US sanctions leaders of al Qaeda in Mali

Abu Abdul Rahman al Sanhaji, aka Ali Maycho, who was designated by the US State Department today.

Two leaders of the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s wing in West Africa and the wider Sahel, have been designated as terrorists today by the US government.

In a coordinated press release, US Treasury designated Malian national Ba Ag Moussa. Treasury notes that Moussa is a close associate of JNIM’s overall leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, who is also designated, and is responsible for several attacks across Mali.

His role as a military commander in central Mali has directly affected the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the region. His past life as a former colonel in the Malian army also fits with al Qaeda’s (and the Islamic State’s) modus operandi of recruiting former military officers into its fold.

Most notably, Treasury notes Moussa’s role in the deadly assault on a Malian military base in central Mali earlier this year. At least 23 Malian soldiers were killed in the attack.

Local reporting insisted that Moussa led the charge on the base, however, JNIM’s statement alleged that Amadou Kouffa, the leader of JNIM’s Katibat Macina in central Mali, led the assault. Treasury also contends that Moussa, not Kouffa, commanded the jihadist forces in the raid.

It is possible that JNIM reported Kouffa directly leading his men on the frontlines to cut back at claims made by the French and Malians about his death.

The US State Department also designated Moroccan national Ali Maycho today. Maycho, also known as Abu Abdul Rahman al Sanhaji, is a senior Sharia official for JNIM and a former judge for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara branch.

State’s designation notes that “Maychou has served in a leadership role in JNIM since its inception in 2017; has previously claimed responsibility for an attack on a military camp that housed Malian Armed Forces in Gao, Mali, that killed dozens; and has had a role in operational activities of JNIM.”

Sanhaji was present in JNIM’s founding video sitting next to Iyad Ag Ghaly and Hasan al Ansari. In subsequent releases, he has been identified as the overall Sharia judge for the group. Sanhaji has, however, also directly taken part in battles.

Prior to the formation of JNIM, Sanhaji was featured in several videos decrying French forces and inciting local Muslims to violence. He has also appeared in one video where alleged spies were executed by al Qaeda’s men. Following the January 2017 deadly suicide bombing in Gao, Sanhaji further claimed responsibility in a video released by AQIM.

JNIM continues to pose a serious threat to not only Malian security, but the overall security situation in the Sahel. Despite a French-led counterterrorism mission, troops from the G5 Sahel, and a United Nations peacekeeping force, Al Qaeda still retains the ability to operate openly inside Mali and the wider Sahel.

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

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3 Comments

  • Pete Speer says:

    It would be ridiculous to ask when the medal ceremony will be, or when and where the annual convention is scheduled. How does one keep score. Based on my simple research it seems clear that the operational force in the various ‘developing nations ‘ arose as the direct result of the Saudi and Gulf nations amassing the wealth from the shallow, seemingly endless oil deposits. in their homelands of the middle east.

    These generated in each of the under developed nations in which Islam, Sunni Islam were in competition with the existing animist, Christian and/or Buddhist sects for the hearts, minds, and souls of the population. Most of the countries were fully taken in by the huge Sunni mosques — funded by the oil revenues, the radical Sunni Imams and then the training of local Muslims.

  • Ken says:

    Would be nice to add something in the article regarding what are the consequences of making this notorious list, i.e., terrorist list.

  • Pat says:

    The US is sanctionning the finger, the arm, instead of sanctionning the brain to wipe out this evil.

    By GREEDINESS, The US and other western countries are turning blind eyes and deaf ears on Qatar and Saudi Arabia which are fueling jihad teaching and wars around the world, killing US citizens in the back and in the front giving money to create jobs in the US as said last week Donald Trump to CHIEF TERRORIST AL TANI, he received at the White House.

    Gentlemen, go ahead with this denial of reality and facts. But get ready to be destroyed by these funders, who are determined to achieve their objective that is to root out western civilization and replace it by theirs.

    And they are paying for that, one to their soldiers in the ground around the world to fight and destroy, and second they are paying to asleep THOSE their soldiers have to destroy to install their way of life. Among them the US.

    WAKE UP BEFORE IT’S LATE ! Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other muslim countries funding the jihad are not joking.

    WAKE UP BEFORE IT’S LATE !

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