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.
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 Islamic State’s supporters in Libya have added Mokhtar Belmokhtar to their “wanted dead” campaign. The Islamic State’s loyalists have released dozens of online posters targeting their pro-al Qaeda opposition in North Africa. Some of the men have been killed. The campaign was launched as a response to the Islamic State’s losses in Derna, Libya. The poster for Belmokhtar was quickly disavowed by some Islamic State social media accounts.
AQIM denies that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed in US airstrikes earlier this month. The jihadists have now released five statements on the matter. Two of the statements deny Belmokhtar has been killed, while the other three imply he is alive. None of them say he is dead.
The statement also confirms that he and his group, the Al Mulathameen Brigade, are still loyal to Zawahiri and al Qaeda. The Long War Journal cannot independently verify the statement’s authenticity.
A jihadist leader known as Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi has declared allegiance to the Islamic State. It appears that he has pledged fealty to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on behalf of MUJAO, a jihadist group in West Africa. There is no indication that al Qaeda loyalists, such as Mokhtar Belmokhtar, have also defected.
The explosion killed three civilians and left 16 wounded, including nine Nigerien UN peacekeepers. The group said that it was directly targeting Nigerien troops because of Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou’s response in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
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A terrorist group headed by Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed credit for the raid on a natural gas field in Algeria. Belmokhtar is a longtime Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb commander, but split from the group last year. Belmokhtar’s spokesman has said that he still answers to al Qaeda central.