Category Archives: Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM)

Mali – Sahel: April 2017 Violent Incidents Related to AQIM, Ansar al-Din, JNIM, and Other Security Incidents

May 3rd, 2017

By Rida Lyammouri

Mali – Sahel: April 2017 Security Incidents – PDF FULL REPORT

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  • At the closure of conférence d’entente nationale people suggested negotiating with Ag Ghali and Mohamed Koufa. Both remain influential in northern and central Mali where jihadist groups continue to conduct frequent attacks on Malian, French, and MINUSMA forces. Though the idea of negotiations with both leaders made a significant noise, this remains almost an impossible idea to be accepted by any Malian and certainly little too late for talks option.
  • 600 schools closed in the Sahel Region in Burkina Faso due to increased threats and insecurity. After the French intervention in Mali January 2013 this region provided ideal fallback for members of jihadist groups that fled Mali. Little presence of security forces and relying on recruited local leaders facilitated the expansion of AQIM and allies.
  • In the past month or so, Barkhane, Malian, and Burkina Faso forces conducted operations on the borders with Mali. This led to the destruction of what appeared to be an important logistical base to newly formed group, Ansaroul Islam, on 29-30 April 2017. At least 20 militants killed and important arms and explosives destroyed.
  • In the absence of permanent presence of legitimate forces to protect local population in remote areas, we continue to see the emergence of small armed groups. For instance, Fulani armed group emerged near Ansongo claiming to be non-jihadist and non-separatist, and to recognize Malian State.
  • Reportedly, Ansaroul Islam operating in Burkina Faso and led by Ibrahim Dicko plans to pledge allegiance to so-called Islamic State. While existing ties between members of Ansaroul Islam and Adnane Abu Walid al-Sahraoui indicate as this to be a possibility, it’s unlikely to have a major impact at the operational level.
  • CJA announced on 20 APR 17 to abandon checkpoint controlled west of Timbuktu to the Malian Army. CJA controlled the checkpoint since early March while protesting against the terms of interim authorities implementation in Timbuktu and Taoudeni Regions.
  • JNIM distributed leaflets at Zouera, Timbuktu Region telling CJA are not the target but they should not provide any type support to French, MINUSMA, and Malian forces.
  • In response to increased armed robberies around Bourem and Gao Region in general, local authorities in Bourem on 30 April announced banning circulation of motorcycles at the Bourem Circle until 21 May. Movement of people is likely to be reduced and limited, and thus affect the livelihood of many families and further deteriorate humanitarian conditions in the area.

Mali – Sahel: March 2017 Violent Incidents Related to AQIM, Ansar al-Din, JNIM, and Other Security Incidents

By Rida Lyammouri

April 24th, 2017

Sahel MeMo March 2017 Tracker – PDF

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Security situation in Mali and Sahel in general was overshadowed by the creation of new jihadist coalition on 02 March 2017. The new group is called “Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, translated to “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims,” and now abbreviated as JNIM. JNIM was formed by joining forces between AQIM Sahara Branch, Ansar al-Din, al-Murabitoun, and Ansar al-Din Macina brigade.

In addition to surviving the ongoing aggressive counterterrorism operations in Mali, groups making the core of new alliance already been enjoying operational success in different parts of the country and all operate in different regions. Ansar al-Din operates mainly in Kidal Region where carries regular attacks against French and MINUSMA forces. Sahara branch of AQIM remains present in Timbuktu Region where its focus not only MINUSMA, French, and Malian forces, but also acts of intimidation against locals and members of armed groups collaborating with foreign and Malian security forces. Macina brigade operates almost exclusively in Mopti and Segou Regions where since January 2015 number of its attacks increased significantly and focused largely on Malian forces small units based in the area. Its attacks also included attacks on MINUSMA logistical convoys. Lastly, al-Murabitoun carried limited number of attacks mainly in Gao Region.

In a short-term, despite being labeled as Sahel jihadist coalition, JNIM will mostly, if not only, impact the security situation in Mali. This is more about Mali than whole Sahel Region, especially with the clear attempt by Al-Qaeda to maximize its access to local communities. Relying on local groups is nothing new and AQIM’s localization approach was its signature since started penetrating northern Mali in early 2000s and continued to recent years with the creation of Ansar al-Din and Macina brigade.

Leaders of the new coalition, led by Iyad Ag Ghali, know more than anyone else the importance of sending that message of unity. This comes at a critical time as different parties involved in the peace process continue to struggle to achieve just that [unity]. Creation of JNIM is also more than competition, if there is any, with so-called Islamic State. It’s been almost two years since Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui pledged allegiance to ISIS and never really imposed a similar threat, at least for now, as Al-Qaeda affiliates in Mali and neighboring countries. Al-Sahraoui’s men might have been credited deadly attack in Niger but the group itself never released official statement to claim such important attack for its propaganda.

Going forward violent extremist groups (VEOs) in Mali will continue to seek opportunities to carry spectacular attacks to cause high number of casualties. These attacks will target MINUSMA, French, Malian, and armed groups by relying on suicide missions conducted by small number of militants.