mujao mali

Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest

Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) was a Salafi-Jihadist militant organization operating in Mali and more broadly the African Sahel region, until 2013.

AT A GLANCE

Book Icon

Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History.

moneybag

Organization

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

strategyicon

Strategy

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

Clip Art of Bomb

Major Attacks

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

solarsystemicon

Interactions

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

flowchart

Maps

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

KEY STATISTICS

2011 First Recorded Activity
2011 First Attack
2013 Last Recorded Activity

Contact

mappingmilitants [at] lists [dot] stanford [dot] edu

How to Cite:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest.” Stanford University. Last modified June 2018. <https://internal.fsi.stanford.edu/content/mmp-mujao>

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

FormedOctober 2011
DisbandedAugust 2013
First AttackOctober 22, 2011: MUJAO abducted three European aid workers from a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria. The Europeans were eventually released in July 2012 in exchange for three Islamists held in Mauritania and a ransom payment MUJAO claimed was $18.4 million (0 killed, 2 wounded).
Last AttackJune 1, 2013: MUJAO and the Al Mulathamun Battalion attacked a prison in Niamey, Niger with small arms (2 killed, 3 wounded).
UpdatedJuly 1, 2018

The Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) was formed in 2011 by Ahmed el-Tilemsi and Hamad el-Khairy as a splinter group of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). MUJAO declared its existence in October 2011 after kidnapping three European aid workers from a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria.  Despite its split from AQIM, MUJAO praised prominent Al Qaeda leaders and, similarly to AQIM, aimed to engage in jihad and establish Shariah law in West Africa.  Following the 2012 coup d'état that ousted the Malian government, MUJAO occupied territory in northern Mali, around the city of Gao. In August 2013, MUJAO merged with the Al Mulathamun Battalion (AMB) to form Al Mourabitoun. It remains unclear whether all of MUJAO’s fighters joined Al Mourabitoun or a small faction continues to operate independently under the name MUJAO. MUJAO was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. and the U.N. in 2012.

Narrative

The Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO), or the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, was a Salafi-Jihadist organization. The group announced its formation in a video statement in October 2011, after kidnapping three European humanitarian aid workers from a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria.[i] Ahmed el-Tilemsi and Hamad el-Khairy, two ex-commanders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) founded MUJAO as a splinter of AQIM and brought many AQIM fighters into the group. MUJAO later acquired fighters from all over North and West Africa and the Sahel region.[ii]

Some analysts attribute the split from AQIM to the lack of black Africans in leadership positions in AQIM, whose leadership is primarily Algerian; other analysts argue MUJAO wanted to focus its efforts geographically farther into West Africa.[iii] Despite the separation from AQIM, MUJAO praised Al Qaeda (AQ) and shared many of AQ’s goals, including establishing Shariah law in West Africa and attacking the West.[iv]

MUJAO was best known for its actions after the Malian coup d'état of March 2012.  Following the military coup that overthrew the Malian government over grievances regarding rebel occupation of the north, MUJAO, in collaboration with AQIM, and Ansar Dine, and the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), took advantage of the security vacuum and invaded northern Mali, defeated the Malian security forces and occupied northern Mali. Some journalists reported that AQIM and MUJAO settled any lasting tension from their separation in a peace brokered by Ansar Dine during this time.[v] Once territory was established, MUJAO, AQIM and Ansar Dine ended their collective alliances with the MNLA, because the MNLA’s objective -- to establish a secular and independent state in northern Mali—strongly contradicted MUJAO’s aim to create a united Malian state governed by Shariah law.[vi]

MUJAO, with the help of 100 Ansar Dine fighters and crucial military assistance purportedly from AQIM’s semi-autonomous battalion, the Al Mulathamun Battalion (AMB), fought the MNLA in the Battles of Gao and Timbuktu in June 2012.[vii] By late June, MUJAO and its allies controlled Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao, the three major northern Malian cities, and their associated environs in a piece of territory the size of Texas.[viii] Though the militants sought to institute Shariah law, the attempt was not well received by the Gao community, as evidenced by a successful youth protest in August 2012.[ix] However, MUJAO was able to recruit some of Gao’s youth to join its ranks as fighters.

Although the MLNA was ousted from MUJAO’s stronghold in Gao, the two groups continued to skirmish as MUJAO attempted to expand its territory. In January 2013, the French military launched an air and ground campaign in northern Mali and assisted the Malian army in successfully retaking Gao.  By February, the French had expelled MUJAO, AQIM and Ansar Dine.  The damage inflicted on MUJAO is unknown. Analysts suggest that fighters from all three groups fled to the northern Malian mountains near Algeria.[x]

MUJAO continued targeting the French and Malian militaries through a series of suicide bombings around Gao and Kidal.  The group additionally coordinated attacks with the AMB, which had also splintered from AQIM, against targets in Niger, in retaliation for Niger’s cooperation with the French invasion.[xi] In May 2013, for unknown reasons, a group of soldiers split from MUJAO and formed the Sons of the Islamic Sahara Movement for Justice.[xii] After multiple joint attacks, on August 2013, the leaders of the AMB and MUJAO announced that the groups would merge into a new group, Al Mourabitoun.[xiii] Following the merger, the media continued to attribute attacks in Mali to MUJAO; however, it is unclear if these attacks were actually carried out by Al Mourabitoun, or by militants formerly associated with MUJAO.[xiv]



[i] "Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)." Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, n.d. Web. 01 July 2016; Zenn, Jacob. "Cooperation or Competition: Boko Haram and Ansaru After the Mali Intervention | Combating Terrorism Center at West Point." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 23 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 July 2016.

[ii] "Making Sense of Mali's Armed Groups." Al Jazeera English, 17 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 July 2016.

[iii] George, William Lloyd. "Mali's Irrevocable Crisis." Al Jazeera, 16 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 June 2016; Lebovich, Andrew. "Primer on Jihadi Players in Algeria and Mali, Pt. 3: Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa." Jihadica: Documenting Global Jihad, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[iv] Zenn, Jacob. "Boko Haram's International Connections | Combating Terrorism Center at West Point." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 June 2016.

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

[vi] "Mali Tuareg Rebels Control Timbuktu as Troops Flee." BBC News, 2 Apr. 2012. Web. 13 July 2016.

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

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

[ix] Look, Anne. "Islamic Militant Group in Northern Mali Expanding Southward." Global Security, 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 July 2016; "Hope for Mali's Gao Residents as Road Opens." IRIN, 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016; "Mali Protests Rebel Occupation of North." Al Jazera, 5 July 2012. Web. 1 July 2016.

[x] "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

[xi] "Belmokhtar's Militants 'merge' with Mali's Mujao." BBC News, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 June 2016; “Mokhtar Belmokhtar 'masterminded' Niger Suicide Bombs." BBC News, 24 May 2013. Web. 12 July 2016; "Refworld | Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 - Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Al-Mulathamun Battalion." Refworld. The UN Refugee Agency, 2 June 2016. Web. 1 July 2018.

[xii] Dibaba, Solomon. "Africa: From Whence Comes the Threat to Peace in Africa!" AllAfrica.com, 04 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 July 2016.

[xiii] "Belmokhtar's Militants 'merge' with Mali's Mujao." BBC News, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 July 2016.

[xiv] "Mali: Lawlessness, Abuses Imperil Population." Human Rights Watch, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 July 2016; Weiss, Caleb. "Jihadists in Mali Step up Attacks, Kill 7 Soldiers | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 July 2016.

 

Organizational Structure

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

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Ahmed el-Tilemsi (October 2011 to August 2013)
  • Hamad el-Khairy (October 2011 to August 2013)
  • Oumar Ould Hamaha (Unknown to 2013)
  • Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi (Unknown to 2013)
  • Sultan Ould Bady (Unknown to 2013)

Leadership

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

Ahmed el-Tilemsi (October 2011 to August 2013)

Tilemsi, whose legal name is Ahmed Ould Amer, was a founding leader of MUJAO.  Previously, he was a leader of AQIM and was well known for his operations in kidnapping and ransom collection. Tilemsi was designated by the U.S. State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and was added to the U.N. Security Council Al Qaeda sanctions list. The Mali national was killed by the French military during a special operations raid in Gao, Mali on December 11, 2014.[i]



[i] "Mali Crisis: Key Players." BBC News, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 June 2016; Roggio, Bill, and Caleb Weiss. "French Troops Kill MUJAO Founder during Raid in Mali | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 24 June 2016; Roggio, Bill. "US Adds West African Group, 2 Leaders, to Terrorism List | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 June 2016; "ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List." United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs, 24 June 2016. Web. 24 June 2016.

 

Hamad el-Khairy (October 2011 to August 2013)

Khairy, also known as Hamada Ould Muhammad Kheirou and informally as Abou Qum Qum, was a founding leader of MUJAO and a former AQIM member.  During the Islamist occupation of northern Mali, Khairy worked closely to coordinate attacks with the leader of the AMB, Mokhtar Belmokhtar.  Khairy was designated by the U.S. State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and added to the United Nations Security Council Al Qaeda sanctions list.[i]



[i] "US Posts $18m Bounty for Four African Militants - Daily News Egypt." Daily News Egypt, 14 June 2014. Web. 23 June 2016; Roggio, Bill. "US Adds West African Group, 2 Leaders, to Terrorism List | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 June 2016; "ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List." United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs, 24 June 2016. Web; Cristiani, Dario. "West Africa's MOJWA Militants – Competition for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb?" The Jamestown Foundation, 6 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 June 2016.

 

Oumar Ould Hamaha (Unknown to 2013)

Hamaha served as a spokesman for MUJAO until he was killed in March 2014 by a French airstrike. MUJAO denied his death for a month, but his absence became obvious when the group began to use other spokesmen. Prior to his death, the U.S. State Department offered up to $3 million for information leading to Hamaha’s location.[i]



[i] "US Offers Rewards for Capture of African Militants." BBC News, 4 June 2013. Web. 23 June 2016; Weiss, Caleb. "AQIM Confirms Death of Former MUJAO Spokesman | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 June 2016.

 

Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi (Unknown to 2013)

Sahrawi was a leader of MUJAO and rumored to be Emir of Al Mourabitoun, the group that resulted from MUJAO’s merger with the AMB.[i]



[i] Joscelyn, Thomas. "Confusion Surrounds West African Jihadists’ Loyalty to Islamic State | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 14 May 2014. Web. 28 June 2016; Mellgard, Emily. "Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)." Tony Blair Faith Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 June 2016.

 

Sultan Ould Bady (Unknown to 2013)

Bady was widely mentioned in the media and was thought to be an important leader in MUJAO, although his exact role in the organization remains unclear.  Following MUJAO’s merger with the AMB, he became Emir of MUJAO forces within Al Mourabitoun.[i]



[i] "UN and French Forces in 'large-scale' Operation in Mali." BBC News, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 July 2016.

 

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

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

  • April 5, 2012: 1000 (CNN)[i]
  • January 2013: 300 – 400 (START)[ii]
  • February 2013: 3,000 collective number from MUJAO, AQIM and Ansar Dine (IRIN)[iii]


[i] "Algerian Diplomats Kidnapped in Gao." CNN IReport, 6 Apr. 2012. Web. 10 July 2016.

[ii] "Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)." National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Jan. 2015, Web. 30 June 2018.

[iii] "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

 

Resources

MUJAO used kidnappings for ransom and drug and weapons smuggling to secure financial resources.[i] The group had a history of kidnapping aid workers and foreigners for ransom.  For example, in 2011, MUJAO demanded ransom and the release of three Islamists from a prison in Mauritania in exchange for three kidnapped European aid workers.  MUJAO claimed it received $18.4 million for the hostages, but a Mauritanian source claimed that a ransom between $2,201,510 and $3,304,050 was paid.[ii]



[i] "Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)." National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Jan. 2015, Web. 30 June 2018.

[ii] "'Ransom' and Swap Secures Kidnapped Aid Workers' Release in Mali." The Australian, 20 July 2012. Web. 27 June 2016; "Mali Hostages 'were Released in Exchange for Prisoners'" BBC News, 19 July 2012. Web. 27 June 2016.

 

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.

MUJAO primarily operated in Mali. Following the Malian coup, MUJAO collaborated with its allies to control an area the size of Texas in northern Mali from June 2012 to January 2013.  MUJAO controlled Douentza from September 2012 to January 2013, Ménaka from November 2012 to January 2013, and Gao and its environs from June 2012 until January 2013. After MUJAO lost its Gao territory due to the French intervention, it carried out a series of attacks in Algeria and Niger.[i]



[i] "The Regional Threat Posed by Mali's Militants." IRIN, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

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

Ideology and Goals

MUJAO was a Salafi-Jihadist organization. MUJAO’s stated goal was to engage in and encourage the spread of jihad in West Africa, as well as establish Shariah law in the region.[i] Six members of MUJAO released a video in 2011 praising the work of Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar and local Islamist historical figures, and highlighting the anti-colonial struggle of key individuals in West African Islam.[ii]  MUJAO’s ideology and goals closely mirrored those of AQ and AQIM, the group it broke off from.[iii] Like AQ and AQIM, MUJAO harbored anti-Western sentiment and carried out kidnappings and attacks against Western citizens.[iv]



[i] "Africa's Militant Islamist Groups." BBC News, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 29 June 2016; Cristiani, Dario. "West Africa's MOJWA Militants – Competition for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb?" The Jamestown Foundation, 6 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 June 2016.

[ii] Cristiani, Dario. "West Africa's MOJWA Militants – Competition for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb?" The Jamestown Foundation, 6 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 June 2016.

[iii] George, William Lloyd. "Mali's Irrevocable Crisis." Al Jazeera, 16 Apr. 2012. Web. 29 June 2016.

[iv] Zenn, Jacob. "Boko Haram's International Connections | Combating Terrorism Center at West Point." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 June 2016.

 

Political Activities

There are no recorded political activities for this group.

Targets and Tactics

MUJAO was best known for its abductions of international workers, suicide bombings, IED attacks, landmines, and small arms attacks. MUJAO primarily targeted French and Malian military bases, diplomatic stations and international aid workers. In its early days, the group focused more on obtaining ransom money from kidnappings than outwardly attacking targets.  However, after the Malian government was ousted by a Malian military in a coup d’état in 2012, the group shifted its actions towards heavy suicide bombing campaigns as it tried to gain control of northern Mali. The MUJAO leadership was also involved in the drug trade in the Sahel and southern Algeria.[i]



[i] "Narrative Summaries of Reasons for Listing." United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs, 9 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 June 2018.

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks
atlantic terrorism lead large

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.

  1. October 23, 2011: MUJAO abducted three European aid workers from a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria. The Europeans were eventually released in July 2012 in Mali in exchange for three Islamists held in Mauritania. While MUJAO claimed that it received $18.4 million, negotiators never revealed if a ransom was paid (0 killed, 2 wounded).[i]
  2. March 2012: Following the military coup in Mali, MUJAO, along with AQIM, Ansar Dine, and the MNLA, launched an offensive and eventually took control of Northern Mali (unknown casualties).[ii]
  3. June 2012: MUJAO fought alongside Ansar Dine in the Battles of Gao and Timbuktu in northern Mali against the MNLA, ultimately seizing Gao, Timbuktu and their environs (unknown casualties).[iii]
  4. June 29, 2012: MUJAO detonated a vehicle saddled with 1,300 kilograms of explosives at the Regional Command of the Gendarmerie headquarters in Ouargla, Algeria, in retaliation for Algeria’s pressure on the MNLA to fight the Islamist mujahedeen in northern Mali (2 killed, 3 wounded).[iv]
  5. September 1, 2012: MUJAO seized the northern Malian town of Douentza from a local self-defense militia that surrendered as soon as MUJAO forces surrounded the city (unknown casualties)[v]
  6. November 19, 2012: MUJAO and AQIM forces fought the MLNA and took over its stronghold in Ménaka (66+ killed, unknown wounded).[vi]
  7. February 10, 2013: MUJAO carried out a suicide bombing followed by an attack on French and Malian forces in Gao, Mali. This attack was part of a larger campaign including several similar attacks throughout February targeting the French and Malian militaries (5 killed, 10 wounded).[vii]
  8. May 23, 2013: MUJAO and the AMB carried out simultaneous, coordinated suicide bombing attacks against a military camp in Agadez, Niger and a French-run uranium mine in Arlit, Niger, in retaliation for Niger’s cooperation with France in its 2013 invasion of northern Mali (24 killed, 20 wounded).[viii]
  9. June 1, 2013: MUJAO and the AMB attacked a prison in Niamey, Niger with small arms (2 killed, 3 wounded).[ix]


[i] "US Posts $18m Bounty for Four African Militants - Daily News Egypt." Daily News Egypt, 14 June 2014. Web. 23 June 2016; "'Ransom' and Swap Secures Kidnapped Aid Workers' Release in Mali." The Australian, 20 July 2012. Web. 27 June 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.

[ii] “Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb.” Australian National Security, May 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

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

[iv] 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; McGregor, Andrew. "Where Trafficking and Terrorism Intersect: A Profile of Mauritanian Militant Hamada Ould Kheirou." Aberfoyle International Security, 31 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 June 2016.

[v] Look, Anne. "Islamic Militant Group in Northern Mali Expanding Southward." Global Security, 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 July 2016.

[vi] AFP. "North Mali Clashes Kill Dozens, Some Unarmed: Source." Daily Nation, 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 July 2016.

[vii] 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.

[viii] "Belmokhtar's Militants 'merge' with Mali's Mujao." BBC News, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 June 2016; "Mokhtar Belmokhtar 'masterminded' Niger Suicide Bombs." BBC News, 24 May 2013. Web. 12 July 2016.

[ix] 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.

 

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 Individuals and Entities Designated Terrorists list: December 7, 2012 to Present.[i]
  • UNSC “ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List”: December 5, 2012 to Present.[ii]
  • Government of Canada Listed Terrorist Entity: June 2, 2014 to Present.[iii]


[i] Roggio, Bill. "US Adds West African Group, 2 Leaders, to Terrorism List | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 June 2016; "Terrorist Designations of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, Hamad El Khairy, and Ahmed El Tilemsi." U.S. Department of State, 07 Dec. 2012. Web. 27 June 2016.

[ii] "ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List." United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs, 24 June 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.

[iii] Government of Canada. "Currently listed entities." Public Safety Canada, 15 Feb. 2018. Web. 26 June 2018.

 

Community Relations

MUJAO’s occupation of Gao in northern Mali and attempt at implementing Shariah law was not well received by the Gao community, as evidenced by a successful youth protest in August 2012 that stopped MUJAO from amputating the hand of an alleged thief.[i] However, MUJAO was able to recruit some of Gao’s youth to join their ranks as fighters.

MUJAO allegedly provided electricity and other social services to Gao residents during the occupation.[ii]



[i] Look, Anne. "Islamic Militant Group in Northern Mali Expanding Southward." Global Security, 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 July 2016.

[ii] "Hope for Mali's Gao Residents as Road Opens." IRIN, 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 1 July 2016.

 

Relationships with Other Groups

MUJAO split from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2011. MUJAO praised prominent AQ leaders at the time of its formation but was never recognized by AQ as an affiliate.  The majority of MUJAO’s original leaders, including Tilemsi, Khairy, and Hamaha, served as fighters or commanders in AQIM. After MUJAO broke off, the two groups maintained little interaction until the Malian coup. Some journalists reported that AQIM and MUJAO settled any lasting tensions from their separation in a peace brokered by Ansar Dine during their invasion of northern Mali in 2012.[i]

MUJAO cooperated with AQIM, Ansar Dine and the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) to take control of northern Mali in March 2012.[ii] However, once the groups occupied territory, MUJAO, AQIM and Ansar Dine ended their collective alliances with the MNLA because its objective, to establish a secular and independent state of Azawad in northern Mali, strongly contradicted their aims to create a united Malian state governed by Shariah law.[iii] MUJAO worked closely with Ansar Dine and the AMB to defeat the MNLA in the Battles of Gao and Timbuktu in June 2012.[iv]

During and after its occupation of northern Mali, MUJAO and AQIM’s semi-autonomous battalion the Al Mulathamun Battalion (AMB) coordinated attacks to accomplish the goal of establishing Shariah law in northern Mali.  The AMB leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, had maintained close relationships with MUJAO leaders after the group split from AQIM.  When MUJAO set up its Gao base, Belmokhtar and the AMB moved to Gao and allegedly provided crucial military assistance in MUJAO’s battles with the MLNA.[v] The two groups coordinated attacks against military targets, carrying out twin suicide bombings in May and June of 2013 in retaliation for Niger’s cooperation with the French invasion.[vi]

After prolonged cooperation, on August 2013, the leaders of MUJAO and the AMB, which formally split from AQIM in December 2012, announced that the two groups would merge together into a group called Al Mourabitoun.[vii] Following the merger, the media continued to attribute attacks in Mali to MUJAO; however, it is unclear if these attacks were actually carried out by Al Mourabitoun, or by militants formerly associated with MUJAO.[viii]

Militants from Boko Haram also collaborated with MUJAO and allied militants in attacks on Mali in 2012 and 2013.[ix]



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

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

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

[vi] "Belmokhtar's Militants 'merge' with Mali's Mujao." BBC News, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 June 2016; "Mokhtar Belmokhtar 'masterminded' Niger Suicide Bombs." BBC News, 24 May 2013. Web. 12 July 2016.

[vii] "Belmokhtar's Militants 'merge' with Mali's Mujao." BBC News, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 July 2016.

[viii] "Mali: Lawlessness, Abuses Imperil Population." Human Rights Watch, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 July 2016; Weiss, Caleb. "Jihadists in Mali Step up Attacks, Kill 7 Soldiers | The Long War Journal." The Long War Journal, 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 July 2016.

[ix] "Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)." National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Jan. 2015, Web. 30 June 2018.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

MUJAO allegedly received financial backing from AQIM.[i]



[i] "Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)." National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Jan. 2015, Web. 30 June 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

Download

Full Profile