There is a new threat in the West African jihadist front. A unified organization of three ruthless terror groups is emerging with deep financial backing and is looking for new members. Its name goes back to the 11th century tribe named Almoravids, or in Arabic, Al-Murābiṭūn, which translates to “the one who is ready to battle at a fortress.” This Berberesque tribe defeated a Christian uprising in the Sahara, and conquered the entire Algerian/Malian tribal areas, thus emplacing their Islamic teachings and influences within that region for centuries, until the French arrived to colonize.
The intent of establishing the Al-Mourabitoun is simple. They want to cleanse and enforce sharia law from “The Nile to the Atlantic Ocean”. But who is leading this and what terror groups have signed on?
The first two groups to join together under this banner were none other than The Masked Brigade, or “Those That Sign with Blood,” which is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar. MBM (as he’s known in Pentagon circles) has truly stepped out ahead of the other al-Qaeda battle flagged leaders in the Maghreb. Trained in mujahedeen camps run by Osama bin Laden during the Soviet/Afghan war, Mokhtar was enamored by the natural leadership and dedication to the teachings of the mujahid that bin Laden embrued onto his fellow muhj fighters. It is rumored that Mokhtar named his first-born son “Osama” after the great Caliphate.
MBM’s loyalty to al-Qaeda and its mission was stamped in blood when Al-Zawahiri publicly praised the brigade commander’s tactics and successes in places such as Arlit, and the smuggling that lined AQ central’s war chests. This of course didn’t sit well with the leadership of AQIM and led to him and his second in command to leave the organization. This leads to the second group affiliated with Mokhtar’s “Justice League of Jihadism,” a group called The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.
MOJWA is led by a man named Oumar Ould Hamaha. Oumar has an interesting past, as he was Mokhtar’s second in command in his former AQIM brigade, and left with Mokhtar after a falling out with the leader of AQIM and their Shura council. Oumar Hamaha, or “Hakka,” which translates into AK due to his purported prowess with an Ak-47. He has been at Mokhtar’s side for a couple of decades and shares Mokhtar’s vision of a Sahara and Africa free of Western influence.
Oumar is also a public spokesperson for another little-known group called Ansar Dine, which, along with AQIM and MOJWA, won the battle for control of Gao, Mali in 2012. These two major groups, along with the smaller “slice element” Ansar Dine, make up the bulk of the Al-Mourabitoun terror organization. But just like the Joker from The Dark Knight said: They are in the market for “aggressive expansion,” but will there be try-outs?
Al- Mourabitoun’s main goal is to annex the little-known terror groups who have claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda teachings and mission, namely al-Shabaab, who put themselves in the media limelight after the confirmed killing of Omar “Al-Amriki” Hammami in late August, followed by the fateful Kenyan Mall attack on September 21st.
Boko Haram, another al-Qaeda affiliated terror group answered the al-Shabaab attack with an equally yet little-reported massacre of 50 college students while they slept on September 29th at an agriculture school. They lit the dormitory, classrooms and several buildings on fire before fading off into the ink-black night. Libyan-based Tureg tribesmen, fresh from fighting in Libya and the murky civil war in Syria, who have loose connections with the emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar, have been throwing their battle-tested skills into the mix, and throwing a whole lot of unused Libyan army weapons into the hands of willing fundamentalists.
But what troubles me is the expansion into Tunisia. The Ansar al Sharia Tunisia group was designated an official terror group in a statement by the government of Tunisia on September 3rd. Ansar al Sharia answered this with a statement of their own, reaffirming their continued support to the al-Qaeda network, and their “loyalty” to the new unified terror group Al-Mourabitoun, and by de-facto its leader, emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Ansar al Sharia’s leader, Seifailah Ben Hassine, or Abu Iyad al Tunisi, goes further by stating his group received extensive training in Libya and Syria during the Arab Dawn struggles. Seifallah Ben Hassine has also been suspected of ordering the assassination of an opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, for speaking out against the oppressive Salifist political uprising. Ben Hassine embraces his group’s new moniker as a global threat to the Western world and its interests, calling it an “honor.” With all this saber rattling from Ansar al Sharia and its leader, one wonders how eager these folks are to prove their loyalty.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar continues to be found in most of the reporting and research on this newly formed “Justice League of Jihad,” making him the most interested in man in the Maghreb. In a 2007 cable acquired by Wikileaks, MBM stated that he wanted out. Using a family member to contact the Algerian government, Mokhtar was reported to have requested amnesty for his multitude of crimes and broken international terrorism laws, giving the Algerian government a list of demands, such as immunity for himself and three aids, permission to settle unhampered with his families and their Tureg tribal connections in Barabsha tribal region of Northern Mali. And to top it off, he wanted the Algerians to pay for all of this “resettlement.” Once the Algerian intelligence services got hold of this information and shared it with (lets say the French), that request was placed in the circular filing cabinet and Mokhtar was, in essence, told to go pack sand.
So, Mokhtar Belmokhtar decided to do the next best thing: follow in the footsteps of his most influential spiritual and tactical teacher, Osama bin Laden. It’s hard not to draw even the flimsiest of comparisons to the now deceased bin Laden’s almost sage-like influence and ability to incite pure jihadi anti-western sentiment, and the way Mokhtar has developed himself from a mere smuggler and thug into a highly influential and natural leader of West Africa’s first truly unified Terror Inc.
With al-Qaeda central command all but a talking head piece and its most prolific “boots on ground” leaders deceased, has Mokhtar Belmokhtar inadvertently become the next “Code-Name Geronimo”?
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