Ansar Dine

Ansar Dine is an Islamic Tuareg militant organization operating in Mali.

AT A GLANCE

Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History.

Organization

How does a group organize? Who leads it? How does it finance operations?

Strategy

How does a group fight? What are its aims and ideologies? What are some of its major attacks?

Major Attacks

What are the group's most famous attacks? What are some key attacks in the group's evolution?

Interactions

What is the group's relationship with the community? How does it interact with other groups?

Maps

What is the group's relationship with over militants over time?

Key Statistics

2011 Year formed
2012 Year First Attack
2018 Last Recorded Activity

Contact

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

How to Cite:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Ansar Dine.” Stanford University. Last modified July 2018. <https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/ansar-dine>

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

FormedDecember 2011
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackMarch 2012: Following the military coup in Mali, Ansar Dine, along with AQIM, MUJAO, and the MNLA launched an offensive and eventually took control of northern Mali (unknown casualties).
Last AttackJune 30, 2018: JNIM, the umbrella organization including Ansar Dine, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of the Malian headquarters of the G5 Sahel, an international anti-terror taskforce. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed (3 killed, unknown wounded).
UpdatedJuly 15, 2018

Ansar Dine, translated as “Defenders of the Faith,” is an Islamic Tuareg group founded in December 2011 by Iyad Ag Ghali. The group aims to establish Shariah law across Mali and targets western civilians and peacekeepers. Ansar Dine’s ideology closely mirrors that of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM); it is reportedly a domestic front group and affiliate for AQIM, though it was never publicly recognized by AQIM as an official affiliate.  Ansar Dine is best known for its takeover of northern Mali with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), AQIM, and the Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) after the Malian coup of 2012. Ansar Dine occupied and implemented Shariah law in Timbuktu and its environs from June 2012 until January 2013, when the French military intervened. In early July 2012, Ansar Dine made national headlines when it destroyed seven mausoleums in Timbuktu, which were part of a United Nations World Heritage site. In March 2017, Ansar Dine merged with Al Mourabitoun, local jihad group Macina Liberation Front, and AQIM’s Sahara branch to form Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). AQIM and AQ Central approved the merger and accepted the new JNIM’s oath of allegiance.

Narrative

Ansar Dine, translated as “Defenders of the Faith,” is a Salafi-Jihadist group founded in December 2011 by Tuareg militant Iyad Ag Ghali.  The group aims to establish a Shariah state and targets western civilians, especially peacekeepers. Its ideology closely mirrors that of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).[i] Ansar Dine is best known for its involvement in the Malian coup of 2012. In early 2012, rebels led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) launched an uprising to take over northern Mali while the Malian military staged a coup and ousted the Malian president. Ansar Dine, the MNLA, AQIM and the Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) took advantage of the security breach by working together to invade northern Mali, defeat the Malian security forces, and occupy the region. As the MNLA seized new territory, Ansar Dine would enter the territory to help occupy it, but then take over leadership from the MNLA to accomplish its goal of installing Shariah law.[ii]

In April 2012, Ansar Dine, AQIM and MUJAO ended their alliances with the MNLA, because the MNLA’s objective, to establish a secular and independent state in northern Mali, strongly contradicted the groups aims to create a united Malian state governed by Shariah law.[iii] After Ansar Dine’s seizure of Timbuktu from the MNLA at the end of April, Ghali called on local residents to help Ansar Dine establish Shariah law throughout the region.[iv] Ansar Dine purportedly sent 100 fighters to help MUJAO expel the MNLA from Gao and Timbuktu from June 26-27, 2012. By late June 2012, Ansar Dine and its allies controlled Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao and their associated environs in a piece of territory the size of Texas.[v]  Ansar Dine established Shariah law in its territory, banning alcohol, smoking, cemetery visits on Fridays, and soccer; and demanding that all women wear veils.[vi] Youth protests erupted in July 2012 in Goundam, a city in the Timbuktu region, after Ansar Dine whipped a woman holding her child for not having her veil properly positioned.[vii]

In November 2012, Ansar Dine stated its willingness to engage in peace talks with regional governments in Bamako, Mali. Additionally, the group gave permission to Malian humanitarian groups to enter northern Mali.[viii]  In December 2012, Ansar Dine participated in talks with the government of Burkina Faso and the MNLA to cease hostilities, but the talks did not yield a lasting ceasefire.[ix]

The rebel occupation of northern Mali prompted a French military intervention in January 2013, which ousted Ansar Dine and its allies from control.[x] Despite the intervention and subsequent counterterrorism efforts, Ansar Dine continued to operate and attack United Nations and French forces using rockets, mortars and IED attacks.[xi]  That month, political chief Alghabass Ag Intalla split from Ansar Dine to form the Islamic Movement for Azawad, a group purportedly composed solely of Malians, dedicated to a peaceful resolution to the crisis.[xii] Ansar Dine was mostly dormant and focused on rebuilding its forces during 2014; the group resumed attacks in 2015.[xiii] In 2016, Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for 84 attacks out of 250 launched by AQ and its affiliates in Western Africa.[xiv]

Following the unrest in Mali, Amadou Kouffa, a mentee of Ghali, formed the Macina Liberation Front (FLM) as an affiliate of Ansar Dine. Its aim was to coordinate its operations in central and southern Mali. FLM gained international attention for its January 2015 violent attacks in central Mali. The media attributed several attacks in 2015 to the FLM that Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for; however, it is unclear which group actually carried out the attacks.[xv]  On March 2, 2017, Ansar Dine officially merged with FLM, Al Mourabitoun, and the Sahara branch of AQIM to form Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), under the leadership of Ghali. Through the merger, the groups emphasized their desire to fulfill Al Qaeda’s (AQ) ideological agenda. JNIM reportedly formalizes the previous collaboration among the constituent groups by establishing a hierarchical relationship in which AQIM oversees the allied militant groups and provides strategic guidance, directions, and resources.[xvi] JNIM pledged allegiance to AQ and has allegedly conducted six attacks in Mali and one in Burkina Faso.



[i] Sandner, Philipp. "Ansar Dine: Radical Islamists in Northern Mali | Africa | DW.COM | 18.12.2014." DW, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 26 July 2016; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016; "Mali Crisis: Key Players." BBC News, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 July 2016; Weiss, Caleb. "Malian Al Qaeda Leader Threatens France in Audio Statement | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016.

[ii] Lebovich, Andrew. "AQIM and Its Allies in Mali." The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 29 June 2016.

[iii] "Mali Tuareg Rebels Control Timbuktu as Troops Flee." BBC News, 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 July 2016; Sandner, Philipp. "Ansar Dine: Radical Islamists in Northern Mali | Africa | DW.COM | 18.12.2014." DW, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 26 July 2016.

[iv] Butcher, Tim. "Iyad Ag Ghaly - Mali's Islamist Leader." BBC News, 17 July 2012. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.

[v] "Tuareg Rebels Driven out of Timbuktu." Al Jazeera, 29 June 2012. Web. 29 June 2016.

[vi] Lambert, Michael, and Jason Warner. "Who Is Ansar Dine?" CNN, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 July 2016.

[vii] Palus, Nancy. "Northern Mali Residents Rise Up Against Islamists." Voice of America. Voice of America, 13 July 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[viii] "Can the Jihadists Be Stopped?" The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 10 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016; "Negotiating Humanitarian Access in the North." IRIN. IRIN, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[ix] "Mali Peace Talks: Tuareg and Islamist Leaders 'chatted, Cracked Jokes.'" The France 24 Observers. The France 24 Observers, 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[x] Gaffey, Conner. "Who Is Iyad Ag Ghaly, Mali's Veteran Jihadi?" Newsweek, 29 June 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.

[xi] Weiss, Caleb. "Malian Al Qaeda Leader Threatens France in Audio Statement | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016.

[xii] "Mali’s Ansar Dine Islamists 'split and want talks. '" BBC News, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 02 July 2018.

[xiii] Gaffey, Conner. "Who Is Iyad Ag Ghaly, Mali's Veteran Jihadi?" Newsweek, 29 June 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.

[xiv] Weiss, Caleb. "Al Qaeda linked to more than 250 West African attacks in 2016 | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 07 Jan. 2017. Web. 01 July 2018.

[xv] Weiss, Caleb. "Ansar Dine’s Branch in Southern Mali Releases First Video | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 18 May 2016. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[xvi] Cristiani, Dario. “Ten Years of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Evolution and Prospects.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 05 May 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Iyad ag Ghali (December 2011 to March 2017)
  • Omar Hould Hamaha (April 2012 to August 2012)
  • Alghabass Ag Intalla (February 2012 to January 2013)

Leadership

This section describes various leaders, their deputies, and other important officials in the militant organization.

Iyad ag Ghali (December 2011 to March 2017)

Ghali, a Tuareg militant from the Kidal region, founded Ansar Dine in December 2011. Prior to his leadership of Ansar Dine, he was a diplomat, a negotiator between AQIM and the Malian government in hostage situations, a rebel chieftain, and leader of the Tuareg rebellion against the Malian government in 1990.[i] Before the 2012 Malian coup, he was rebuffed from a leadership position in the MNLA due to his commitment to establishing Shariah law.[ii] After the French intervention in Mali in January 2013, Ghali disappeared, only resurfacing in the media in 2015. With the merger of Ansar Dine into JNIM in 2017, Ghali pledged his allegiance to AQ leader Zawahiri.[iii]



[i] Weiss, Caleb. "Malian Al Qaeda Leader Threatens France in Audio Statement | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016; Jacinto, Leela. "Mali's Whisky-drinking Rebel Turned Islamist Chief." France 24, 12 June 2012. Web. 28 July 2016; Sandner, Philipp. "Ansar Dine: Radical Islamists in Northern Mali | Africa | DW.COM | 18.12.2014." DW, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 26 July 2016.

[ii] Lloyd-George, William. "The Man Who Brought the Black Flag to Timbuktu." Foreign Policy, 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 July 2016.

[iii] Weiss, Caleb. "Iyad Ag Ghaly Reportedly in the Kidal Region of Mali | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 July 2016; "Mali jihadist groups announce they will merge: report." Reuters, 02 March 2017. Web. 01 July 2018.

 

Omar Hould Hamaha (April 2012 to August 2012)

Hamaha served as Ansar Dine’s spokesperson and a self-described commander in the group. He later served as a spokesperson for MUJAO until his death in a French airstrike in March 2014.[i]



[i] Lloyd-George, William. "The Man Who Brought the Black Flag to Timbuktu." Foreign Policy, 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 July 2016.

 

Alghabass Ag Intalla (February 2012 to January 2013)

A leader of the Tuareg Ifogha tribe, Intalla joined Ansar Dine as political chief in early 2012. He left Ansar Dine to form the splinter group Islamic Movement for Azaward in 2013.[i]



[i] Beaumont, Peter. "Mali’s splinter group says it’s ready for talks." The Guardian, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 02 July 2018.

 

    Name Changes
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

  • 2012: 101 – 1000 (START)[i]


[i] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd.

 

Resources

Ansar Dine is funded primarily by hostage ransoms, opium trafficking, and money from AQIM. The group allegedly also received funding from the government of Qatar.[i]



[i] Houttuin, Saska. "Mali: MNLA's Struggle for Azawad Continues." AllAfrica.com, 20 July 2012. Web. 1 Aug. 2016; ALLEMANDOU, Ségolène. "Is Qatar Fuelling the Crisis in North Mali?" France 24. France 24, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2016; DeYoung, Karen. "United States Designates Ansar Dine a Foreign Terrorist Organization." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2016; Brisard, Jean-Charles. "Terrorism Financing in North Africa." American Center for Democracy, 28 Nov. 2013. Web.

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

Ansar Dine operates out of northern Mali and carries out attacks in the Kidal, Timbuktu, Segou, Sikasso, Koulikoro and Gao regions of the country.  Following the Malian coup, Ansar Dine collaborated with its allies to control an area the size of Texas in northern Mali from June 2012 to January 2013; Ansar Dine controlled Timbuktu and its environs.  After the French intervention in January 2013, Ansar Dine lost most of its territory to the Malian armed forces.[i]



[i] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016; Gaffey, Conner. "Who Is Iyad Ag Ghaly, Mali's Veteran Jihadi?" Newsweek, 29 June 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2016; Weiss, Caleb. "Malian Al Qaeda Leader Threatens France in Audio Statement | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016; Gaffey, Conner. "Who Is Iyad Ag Ghaly, Mali's Veteran Jihadi?" Newsweek, 29 June 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2016.

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

Ansar Dine is a Salafi-jihadist group that aims to establish Shariah law across Mali and targets western civilians, especially peacekeepers in Mali.[i] Ansar Dine’s ideology closely mirrors that of AQIM, which came to view Ansar Dine as its southern arm in Mali. Unlike the MNLA, Ansar Dine does not seek independence for northern Mali but rather a country unified under Islam.[ii]



[i] Sandner, Philipp. "Ansar Dine: Radical Islamists in Northern Mali | Africa | DW.COM | 18.12.2014." DW, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 26 July 2016; "SEARCH RESULTS: Ansar Al-Dine." GTD Search Results, Dec. 2015. Web. 28 July 2016; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[ii] Weiss, Caleb. "Malian Al Qaeda Leader Threatens France in Audio Statement | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016.

 

Political Activities

In November 2012, Ansar Dine expressed its willingness to hold peace talks with regional governments in Bamako, Mali. Additionally, the group gave permission to humanitarian agencies to enter northern Mali.[i] In December 2012, Ansar Dine participated in talks with the government of Burkina Faso and the MNLA to establish a cessation of hostilities, but the talks did not yield a lasting peace.[ii]



[i] "Can the Jihadists Be Stopped?" The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 10 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016; "Negotiating Humanitarian Access in the North." IRIN. IRIN, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016. 

[ii] "Mali Peace Talks: Tuareg and Islamist Leaders 'chatted, Cracked Jokes.'" The France 24 Observers. The France 24 Observers, 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

 

Targets and Tactics

Ansar Dine militants employs suicide attacks, explosive-laden vehicles, rockets, mortars, grenades and rifles to weaken its primary targets, which include the French and Malian militaries, the Malian police force, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and after the initial occupation of land in northern Mali, the MNLA.[i] The group also possesses anti-aircraft weapons.[ii]



[i] Weiss, Caleb. "Iyad Ag Ghaly Reportedly in the Kidal Region of Mali | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 July 2016; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[ii] Hirsch, Afua. "Mali rebels tighten grip on northern towns." The Guardian. 02 April 2012. Web. 01 July 2018.

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

March 2012: Following the military coup in Mali, Ansar Dine, along with AQIM, MUJAO, and the MNLA, launched an offensive and eventually took control of northern Mali. In its attack of Aguelhok, a village in the Kidal region, Ansar Dine forces killed 82 Malian soldiers and kidnapped at least 32 (unknown casualties).[i]

June 2012: Ansar Dine and MUJAO fought alongside one another in the Battles of Gao and Timbuktu in northern Mali against the MNLA, ultimately seizing Gao, Timbuktu and their environs (unknown casualties).[ii]

October 23, 2013: Four Ansar Dine suicide bombers detonated cars saddled with explosives at the United Nations checkpoint in Tessalit in the Kidal region of Mali, killing peacekeepers and civilians (7 killed, 6 wounded).[iii]

August 3, 2015: Militants ambushed the Malian National Guard base in Gourma Rharous in the Timbuktu region of Mali, killing 11 Malian soldiers (11 killed, 1 wounded).[iv]

December 24-25, 2015: Ansar Dine militants attacked a MNLA base in Talhandak village in Kidal, Mali and allegedly took over the village (10 killed, unknown wounded).[v]

February 12, 2016: A suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb on a U.N. base in the Kidal region. 6 peacekeepers died in the attack and the resulting heavy weapons fire. Ansar Dine claimed the attack was a response to the German president’s pledge to send soldiers to support MINUSMA (6 killed, unknown wounded).[vi]

July 19, 2016: Militants attacked a Malian military base in Nampala, with at least 19 Malian soldiers killed and 5 kidnapped (19 killed, unknown wounded).[vii]

November 7, 2016: Ansar Dine forces temporarily took control of a national guard post near Gourma in the Timbuktu region. The group claimed to have captured 5 vehicles, burned 6, and captured at least one DShK machine gun (1 killed, unknown wounded).[viii]

June 30, 2018: JNIM, the umbrella organization including Ansar Dine, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of the Malian headquarters of the G5 Sahel, an international anti-terror taskforce. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed (3 killed, unknown wounded).[ix]



[i] “Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb.” Australian National Security, May 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015; "Terrorist Designations of Ansar Al-Dine." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 July 2016.

[ii] "Tuareg Rebels Driven out of Timbuktu." Al Jazeera, 29 June 2012. Web. 29 June 2016.

[iii] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[iv] "Eleven Soldiers Killed in Mali in Terrorist Attack on Camp, Government Says." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 04 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 Aug. 2016; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[v] Weiss, Caleb. "Al Qaeda Group Strikes in Northern Mali | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 26 Dec. 2015. Web. 01 Aug. 2016; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[vi] "Mali Islamist group Ansar Dine claims attack on U.N. base." Reuters, 13 Feb. 2016. Web. 03 July 2018.

[vii] "Refworld | Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 - Mali." Refworld. The UN Refugee Agency, 19 July 2017. Web. 01 July 2018.

[viii] Weiss, Caleb. "Ansar Dine claims string of attacks across Mali | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 07 Nov. 2016. Web. 01 July 2018; "Ansar Dine claims attack on southern Malia town." Reuters, 08 Nov. 2016. Web. 01 July 2018.

[ix] “Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group claimed attack on Mali HQ of G5 Sahel force.” Africa News, 30 June 2018. Web. 01 July 2018.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/ Listed
  • Designated/ Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/ Listed

  • U.S. State Department Foreign Terrorist Organization list (FTO): March 21, 2013 to Present.[i]
  • UNSC ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List: March 20, 2013 to Present.[ii]
  • United Arab Emirates Cabinet Designated Terrorist Organization: November 15, 2014 to Present.[iii]


[i] "Terrorist Designations of Ansar Al-Dine." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 July 2016.

[ii] "ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List." United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs, 24 June 2016. Web.

[iii] "Government bans three alleged terrorist groups." BBC Democracy Live, 2 April 2014. Web. 26 June 2018.

 

Community Relations

Ansar Dine established Shariah law in its territory in Timbuktu, banning alcohol, smoking, cemetery visits on Fridays, soccer and demanding that all women wear veils.[i] The militant group punishes those in its occupied territory that did not follow strict Shariah law by whipping them.  Youth protests erupted in July 2012 in Goundam, a city in the Timbuktu region, after Ansar Dine whipped a woman holding her child for not having her veil properly positioned.[ii]  At the same time, the group permitted Malian humanitarian groups to enter northern Mali, under the condition that Ansar Dine was in charge of the transfer and distribution of food and medicines.[iii]

Most of Ansar Dine’s members are Tuaregs from Ghali’s Ifogha tribe and Berabiche Arabs from the Timbuktu area.



[i] Lambert, Michael, and Jason Warner. "Who Is Ansar Dine?" CNN, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 29 July 2016.

[ii] Palus, Nancy. "Northern Mali Residents Rise Up Against Islamists." Voice of America. Voice of America, 13 July 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[iii] "Can the Jihadists Be Stopped?" The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 10 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016; "Negotiating Humanitarian Access in the North." IRIN. IRIN, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

 

Relationships with Other Groups

Ansar Dine’s ideology closely mirrors that of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which came to view Ansar Dine as its southern arm in Mali.[i] AQIM was also led by Ghali’s cousin, Hamada Ag Hama, strengthening the tie between the two groups.

After the 2012 coup in northern Mali, Ansar Dine worked with the MNLA, AQIM, and the Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) to occupy the region.[ii] As the MNLA seized new territory, Ansar Dine would enter the territory to help occupy it, but then take over leadership in order to install Shariah law. In April 2012, Ansar Dine, AQIM, and MUJAO ended their alliances with the MNLA, because the MNLA’s objective, to establish a secular and independent state in northern Mali, strongly contradicted their aims to create a united Malian state governed by Shariah law.[iii] Ansar Dine purportedly sent 100 fighters to help MUJAO fight the MNLA in Gao, while it fought the MNLA in Timbuktu during the Battles of Gao and Timbuktu from June 26-27, 2012. In December 2012, Ansar Dine participated in talks with the government of Burkina Faso and the MNLA to cease hostilities; unfortunately, the talks were unsuccessful.[iv]

In January 2013, Ansar Dine political chief Alghabass Ag Intalla split from the group to form the Islamic Movement for Azaward (MIA), a group purportedly composed solely of Malians. MIA claimed to seek negotiations as a way to peacefully end the Mali crisis.

Following the unrest in Mali, Amadou Kouffa, a mentee of Ghali, formed the Macina Liberation Front (FLM) as an affiliate to Ansar Dine for coordination of its operations in central and southern Mali. FLM gained international attention for its January 2015 violent attacks in central Mali In January 2015. The media attributed several attacks in 2015 to the FLM that Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for; however, it is unclear which group actually carried out the attacks.[v]

Ansar Dine joined with Al Mourabitoun, the FLM, and the Sahara branch of AQIM into the unified organization, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen on March 2, 2017.[vi] JNIM reportedly formalizes the collaboration among the constituent groups by establishing a hierarchical relationship in which AQIM oversees the allied militant groups and provides strategic guidance, directions, and resources.[vii] The group operates under the leadership of Ansar Dine emir, Ghali.



[i] Weiss, Caleb. "Malian Al Qaeda Leader Threatens France in Audio Statement | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 1 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 July 2016; JACINTO, Leela. "Mali's Whisky-drinking Rebel Turned Islamist Chief." France 24, 12 June 2012. Web. 28 July 2016; Sandner, Philipp. "Ansar Dine: Radical Islamists in Northern Mali | Africa | DW.COM | 18.12.2014." DW, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 26 July 2016.

[ii] Lebovich, Andrew. "AQIM and Its Allies in Mali." The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 29 June 2016.

[iii] "Mali Tuareg Rebels Control Timbuktu as Troops Flee." BBC News, 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 July 2016; Sandner, Philipp. "Ansar Dine: Radical Islamists in Northern Mali | Africa | DW.COM | 18.12.2014." DW, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 26 July 2016.

[iv] "Mali Peace Talks: Tuareg and Islamist Leaders 'chatted, Cracked Jokes.'" The France 24 Observers. The France 24 Observers, 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[v] Weiss, Caleb. "Ansar Dine’s Branch in Southern Mali Releases First Video | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal. The Long War Journal, 18 May 2016. Web. 02 Aug. 2016.

[vi] "Challenges in Countering Terrorism in Libya." UN Counter Terrorism Committee, Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, Libya Sanctions Committee, 27 June 2017. Web. 26 June 2018.

[vii] Cristiani, Dario. “Ten Years of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Evolution and Prospects.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 05 May 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

In 2013, various French and Malian government officials accused the Qatari government of providing material support to Ansar Dine and other militant groups in northern Mali. Qatari NGOs, including the Qatari branch of Red Crescent, were the only humanitarian organizations allowed into the region during militant rule.[i]



[i] Allemandou, Segolene. "Is Qatar Fueling the Crisis in north Mali?" France 24. France 24, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 July 2018.

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that "map" relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g. leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.

Evolving Militant Interactions

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Last updated July 2018