|Mokhtar Belmokhtar||Khalid Abu Al Abbès||Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat||Africa North||Algerian||At Large||20071112||Link|
|Alias of Mokhtar Belmokhtar|
|Mokhtar Belmokhtar||Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat||North Africa||Algerian||At Large||20030516|
|Belaouar||Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat||Africa: North||Algerian||At Large||20050613||Link|
|Alias of Mokhtar Belmokhtar|
|Mokhtar Belmokhtar||Salafist Group for Call and Combat||North Africa||20030605|
|Mokhtar Belmokhtar||Salafist Group for Preaching and Fighting||Africa: North||20040620||Link|
|Macron heads to Mali to reaffirm French commitment to battle jihadists|
|[AlAhram] President Emmanuel Macron undertakes his first trip as commander-in-chief on Friday when he meets troops fighting Islamist in Mali where the security situation has worsened despite French intervention more than four years ago.|
The Sahel, a politically fragile area whose remote desert spaces spanning from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east host a medley of jihadist groups, is seen as vulnerable after a series of attacks in recent months.
That has been brought further to light after a spike in violence across Mali, where the former colonial power intervened more than four years ago to drive out al Qaeda-linked who hijacked a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs and attempted to take control of the central government in Bamako.
Macron, a newcomer to international diplomacy, put counter-terrorism at the top of his security priorities during the election campaign, vowing to strengthen support for West African allies.
"Emmanuel Macron made the commitment during the campaign to immediately go and see troops engaged in the fight against terrorism," said a senior French diplomat.
The trip to Gao, where some 1,600 troops are based and where he will also hold talks with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, will reaffirm ' engagement, in stark contrast to his predecessor , who began his term pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
After sending troops to Mali, has since spread some 4,000 soldiers across the region to hunt down Islamists,
the U.N.'s forces have lacked equipment and resources, making a political settlement between Tuaregs and the government in Mali increasingly fragile and paving the way for Islamists and traffickers to exploit a void in the north of the country.
French officials acknowledge that is likely to have to keep its forces in the region for an indefinite period.
Diplomats said Macron wanted to fine-tune policy to ensure countries were also given more help to develop rather than just focusing on security aspects.
With shouldering the bulk of European military operations overseas, and in particular in Africa, officials said the trip would also be an opportunity to outline his desire for a greater European role, something that has been pushing for years, but with few tangible results.
"The Franco-German engine must give Europe impetus to play a bigger role in crucial dossiers such as the African Sahel," the diplomat said.
|Burkina links Ivory Coast Islamist militant with hotel attack in capital|
|[AlAhram] An Islamist accused of ing a deadly attack in Ivory Coast is also suspected of having planned a major assault in 's capital last year, a said Friday.|
Ivorian officials believe Mimi Ould Baba Ould Cheikh organised the gun and grenade attack that left 19 people dead last March at the beach resort of Grand-Bassam, which is popular with foreigners.
Now he is also believed to have been "head of operations" for the attack on a hotel and cafe in Ouagadougou in January 2016 that killed 30 people, said Colonel Serge Alain Ouedraogo of the Burkinabe gendarmerie.
"The weapons and equipment for the attack were carefully hidden in the tyre of a truck that Mimi had sent to Burkina by his lieutenant Ibrahim Ould Mohammed," Ouedraogo told a .
The pair were in Mali by troops from 's Barkhane anti-Islamist force -- Mimi in January this year, and his alleged accomplice last May.
Both were formerly living in a refugee camp in Djibo, northern Burkina Faso, Ouedraogo said.
After their arrests, the Burkinabe security ministry sent officials to Mali's capital Bamako and "obtained their confession of their involvement" in the Ouagadougou assault, the colonel said.
Mimi confessed to being in contact with an aide to Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar of the al-Murabitoun group, who offered him 10 millions CFA francs ($15,200, 15,000 euros) to carry out the "plan".
They had photographed the Cappuccino cafe and Splendid Hotel that would later be targeted in the attacks, along with another restaurant that was not hit, he said.
|Three jihadi groups active in Mali announce merger|
The Macina Brigades group, active in central Mali, has also joined the merger.
"It is very particular to see them all together," said Wassim Nasr, 24’s expert on jihadist movements.
ANI distributed a screenshot of the video showing five jihadist leaders seated together, with Iyad Ag Ghaly in the centre.
The four others were identified as the "emirs" of the new movement.
"What they are doing here is also against the in the region, which is gaining in force," Nasr said. "They are confirming their presence there."
The ability of such key players in local terror groups to meet freely is notable. "It shows that it is impossible to monitor this huge region militarily and even with technical means," said Nasr.
In an audio excerpt Iyad Ag Ghaly can be heard swearing allegiance to slain Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ‐ whose Al Qaeda in Iraq group later evolved into the Islamic State group ‐ and Ayman al- , Al Qaeda’s current leader.
He can also be heard praising Al Qaeda founder , who was killed in Pakistain in May 2011.
It was not clear when the video was recorded, though ANI said it was "recent".
All three groups already had ties to Al Qaeda, and were involved in an onslaught that saw northern Mali fall out of government control for nearly a year from spring 2012.
The were later expelled from the region by a French-led international military intervention.
Nonetheless large swathes of northern Mali continue to come under attack from jihadist groups.
The area is also seen by governments battling the jihadist threat as a launchpad for attacks against other countries in the region.
|Niger Declares Emergency in Areas Flanking Restive Mali|
|[AnNahar] Niger on Friday declared a state of emergency in several western areas flanking Mali after a spate of deadly attacks blamed on jihadists from its restive neighbour.|
A government statement read on state television
... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
said a state of emergency would be enforced in seven departments of the regions of Tillaberi and Tahoua.
Security forces would now be granted additional powers including the right to search homes at any time, it said.
The statement said repeated attacks in these areas "have endangered the security of the peaceful population and public order."
The zones affected are "Ouallam, Ayorou, Bankilare, Abala and Banibangou in Tillaberi and Tassara and Tilia in Tahoua".
Tillaberi and Tahoua have witnessed several deadly attacks on army posts and refugee camps, blamed by authorities on Malian jibadists linked to the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) group.
|Burkina Leader Fine-Tunes Govt. to Face Jihadist Threat|
|[AnNahar] 's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has given government ministers specific responsibility for security and defense in a reshuffle officially announced on state television|
... and if you can't believe state television who can you believe?
National security will be separated from other home affairs in the new government of the west African country, which since 2015 has been vulnerable to attacks by jihadists in the The portfolio for defense and armed forces veterans, traditionally held by the head of state, was handed to Jean Claude Bouda, a politician close to Kabore previously in charge of youth, said the announcement late Monday.
The ministry of security, territorial administration and decentralization was split in two. Simon Compaore, ex-mayor of the capital Ouagadougou and a top official in the ruling People's Movement for Progress, becomes wholly responsible for national security while the other two portfolios have been handed to newcomer Simeon Sawadogo.
Islamist on January 15, 2016 stormed two hotels and a cafe and bar in Ouagadougou frequented by Westerners, who were prime targets among the 30 people killed. More than 50 others were in the raids, which ended with a counter-attack the next day by government forces.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for the attacks, saying the were from the al-Murabitoun group of Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The new Burkinabe government has 32 members including five new ministers, compared with 30 members in the previous team appointed by Kabore in January last year.
Ministers in the key posts of foreign affairs, economy and finance, justice and energy all kept their portfolios, but Energy Minister Alpha Oumar Dissa also saw his ministry divided, with responsibility for the mining sector going to newcomer Oumarou Idani.
|Sahel leaders agree new joint counter-terror force|
|[AlAhram] Troops from five Sahel countries plan to set up a new counter-terror force in the region, where alarm over the jihadist threat is mounting, leaders said Monday in Mali's capital.|
The announcement came as leaders of the Sahel G5 states -- , Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- that describe themselves as "in the frontline against terrorism", met to discuss the desert zone's perilous security situation.
The gathering took place barely three weeks after the worst attack in the region for years, the January 18 in the northern Malian city of Gao that left almost 80 people dead.
"To better combat terrorism in G5 countries, we have decided to implement the creation of a G5 force," President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger told a .
There was no word on the number of troops the force would have or where they would be stationed.
Issoufou said a resolution and Security Council approval would be requested before the force could be formed.
Chad's President Idriss Deby said European nations would be asked for aid for the transnational project.
"What we want is for European countries to give us the means. We are going to be on the front line ourselves in the fight against terrorism," said Deby, speaking as current G5 chief.
Some 3,500 French troops are already stationed in the as part of counter-terror efforts against an increasingly nimble array of Islamist groups, some of which are aligned with al-Qaeda.
Hundreds of Europeans too are serving with the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeper force stationed in Mali, which has become the UN's most dangerous operation in two decades with 70 lives lost.
The new G5 deployment would "save the lives of (European) soldiers", Deby added.
The Chadian leader said earlier in the day that the Sahel region risked becoming "a space for terrorists" unless immediate, co-ordinated action was taken.
"The multiplication of terrorist attacks in the Sahel" shows the threat "has new proportions", Deby warned.
Chad and Niger are currently battling Nigerian Islamist group , while jihadists in late 2015 and early 2016 struck tourist spots in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
Experts say attacks mounted by jihadists and s are on the rise and are increasingly targeting civilians in the largely desert zone.
January's deadly attack in the northern Malian city of Gao was claimed by Algerian jihadist and al-Qaeda ally Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Northern Mali was described as a "known hideout for terrorists" in an internal G5 document seen by AFP.
"It is also a launchpad for attacks against other countries," the document said.
"We need to co-ordinate our efforts to rise up to the challenge," said Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, whose nation is struggling with jihadists who use its vast northern stretches as a launchpad for attacks.
Mauritania was once plagued by Islamist attacks within its borders, but has made significant security gains.
|14 pro government militia die in Mali|
|[al-Manar] A pro-government militia in Mali said that it had lost 14 fighters in an attack blamed on former rebels Saturday, three days after a suicide car bomber left more than 70 dead.|
Some 77 people were killed and 120 wounded in the suicide blast Wednesday which targeted a camp in northern Gao housing former rebels and pro-government militia — who are signatories to a 2015 peace accord struck with the government.
Hundreds of people gathered in the capital Bamako Saturday to pay their respects to victims of the attack on the last of three days of national mourning called by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The attack, Mali’s worst in years, was claimed by the group of Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The attack occurred as former rebels from the Tuareg-led CMA movement prepared to go on a joint patrol with pro-government militia members under the terms of the peace deal.
Despite hopes of unity in the wake of the blast, fresh clashes broke out Saturday between groups that have signed up to the agreement, according to the pro-government group GATIA (the Imghad and Allies Tuareg Self-Defence Group).
A post near Tin-Assako in the northeastern Kidal region was attacked Saturday, GATIA secretary general Fahad Ag Almahoud said, accusing “elements of the CMA” — referring to ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).
The information was confirmed by a Kidal resident reached by telephone, but the CMA did not immediately respond to the allegations.
The United Nations has deployed 13,000 troops in Mali while France, the former colonial power, has an additional 4,000 soldiers stationed there.
The UN Security Council agreed last week to consider setting up a sanctions regime for Mali to punish those who are hindering efforts to implement the 2015 peace accord.
|U.S. Says French Strike Likely Killed al-Qaida Ally Belmokhtar|
|[AnNahar] AlgerianMokhtar Belmokhtar, one of al-Qaeda's key allies in North Africa, is thought to have been killed in a French air strike, a U.S. official said Monday. |
The official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal that U.S. intelligence had helped target the jihadist.
Belmokhtar, notorious commander of an al-Qaeda-linked faction of the al-Murabitoun jihadist group, has been reported killed on several previous occasions.
But the official told AFP the latest strike is believed finally to have killed the elusive one-eyed , known for kidnapping European citizens for ransom.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, citing experts and unnamed officials, the strike reflects closer U.S. and French intelligence cooperation.
Belmokhtar became one of the world's most in January 2013 after a spectacular assault on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria left at least 38 hostages dead.
This year, his group for an attack on luxury a hotel in that killed another 20 people, most of them foreigners.
And reports he had arrived in Libya have fuelled concern that jihadists will take advantage of the political turmoil there to establish a base of operations.
Washington put a $5 million bounty on the 44-year-old's head, dubbing him the leader of the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade, also known as the "Signatories in Blood."
In May last year, he insisted al-Murabitoun remained loyal to al-Qaeda, despite another of its leaders pledging allegiance the group.
Belmokhtar was born on June 1, 1972 in the ancient desert city of Ghardaia, 370 miles (600 kilometers) south of the Algerian capital.
- 'Mister Marlboro' -
In a rare 2007 interview he said he joined the mujahideen rebels fighting the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in 1991 when he was barely 19 years old.
In Afghanistan, he claimed, he lost an eye to shrapnel and had his first contact with the group that became al-Qaeda, eventually rising to a senior position.
He returned to Algeria in 1993, a year after the Algiers government sparked civil war by cancelling an election that an Islamist party was poised to win.
He joined the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and thrived thanks to his intimate knowledge of the remote deserts of southern Algeria, northern Mali and Niger.
In 1998 the " " (GSPC) broke from the GIA and Belmokhtar went with them.
Nine years later, GSPC formally adopted the global ideology of Saudi-born jihadist kingpin and renamed itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Belmokhtar was best known as a smuggler, known by some as "Mister Marlboro" for trafficking cigarettes.
But in 2013 he emerged as the hardline leader of the "Signatories in Blood," blamed for attacks across the Sahara and the Sahel in Algeria, Mali, Chad and Niger.
|Woman arrested in Jufra ‘not Belmokhtar’s wife’ say officials|
|[Libya Herald] Reports that one of two Tunisian women near the Cyrenaican town of Mechili on Sunday was the wife of Mokhtar Belmolhtar, leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have now been denied by officials in Libya,|
They say that there was confusion of the identity of the woman’s husband and that while she is indeed married to a terrorist, it is a different Mohktar.
Her husband is now said to be Mokhtar Ben Omar al-Agouri, a Tunisian who is also a member of AQIM.
It is thought that he is is Jufra, to which the woman caught in an ambush two days ago by LNA forces near Mechili, south of Labraq, was said to be heading.
It is nonetheless believed that Belmokhtar is based in Libya, albeit further south.
...Asma Kadousi, was arrested on Saturday along with a female companion en route from the militant stronghold of Darna, an eastern city, where she gave birth to a baby. Kadousi was reportedly heading to the central province of Joufra
|Wife of Mokhtar Belmokhtar captured in Cyrenaica|
|[Libya Herald] The wife of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Algerian-born head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is reported to have been tracked down and near the desert town of Mechili, some 100 kilometres south of Beida. She and another Tunisian woman, together with their driver, were caught heading towards Jufra, south of Sirte, according to the Libyan news agency LANA.|
It quotes the of the Beida government’s anti-terrorism and subversion directorate, Sami al-Matrih, saying that the women were ambushed following a tip-off.
It is being suggested that they were on their way to meet Belmokhtar in southern Libya. There is no other confirmation of the report, however.
A number of reports claim that Belmokhtar was the prime target of the air raid on Gurdah al-Shatti six days ago in which a number of AQIM fighters were said to have been killed.
Although the anti-terrorism directorate has said that the one of the two Tunisian women arrested is Belmokhtar’s wife, it has not named her.
It was not previously recorded known that he had a Tunisian wife. He is known to have had four but they were supposedly all from Mali.
Belmokhtar has used southern Libya as a base on numerous occasions. His notorious attack on the January 2013 seizure of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria in which 40 people died, almost all foreigners, is believed to have been organised from Libya.
|Senior Libyan al-Qaeda leader reported slain in drone strike|
|[NEWS24] A senior al-Qaeda leader was reportedly killed in a late-night drone strike that hit his home in Libya's remote south, a Libyan news agency said on Tuesday.|
Yesterday the Libya Observer said he was still alive and suffering from minor wounds.
The strike was suspected to be the work of a Western military but a Pentagon spokesperson denied it was carried out by the United States.
The LANA news agency said that Abu Talha al-Hassnawi, a key figure in al-Qaeda's North African affiliate, was killed in his house in Sabha late on Monday.
According to the agency, al-Hassnawi was previously a leading member of al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, and was a leading recruiter of fighters heading to fight in Syria's vicious and complex conflict that has seen rival al-Qaeda and battle each other.
Al-Hassnawi was also purportedly close to a top once considered the most dangerous man in the Sahara - the one-eyed terror leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former member of al-Qaeda's North Africa branch - and has been seen in his company in the past.
LANA also said that al-Hassnawi had fled to Sabha from the northern coastal city of Sirte, where Libyan militias and forces loyal to the UN-brokered government in the capital, , are battling the Islamic State affiliate with the help of US s.
The LANA news agency that reported al-Hassnawi's death is affiliated with the east-based government.
A resident who lives near Sabha said the strike took place at 23:15 on Monday and that it targeted a house the Gurtha Shati village on Sabha's outskirts.
The attack left seven bodies completely charred so it was impossible to identify al-Hassnawi, he added.
The locals knew that the al-Qaeda leader had been in the house but "no one can tell who is who" among the bodies, the witness said, fearing for his safety.
The witness also said he had seen al-Hassnawi together with Belmokhtar, whom a US drone strike failed to kill last year in the eastern Libyan town of Adjabiya, and that the two "came back from the fighting in Sirte."
It was not immediately possible to verify his account and local officials could not be reached for comment.
|Mali: One branch of Mourabitounes pledges fealty to ISIS|
|[PJMedia] Terrorists behind string of hotel attacks pledge allegiance to ISIS |
A West African Islamist group that has participated in a string of grisly attacks aimed at foreigners across multiple countries is now officially part of ISIS, the said Sunday.
"The Murabitin Brigade under leadership of Abul-Walid as-Sahrawi in northern Mali pledges allegiance to Shaykh and joins the Islamic State," ISIS' Amaq news agency said in a statement.
ISIS released a video in which as-Sahrawi reads a statement of allegiance, then masked fighters put their hands in team-style while reciting a pledge to al-Baghdadi. They then cheered "Allahu Akbar."
As-Sahrawi, an Algerian, pledged allegiance to ISIS last year, but it was not publicly recognized by the Islamic State. Divisions within al-Mourabitoun rendered that more of a personal declaration than speaking for the whole group. In particular, al-Mourabitoun co-founder Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also Algerian, was reportedly not on board. In December, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb announced that al-Mourabitoun was part of AQIM once again.
Al-Mourabitoun began as a merger of two jihadist groups: the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), linked to as-Sahrawi, and Belmokhtar’s al-Mulathameen Brigade. Belmokhtar has maintained his loyalty to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al- Al-Mourabitoun and AQIM attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mail, last November, killing 20 including American development expert Anita Ashok Datar. In January, the two groups attacked the the Cappuccino restaurant and Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, , killing 30 including two former members of the Swiss parliament and American missionary Michael James Riddering. In March, AQIM and al-Mourabitoun again teamed up for an attack on a beach resort in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, killing 18.
[AnNahar] A Romanian mineworker kidnapped by an al-Qaida affiliate last year appeared in a video released Monday urging his government to secure his release as soon as possible. Iulian Ghergut, then a security officer, was taken on April 4, 2015, when five armed men attacked a manganese mine in Tambao, 220 miles (350 kilometers) northeast of Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, officials said at the time.
Ghergut, heavily bearded and squinting slightly, says he is in good health in the video he dated September 21 of this year. Speaking in a thick accent in French, he says he thinks of his family, while pressing his family and the Romanian government itself to do everything possible to secure his release.
The clip was distributed by SITE, a group based just outside Washington that monitors extremist groups.
Ghergut was taken by Al-Murabitoun, led by one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The group, which has since affiliated itself with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, has claimed responsibility for several spectacular and bloody attacks in sub-Saharan Africa.
Kidnappings of foreigners, often for ransom, occasionally occur in Mali and Niger but not usually in Burkina Faso, a landlocked Sahel country.