AQ branch rallies Jihadis to join forces after Mali merger
Aaron Ross, Reuters, Mar 17 2017
The merger of Mali’s main Jihadi groups earlier this month was endorsed on Friday by AQIM, whose leader rallied other Jihadi organizations to follow suit and “achieve unity.” The SITE Intelligence Group quoted AQIM’s Abu Musab Abd’ul-Wadud congratulating the groups for joining forces under the command of veteran Islamist Iyad Ag-Ghali. Ag-Ghali’s Ansar Dine, the Massina Brigades, AQIM’s al-Mourabitoun and an offshoot of AQ’s north African wing announced on Mar 2 that they had joined to form a new group called Nusrat al-Islam wa’al-Muslimin. The various groups have claimed responsibility for repeated attacks on Malian, French and UN peacekeeping forces in recent years but are seen as fragmented and often in competition with one another. SITE said AQIM’s al-Andalus Media Foundation posted audio of the speech by AQIM leader Wadud on Telegram and Twitter. SITE quoted Wadud as saying:
I take this opportunity to call on all jihadi groups to follow the example of their brothers in the Sahel and the Sahara, and to hasten to join together and achieve unity.
France intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back Islamist groups that seized the desert north a year earlier, but despite that and a costly UN peacekeeping presence, militants conduct frequent attacks in northern Mali and use it as a base for operations in neighboring countries. Al-Mourabitoun, led by Algerian Jihadis and smuggler Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a military camp in northern Mali that killed up to 60 people and wounded more than 100 in January.