MMP: Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen

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Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen

Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) is a Salafi-Jihadist militant organization operating in the African Sahel region.

Key Statistics

2017 First Recorded Activity
2017 First Attack
2018 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

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Overview

Narrative of the Organization's History

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Organization

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

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Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets and Tactics

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Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

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Interactions

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

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Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact MMP

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

Download Full Profile as PDF

Last updated July 2018

How to Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM).” Stanford University. Last modified July 2018. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/jamaat-nusrat-al-islam-wal-muslimeen
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Organizational Overview

SUMMARY

Formed: March 2, 2017

Disbanded: Group is active.

First Attack: March 5, 2017: Days after its founding, JNIM attacked a Boulikessi military base in central Mali, close to the Burkina Faso border. JNIM militants killed 11 Malian soldiers, burned vehicles, and stole arms (11 killed, unknown wounded).[1] 

Last Attack: June 30, 2018: JNIM 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).[2]

 

Executive Summary

Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), also known as the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, is a Salafi-Jihadist organization that formed in March 2017, when the Sahara branch of AQIM and Al Mourabitoun joined with Ansar Dine and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF). The group announced its merger in a video in which JNIM’s new emir, Iyad Ag Ghali, appeared alongside leaders from the other constituent militant groups, and pledged allegiance to the emirs of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Qaeda (AQ), and the Taliban. The merger was allegedly in line with AQ’s doctrine of unity, as consolidation would allow the AQ affiliates to bring together resources and objectives to extend its area of operation. JNIM reportedly formalizes the previous collaboration among the constituent groups by establishing a hierarchical relationship in which AQIM oversees the allied militant groups. JNIM has targeted French forces, the UN Stabilization Mission, and local armies in the Sahel region.

 

Group Narrative

Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), also known as the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, is a Salafi-Jihadist organization that formed on March 2, 2017, when the Sahara branch of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Mourabitoun joined with Ansar Dine and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF). The group announced its merger in a video in which JNIM’s new emir, Iyad Ag Ghali, appeared alongside leaders from the other constituent militant groups, and pledged allegiance to AQIM’s emir Abdelmalek Droukdel, AQ emir Ayman al Zawahiri, and emir of the Taliban Mullah Haibatullah.[3] The formation of JNIM was allegedly in line with AQ’s recent conclusion that Shariah law could not be fully implemented in areas where jihadists did not possess complete control; the merger allowed the AQ affiliates to bring together resources and objectives to extend its area of operation.[4]

JNIM arose from cooperation between AQIM, Ansar Dine, the Al Mulathamun Battalion (AMB) and MUJAO to take control of territory in Northern Mali after the 2012 Tuareg rebellion. The groups coordinated to combat Malian forces and later counter French and UN forces that intervened to restore order.[5] While each of these groups were ultimately expelled from their territorial holdings in northern Mali in 2013, the establishment of JNIM allowed the militants to apply the resources and strategies implemented in Mali to a regional context.[6] 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.[7] Moreover, some view JNIM activity as a means through which AQIM has sought to reassert its presence in areas it controlled prior to France’s 2013 intervention in Mali.[8] Although all members conform to JNIM’s strategy, Al Mourabitoun has claimed that it will remain operationally autonomous from the larger group.[9]

Since its formation, JNIM has clashed continually with French counter-terrorism forces in the Sahel region, deployed under Operation Barkhane.[10] In February 2018, French forces launched 3 simultaneous raids on JNIM forces and their affiliates in northern Mali, killing over 20 jihadi fighters and 6 JNIM leaders. In response, JNIM militants attacked the French embassy and army headquarters in Burkina Faso’s capital.[11] JNIM has also targeted the UN Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the G5 Sahel Joint Force, a partnership between Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad to curtail extensive terrorist activity in the region. In June 2018, JNIM launched the first attack on the G5 Sahel Joint Forces’ headquarters in Sevare, Mali.[12]

JNIM has been involved in communal clashes among local ethnic groups in Mali. Many of the MLF fighters in JNIM are members of the Fula, one of the largest West African ethnic groups; militants accordingly fought on the side of the Fulanis in a conflict with the Bambara militia, who were allegedly backed by the Malian army.[13]

As an AQ affiliate, JNIM has a strong rivalry with Islamic State (IS) militants operating in North Africa and the Sahel region. The formation of JNIM coincided with the IS’s loss of territory in Iraq and Syria and the weakening of its regional offshoots, indicating AQ’s interest in taking advantage of the IS’s weakness and formalizing its own authority over regional allies.[14]



[1] “Mali: l’attaque contre la base militaire de Boulikessi revendiquée par l’organisation jihadiste d’Iyad Ag Ghali.” Jeune Afrique, 10 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

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

[3] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 13 March 2017. Web. 06 July 2018.

[4] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 13 March 2017. Web. 06 July 2018.

[5] Chivvis, Christopher S. & Andrew Liepman. “North Africa’s Menace: AQIM’s Evolution and the U.S. Policy Response.” RAND Corporation, 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

[6] Nabli, Beligh. “L’unification du djihadisme sahelien.” L’Economiste Maghrebin, 06 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[7] 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.

[8] 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.

[9] Weiss, Caleb. “Analysis: Merger of al Qaeda groups threatens security in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 18 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018; 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.

[10] Taylor, Alan. “Operation Barkhane: France’s Counterterrorism Forces in Africa.” The Atlantic, 24 Oct. 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[11] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda branch in Mali claims Burkina Faso attacks | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 03 March 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.

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

[13] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda entity involved in communal violence in central Mali | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 27 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018; “Segou: Comment les djihadistes de Kouffa ont tue au moins 10 miliciens Dozo?” Nord Sud Journal, 24 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[14] 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
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Leadership

Iyad Ag Ghali (March 2017 – present): Ghali is a Tuareg Malian jihadist, founder of Ansar Dine, and emir of JNIM. In 2017, he appeared in the video announcing the group’s formation to pledge allegiance to AQ emir Zawahiri and AQIM emir Droukdel. The U.S. designated Ghali a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in February 2013.[1]

Hasan al-Ansari (March 2017 – March 2018): A co-founder of Al Mourabitoun and founding member of JNIM, Ansari was present in the official video announcing JNIM’s establishment. Ansari died during French raids on Tinzaouatene, in Algeria.[2]

Abu Abdul Rahman al Sanhaji (March 2017 - present): Sanhaji, long-time head judge and deputy leader of Al Mourabitoun, replaced Mokhtar Belmokhtar as leader of the group upon its merger into JNIM.[3] He appeared in the video announcing JNIM’s formation, representing Al Mourabitoun.

Yahya Abu Hammam (March 2017 - present): Hammam, also known as Djamel Okacha, served as head of AQIM operations in the Sahel and emir of AQIM in Timbuktu. He has been designated a terrorist by the U.S., France, Algeria, E.U., and U.N.[4] He appeared in the video announcing JNIM’s formation, representing AQIM’s Saharan branch.

Amadou Kouffa (March 2017 - present): The former emir of the MLF and a Fulani imam, Kouffa has previously advocated implementation of shariah law as the best means to combat abuses by local officials. He appeared in the video announcing JNIM’s formation, representing the MLF.[5]

 

[1] “Terrorist Designations of Iyad ag Ghali.” U.S. Department of State, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 July 2018.

[2] Weiss, Caleb. “JNIM confirms deaths of co-founder, senior leaders in French raids | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 4 March 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.

[3] Weiss, Caleb. “Analysis: Merger of al Qaeda groups threatens security in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 18 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[4] Roggio, Bill. “US adds senior AQIM commander to terrorist list | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 16 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 July 2018.

[5] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 13 March 2017. Web. 06 July 2018.

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

There are no publicly available size estimates for this group.

Resources

JNIM’s primary source of funding comes from kidnapping for ransom.[1] AQIM, which provides strategic direction and resources to JNIM, has been called “AQ’s wealthiest affiliate” and draws its funding from ransom payments; trafficking of drugs, arms, and humans; criminal activities such as robbery; and connections to other groups in the region, such as Boko Haram and the Shabab.[2]

 

[1] “Foreign travel advice: Niger.” GOV.UK, n.d. Web. 12 July 2018.

[2] Laub, Zachary and Jonathan Masters. “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).” Council on Foreign Relations, 27 March 2015. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

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.

JNIM operates in the Sahel region, primarily in Algeria, Mali, and Niger, but also in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad.[1] The group has launched multiple attacks in central Mali, especially in Segou, Niono, Sevare, and outside the Malian capital, Bamako. In an April 2017 interview, Ghali publicly announced JNIM’s list of “enemy” countries, which includes the US and European nations such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, in addition to various African nations in which it currently operates.[2]

 

[1] “Foreign travel advice: Senegal.” GOV.UK, n.d. Web. 12 July 2018; “The Surprising Suspects behind an Islamist Ambush.” Stratfor Worldview, 18 Oct. 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[2] “Mali: Mali: Le chef de Nusrat al-Islam dresse une liste de 11 pays ‘ennemis.’” Maliactu, 15 April 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

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

Ideology and Goals

JNIM is a Salafi-Jihadist organization. The group’s goals and ideological basis are closely aligned with those of AQIM, and it seeks to build up a Salafi-Islamist state while restoring the caliphate. The merger of various AQ-affiliates into the JNIM was consistent with AQ’s new operational focus on “unity” as a means to fully and effectively implement Shariah law in areas where the jihadists previously had not possessed complete control. In a video announcement, the new JNIM leaders declared their intent to stand united against the Crusader enemy.[1] Ghali has stated that JNIM’s military strategy is to expand its presence over larger territory and train militants against JNIM’s enemies, while preserving relations with local communities.[2]

 

[1] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 13 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[2] “Mali: Mali: Le chef de Nusrat al-Islam dresse une liste de 11 pays ‘ennemis.’” Maliactu, 15 April 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

Political Activities

There are no recorded political activities for this group.

Targets and Tactics

JNIM has previously targeted the Malian army, UN forces, locations popular with westerners, and French counter-terrorism forces, declared to be JNIM’s historic enemy.[1] The group employs suicide bombings, burns vehicles, holds hostages, and engages in gun battles. The group was responsible for an attack on a resort outside Bamako and strikes on the French embassy and army headquarters in Burkina Faso’s capital. In response to the formation of the G5 Sahel to coordinate regional anti-terror efforts, JNIM launched the first attack on G5 Sahel’s Malian headquarters, in June 2018.[2]

In March 2018, the group released a high-quality video highlighting the extent of its activities, the strength of it training camps, and paying tribute to its leaders.[3] JNIM has also become involved in communal clashes among local ethnic groups. JNIM militants fought on the side of the Fulanis in a conflict with the Bambaras, in central Mali. The group claimed the Malian army supported the Bambaras’s military efforts.[4]

Ghali has publicly announced JNIM’s list of “enemy” countries, which includes countries in the African and American continents and Europe: US, Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Chad, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger.[5]

 

[1] Maiga, Ibrahim and William Assanvo. “Mali’s jihadist merger: desperate or dangerous?” Institute for Security Studies, 03 April 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

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

[3] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda group JNIM releases high-level production video | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 21 March 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.

[4] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda entity involved in communal violence in central Mali | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 27 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[5] “Mali: Mali: Le chef de Nusrat al-Islam dresse une liste de 11 pays ‘ennemis.’” Maliactu, 15 April 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

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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 5, 2017: Days after its founding, JNIM attacked a Boulikessi military base in central Mali, close to the Burkina Faso border. JNIM militants killed 11 Malian soldiers, burned vehicles, and stole arms (11 killed, unknown wounded).[1]

March 2017: JNIM fighters were involved in communal clashes between the Fulanis and Bambaras in central Mali. JNIM attacked Bambara farmers, claiming the group’s militia was backed by the Malian army (unknown casualties).[2]

June 20, 2017: JNIM attacked a resort popular with westerners outside Bamako, Mali, taking hostages. Malian security forces, alongside French and UN forces, rescued the hostages (5 killed, unknown wounded).[3]

March 2, 2018: JNIM claimed responsibility for an attack on the French embassy and Burkinabe army headquarters in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso (8 killed, 80 wounded).[4]

April 14, 2018: JNIM launched a complex, but largely unsuccessful assault on the Timbuktu airport. JNIM sent four suicide car bombs hidden in UN vehicles into the airport and engaged in a gun battle with French and UN soldiers; one UN peacekeeper and at least 15 jihadists were killed (16+ killed, 17 wounded).[5]

June 30, 2018: JNIM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of the Malian headquarters of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, an international anti-terror taskforce. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed (4 killed, unknown wounded).[6]

 

[1] “Mali: l’attaque contre la base militaire de Boulikessi revendiquée par l’organisation jihadiste d’Iyad Ag Ghali.” Jeune Afrique, 10 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[2] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda entity involved in communal violence in central Mali | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 27 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018; “Segou: Comment les djihadistes de Kouffa ont tue au moins 10 miliciens Dozo?” Nord Sud Journal, 24 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[3] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda group claims assault near Mali capital | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 20 June 2017. Web. 12 July 2018; Sangare, Idrissa and Adama Diarra. “Al Qaeda-linked group claims deadly attack at Mali resort.” Reuters, 18 July 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[4] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda branch in Mali claims Burkina Faso attacks | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 03 March 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.

[5] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda’s JNIM claims suicide assault in Timbuktu | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 20 April 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.

[6] “Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group claimed attack on Malia 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

  • Government of United Kingdom: Nov. 1, 2017 to present[1]

 


[1] “Foreign travel advice: Niger.” GOV.UK, n.d. Web. 12 July 2018.

Community Relations

JNIM has been involved in communal clashes among local ethnic groups in Mali. The largely pastoral Fulani community has clashed with the Bambaras, a Malian ethnic group, due to rising economic pressures since 2015. Many of the MLF fighters in JNIM are ethnic Fulanis; accordingly, the group fought on the side of the Fulanis in a conflict with the Bambaras group in central Mali. JNIM claimed the Malian army supported the Bambaras’ military efforts.[1]

 

[1] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda entity involved in communal violence in central Mali | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 27 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

Relationships with Other Groups

JNIM formed through the merger of AQIM’s Sahara branch, Al Mourabitoun, Ansar Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front (MLF) into a unified militant alliance under a single emir. In the video announcing the group’s formation, JNIM emir Ghali pledged allegiance to Abdelmalek Droukdel, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of Al Qaeda (AQ), and Mullah Haibatullah, emir of the Afghan Taliban. JNIM reportedly operates under a hierarchical militant structure in which AQIM provides directions, strategic guidance, and resources to the allied militant groups.[1] While conforming to JNIM’s strategy, Al Mourabitoun allegedly remains operationally autonomous from the larger group, under the leadership of Sanhaji.[2]

JNIM purportedly has ideological, operational, and logistical ties with Ansaroul Islam (AI), a U.S. designated terrorist group that has launched multiple attacks in Burkina Faso. JNIM assists and provides training for AI members and allegedly transferred the knowledge for IED attacks to the group.[3]

As an AQ affiliate, JNIM has a strong rivalry with the Islamic State (IS) branches operating in North Africa and the Sahel region. The formation of JNIM coincided with IS’s loss of territory in Iraq and Syria and the weakening of its regional offshoots, indicating AQ’s strategy of taking advantage of IS’s weakness through JNIM.[4] IS’s recruitment of youth militants, particularly from Tunisia and Morocco, in addition to its aggressive use of social media for recruitment and propaganda purposes, challenges the dominance of AQ and its affiliates in North Africa.[5]

 

[1] Weiss, Caleb. “Al Qaeda maintains operational tempo in West Africa in 2017 | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 05 Jan. 2018. Web. 12 July 2018; Waszkewitz, Hauke. “Jihadism’s staying power in North Africa.” Global Risk Insights, 20 March 2018. Web. 13 July 2018.

[2] Weiss, Caleb. “Analysis: Merger of al Qaeda groups threatens security in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 18 March 2017. Web. 12 July 2018.

[3] Weiss, Caleb. “State Department designates Burkinabe jihadist group Ansaroul Islam | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 20 Feb. 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.

[4] 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.

[5] 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

JNIM pledged allegiance to AQ emir Zawahiri and AQIM emir Droukdel in March 2017. The group draws much of its strategic direction from AQIM, AQ, and possibly the Taliban, at large.[1]

 

[1] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa | The Long War Journal.” The Long War Journal, 13 March 2017. Web. 12 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.