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Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) Narrative


Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)

Last Update

January 2015

Aliases

MOJWA; Mouvement Pour le Tawhid et du Jihad en Afrique de L’oust; Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa; Movement of Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA)[1]

History

The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has origins dating back to October 2011, when Hamad al-Khairy and Ahmed el-Tilemsi founded it as an offshoot of al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQLIM).[2] Both men had previously been affiliated with AQLIM, with Tilemsi aiding in the January 2011 kidnapping of two French nationals in Niger and Khairy assisting in the December 2008 abduction of Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler in Niger.[3]

Since its founding, MUJAO has taken responsibility for the October 2011 kidnapping of European aid workers in Nigeria.[4] In June 2014, the United States responded to these actions, issuing two $5 million bounties for the captures of Khairy and Tilemsi,[5] though neither the United States nor any other country formally recognize MUJAO as a terrorist organization.[6] In 2012, MUJAO, along with AQLIM and Ansar al-Dine, took control of the Malian cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, although French and Malian soldiers reclaimed these territories by November 2013.[7] In August 2013, MUJAO merged with the Masked Men Brigade to form Al-Murabitoun,[8] which was designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey on June 19, 2014.[9]

Home Base

Mali[10]

Founding Year

2011[11]

Ideology

Religious-Islamist-Salafist.[12]

Specific Goals

  • Engage in and encourage jihad across West Africa.[13]

Political Activity

None

Financing

  • Kidnapping: Oumar Ould Hamaha, the MUJAO leader running security, has stated that a bulk of the organization’s financing stems from Western countries, ostensibly following kidnappings of their people.[14]
  • Funded by other violent group: MUJAO has received financial and material support from AQLIM.[15]

Leadership and Structure over Time

  • According to the Malian army, MUJAO functions under a networked structure with sleeper cells.[16]
  • Founding leaders are Hamad al-Khairy and Ahmed el-Tilemsi, and Tilemsi also serves as a military leader of MUJAO, implying a chain of command within the leadership.[17]
  • 2011-2013: Hamad al-Khairy cofounder and leader of the organization.[18]
  • 2011-2013: Ahmed Ould Amer, aka Ahmed el-Tilemsi, cofounder and military leader.[19]
  • 2012-2013: Oumar Ould Hamaha headed security operations for MUJAO.[20]

Strength

  • January 2013: 300-400[21]

Allies and Suspected Allies

  • Masked Men Brigade (allies):
    • MUJAO and Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s Masked Men Brigade carried out joint attacks in Mali in May 2013 and eventually merged into one group, called Al-Murabitoun, in August 2013.[22]
  • Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (allies):
    • The cofounders of MUJAO, Hamad al-Khairy and Ahmed el-Tilemsi, were both AQIM members before they split with the group, suggesting that the two groups may at least retain ties or remain allies.[23] The two groups fought as allies against the French intervention in Mali in 2013.[24]
  • Ansar Dine (allies):
    • Ansar Dine fought alongside MUJAO and AQIM against French forces intervening in Mali in 2013.[25]
  • Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) (suspected allies):
    • MUJAO fought alongside MNLA forces in 2013 during the crisis in Northern Mali, but the extent of their cooperation and its continuation is uncertain. MUJAO eventually broke relations with this group as they disagreed over the strict interpretation and implementation of Sharia law in captured territory.[26]
  • Boko Haram (allies)
    • Boko Haram militants collaborated with MUJAO, MNLA, and AQIM on attacks in Mali in 2012 and 2013.[27]

Rivals and Enemies

  • Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) (rivals):
    • After briefly allying with this group in 2013, MUJAO broke relations with this group and began insisting upon strict interpretations of Sharia law in its territory, which is against the ideology of MNLA.[28]
  • Algeria (enemy):
    • Launched several terrorist attacks in Algeria in 2011, including the kidnapping of seven Algerian diplomats, and fought against the government forces of Algeria.[29]
  • Mali (enemy):
    • Fought against the government of Mali over territory in northern Mali in 2012 and 2013.[30]
  • France (enemy):
    • Fought against French forces in the 2013 French intervention in Mali.[31]

Counterterrorism Efforts

  • International, Law Enforcement: In June 2014, the United states posted two $5 million bounties on Hamad al-Khairy and Ahmed el-Tilemsi, two founding leaders of MUJAO, following their implications in numerous kidnappings of foreigners and attacks on Western targets.[32]
  • International, Military: France intervened in Mali in 2013, to assist the Malian government in regaining control of its northern territories from insurgents, including MUJAO.[33]
  • Domestic, Military: The Malian military fought a long campaign against MUJAO and its allies in 2012 and 2013 to retake northern Mali, which included several battles for territory and towns such as Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, and was eventually aided by French intervention.[34]

United States Government Designations

None.

Other Governments’ Designations

None.

 

[1] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2085, December 20, 2012. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2085%20%282012%29

[2] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[3] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[4] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[5] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[6] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, 2013. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

[7] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&

[8] ”Belmokhtar’s militants ‘merge’ with Mali’s MUJAO,” BBC News Africa, August 22, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23796920

[9] “Turkey designates three terrorist organizations as terrorist groups,” Daily Balochistan Express, June 19, 2014.

[10] Aidan Lewis, “Why the Sahra is not the ‘new Afghanistan’,” BBC News Africa, February 6, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21299153; U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, 2013. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

[11] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[12] Benjamin Maiangwa, “West Africa’s Terrorist Challenge and the Dynamics of Regional Response,” Insight on Africa, 5 (2013): 8, doi: 10.1177/0975087813515979.

[13] ”Belmokhtar’s militants ‘merge’ with Mali’s MUJAO,” BBC News Africa, August 22, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23796920

[14] Adam Nossiter, “Kidnappings Fuel Extremists In West Africa,” The New York Times, December 1, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/world/africa/kidnappings-fuel-extremists-in-western-africa.html?_r=0

[15] ”Belmokhtar’s militants ‘merge’ with Mali’s MUJAO,” BBC News Africa, August 22, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23796920

[16] Hirsch, Afua. 2013. “Mali’s battle with militants is far from over as rebel groups mark their return.” Guardian Weekly, October 25.

[17] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[18] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[19] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/; ”Belmokhtar’s militants ‘merge’ with Mali’s MUJAO,” BBC News Africa, August 22, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23796920

[20] Adam Nossiter, “Kidnappings Fuel Extremists In West Africa,” The New York Times, December 1, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/world/africa/kidnappings-fuel-extremists-in-western-africa.html?_r=0

[21] Xan Rice, “Q&A: The strength of Mali’s militants,” Financial Times, January 15, 2013. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/85851ea0-5f2f-11e2-8250-00144feab49a.html#axzz3OoblBeoI

[22] “Belmokhtar’s militants ‘merge’ with Mali’s MUJAO,” BBC News Africa, August 22, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23796920 ; U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, 2013. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm

[23] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[24] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&

[25] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&

[26] Bill Roggio, “US adds MUJAO operative to terrorism list,” Global Relations Centre, August 21. http://grcsudan.org/en/issues/regional-stability-/2352-us-adds-mujao-operative-to-terrorism-list

[27] Jacob Zenn, “Boko Haram’s International Connections,” Combating Terrorism at West Point Sentinel

[28] Bill Roggio, “US adds MUJAO operative to terrorism list,” Global Relations Centre, August 21. http://grcsudan.org/en/issues/regional-stability-/2352-us-adds-mujao-operative-to-terrorism-list

[29] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[30] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&

[31] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&

[32] “US posts $18m bounty for four African militants,” Daily News Egypt, June 14, 2014. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/06/14/us-posts-18m-bounty-four-african-militants/

[33] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&

[34] Jean-Philippe Remy, “Anarchy and death in Mali,” International New York Times, November 11, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/11/opinion/anarchy-and-death-in-mali.html?_r=1&