Established By: Unknown
Also Known As: The Sentinels
Country Of Origin: Mali
Leaders: Abubakr al-Masri, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Abu Walid Al-Sahraoui
Key Members: Abubakr al-Masri, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Abu Walid Al-Sahraoui
Operational Area: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Niger
Number Of Members: 100
Involved In: Armed Attacks, Bomb Attacks, Kidnapping, Suicide Bombing Attacks
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Al-Mourabitoun was an African militant jihadist organisation formed by a merger between Ahmed Ould Amer, a.k.a. Ahmed al-Tilemsi’s Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s Al-Mulathameen.
In 4 December 2015, it joined Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The group seeks to implement Sharia Law in Mali, Algeria, southwestern Libya, and Niger. On 2 March 2017, the group’s cells in Mali, along with Ansar Dine, Macina Liberation Front and the Saharan branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb merged into the group Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin.
On 14 May 2015, Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui released an audio message pledging the group’s allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Belmokhtar issued a statement several days later rejecting this pledge and stating that it had not been approved beforehand, seeming to indicate a split in the group.
On 3 December 2015, AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel announced in an audio statement that Al-Mourabitoun had joined his organisation. ISIL formally accepted Sahraoui’s pledge of allegiance in a statement and video released in October 2016. The reason for the lengthy delay in acknowledgement was not clear.
Al-Mourabitoun is composed mostly of Tuaregs and Arabs from the northern Mali regions of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao, but also includes Algerians, Tunisians and other nationalities. Its area of operations is in the north of Mali, near towns such as Tessalit and Ansongo.
The group’s establishment was announced by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, however the group’s leader who was said to be a non-Algerian veteran of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and the 2002 battles against American forces in the same country, later identified by French Intelligence as an Egyptian known as Abubakr al-Nasri (al-Masri). Abubakr was reportedly killed by French Special Forces in North Eastern Mali between 10 and 17 April 2014, as was senior commander Omar Ould Hamaha weeks earlier.
The group is named after the Almoravids, a North-West African Islamic dynasty of the 11th and 12th centuries, spanning from Senegal to the Iberian peninsula. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the UN, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Campaign of violence:
-7 March 2015: A masked gunman killed 5 and injured 9 others at a restaurant popular with foreigners in Mali’s capital Bamako. Among the victims were three locals, a Frenchman, and a Belgian security officer with the European Union representative in the city.
-10 August 2015: An IED killed three Malian soldiers and injured four others near Sévaré.
-11 August 2015: A coordinated assault against the Byblos hotel in Sévaré lead to a 24-hour-long stand-off in which 13 people were killed, including five UN workers, four soldiers, and four attackers. The group later claimed responsibility for this attack and the bombing on the day before.
-20 November 2015: A group of militants took more than 170 people hostage at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, sparking a siege that left 22 people dead, including 2 gunmen. At least 7 others were injured in the attack, with 2 of them being members of the Malian Special Forces.
-15 January 2016: A group of militants staged a co-ordinated assault on two hotels and adjacent businesses in the center of Burkina Faso‘s capital Ouagadougou, burning vehicles and taking more than 200 hostages. At least 30 people were killed and 56 others injured in the siege that followed.
-February 2016: The group released an audio message, in which it admitted it had kidnapped an Australian couple during the Ouagadougou attacks, and that it planned to release one of the captives as it does “not target women in times of war.” The wife of the doctor that was kidnapped during the Ouagadougou attacks was subsequently released on February 7.
-13 March 2016: Three gunmen assaulted a beach resort in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, using assault rifles and hand grenades. At least 21 people were killed in the attack, including all of the attackers, three members of the country’s special forces, as well as 15 civilians (including at least 5 Europeans).
-18 January 2017: A suicide bomber drove a vehicle filled with explosives into a military camp near Gao, Mali, killing 77 people and injuring at least 115 others. At the time it was the deadliest terrorist incident in the country’s history.