In exchange for the release of dozens of imprisoned members from Mali’s prisons, Al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) has freed four hostages, three of them foreign. JNIM has since celebrated the prisoner swap, including a personal appearance by its overall emir, Iyad Ag Ghaly, in northern Mali.
The State Department announced today that it has designated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), al Qaeda’s branch in Mali and West Africa, as a terrorist organization. JNIM and its leader, Iyad Ghali, are openly loyal to al Qaeda and the Taliban’s emir.
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.
On Oct. 9, a statement attributed to Mokhtar Belmokhtar was circulated online. The message eulogizes Sheikh Ag Aoussa, a prominent Tuareg leader who was reportedly killed in an explosion after attending a meeting at a UN camp in Mali. The statement’s author, presumably Belmokhtar, blames France for Aoussa’s death and calls on tribes to turn against the French.
The reclusive leader of Ansar Dine, an al Qaeda group that operates in Mali, has resurfaced again to threaten the French and dismiss the latest peace deal with the Tuaregs in Mali.