On Mar. 2, a new al Qaeda joint venture in West Africa was announced. The “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims” is led by Ansar Dine’s Iyad Ag Ghaly and is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri. It brings together four groups that were already part of al Qaeda’s international network.
The Islamic State has officially recognized a loyalty oath sworn by Abu Walid al Sahrawi, a jihadist based in West Africa. Sahrawi first swore his fealty to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in May 2015. It is not clear why it took so long for the so-called caliphate to recognize him as one of its representatives.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and associated groups have unleashed a string of attacks in Mali and elsewhere in West Africa this year.
Al Jazeera has reportedly obtained an audio message from Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi in which he threatens to attack Morocco. Little has been heard from Sahrawi since May 2015, when he broke from Al Murabitoon and declared his fealty to the Islamic State. If the message is authentic, then it could indicate that he and his men plan on initiating new operations.
Hisham Ali Ashmawi, also known as Abu Umar al Muhajir, released an audio message earlier this month calling on Egyptian scholars to support jihadists in their fight against President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s government. Ashmawi, a former Egyptian special forces officer, leads an al Qaeda-linked group named Al Murabitoon.
The raids targeted AQIM field commander Abu al Nour al Andalusi, a Spanish national, and the Saudi spokesman for Al Murabitoon, Abu Dujana al Qasimi. Neither the French nor AQIM have commented on the raids, which are said to have occurred in recent days.
Despite having initially denied his death, AQIM finally confirms the death of one of its former spokesmen two years after his reported death.
The Al Qaeda group continues to take Western hostages throughout the Sahara and the Sahel.