouble for you and your standard of living,” Wadoud claims.

“You [the French people] must ask your country to stop their military intervention, and force your politicians to concentrate on the problems of France and to get out of Mali, Libya, and the rest of Africa,” he says.

He cites the experience of Britain “after sinking in Iraq” and Germany, but also especially Spain. Wadoud reminds his listeners that after Madrid was struck by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in 2004, the Spanish government was turned over and the people “forced” the government “out of Iraq.”

Wadoud also points to America, arguing that even though the US is much stronger than France, it has failed “after nearly two decades of its invasion of Afghanistan.” Today, America “is seeking to negotiate with the Mujahideen,” meaning the Taliban, so that it can “leave in humiliation after tasting woes at the hands of heroes.”

AQIM seeks to build an Islamic state

Wadoud ties recent French actions to the country’s colonial past, claiming that the “injustice of the French government and its mercenary army against” Muslims stretches back “over two centuries.” This is a “curse” that is supposedly being revisited on the French populace.

But Wadoud’s own totalitarian ambitions are clear. He laments that the French government “invaded the land of Mali nearly six years ago and overthrew the Shari’ah rule in Azawad with international and regional complicity and support,” claiming “that it came to protect the Mali people from the jihadists.”

Wadoud says this isn’t really true, and he portrays France’s role in Mali in purely economic terms.

But there is no question that the French government was motivated to intervene by the rise of AQIM and its allies.

AQIM and Ansar Dine (an AQIM front group) were beginning to build an authoritarian Islamic state in Mali prior to the French-led offensive in Jan. 2013. Wadoud even says that France’s war “against the Mujahideen” is part of “its attempt to prevent them from establishing a state governed by the Shari’ah of Allah” – that is, a jihadist state not all that different from the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Criticizes Macron and French government

Throughout his message, AQIM’s chief blasts French President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has dipped in recent months. Again, the heart of Wadoud’s critique is economic, as he has clearly been paying attention to France’s national debate over taxes and fiscal policy.

He also chastises Macron for not interceding on behalf of French hostage Sophie Petronin, who was kidnapped by AQIM in 2016. “Sophie is only a victim of [Macron’s] failed policies and his continuation in the adventure of his predecessor, Hollande, by occupying Mali, which continues to cause France heavy financial and economic consequences,” Wadoud says.

Recent press reports said that Amadou Kouffa, who led the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), was killed in a French raid. Kouffa and several other prominent jihadist figures formed the “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims” (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM) in Mar. 2017. JNIM is openly loyal to AQIM’s Daoud and Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as the head of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa.]

Daoud bristles at the reports of Kouffa’s demise, saying this is nothing more than French “misinformation” and “lies.” Kouffa is still alive, according to Daoud, and he wasn’t even at the site of the French operation. An image of Kouffa next to Daoud is displayed throughout much of Al-Andalus Media’s production.

From the AQIM leader’s perspective, France is “losing” its wars in Africa. He calls on the tribesmen and peoples of the region to rally against the Western intervention, saying “now is the time of sacrifice and Jihad.” They are “the hope of the Ummah,” along with their “brothers in the other fronts, from the Indian Subcontinent through Somalia, passing through the blessed Sham and wise Yemen.” That is, AQIM’s war is part of a global jihad.

“We will not rest until we liberate our land and cleanse our sanctities from the abomination of the Jews and Christians, and break the chains of our scholars and our brothers in the prisons of oppression, and until the word of Allah will be elevated in a Caliphate based on the prophetic method of justice and shura,” Daoud says.

In North and West Africa, France and its allies stand in the way of AQIM’s Caliphate-building dream.

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

Tags: , , , , ,


  • Nick Mastrovito says:

    Got to admit, their propaganda is pretty good. The West, on the other hand, bickers about everything and now climate change and Russian collusion are bigger stories that then Global War on Terror- sad state of affairs. I’ll be glad when the world is eradicated of the barbaric terrorists!

  • Fran Meaney says:

    Always Muslims are the victims and the oppressed and even our U.S. media parrot those viewpoints. But it is the followers of Islam who have the undying obligation to wage jihad against all non-Muslims, killing those who won’t join Muhammad’s bandwagon, in the quest to subjugate the whole world.

  • S R says:

    Macron’s approval ratings has slumped to 18%. Macron seems to be going the way of his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who did not run for re-election and who left office with an approval rating of 4%. However Macron could leave office with an approval rating of less than 4% lol.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram