Islamist Takeover in Mali
While many news sources, such as the New York Times, resorted to labeling the diverse mix of jihadist groups operating in Mali as simply “al-Qaeda linked,” Al Jazeera reported that AQIM was operating under the umbrella of Ansar al-Dine. Specifically, Al Jazeera noted that they were “a group of local Ifoghas Tuaregs, Berabiche Arabs and other local ethnic groups” who shared AQIM’s desire for implementing Sharia. According to the report, AQIM’s relationship with Ansar al-Dine was “analogous to the associate between the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, with Ansar al-Dine playing host,” while another group, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), was “split off from AQIM” but was happy to work together with it for common purposes.May Ying Welsh, “Making Sense of Mali’s Armed Groups,” Al Jazeera, January 17, 2013, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/01/20131139522812326.html.
The New York Times further clarified AQIM’s larger role in Mali in December 2012, when it reported top U.S. military commander in Africa General Carter F. Ham, saying that AQIM was running training camps in northern Mali and providing weapons and funding to Boko Haram in Nigeria. The article noted that Boko Haram members “had traveled to [AQIM] training camps in northern Mali,” and described General Ham’s comments as “the most detailed and sobering American military analysis so far of the consequences of” AQIM gaining control of a safe haven in northern Mali.Eric Schmitt, “American Commander Details Al Qaeda’s Strength in Mali,” New York Times, December 3, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/world/africa/top-american-commander-in-africa-warns-of-al-qaeda-influence-in-mali.html. In the Guardian, Jason Burke wrote that the violence in Mali was partly due to the fact that AQIM had taken advantage of “arms, anarchy and auxiliaries” to become a force capable of battling the French army.
However, the rule that AQIM, Ansar al-Dine, and MUJAO enjoyed in the north did not last long. This is because, as Burke also notes, the feud between Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelmalek Droukdel created problems within AQIM. Belmokhtar was so upset about not being promoted to lead a faction of AQIM that he “set about planning operations that would upstage those of AQIM itself.”Jason Burke, “Mali: How Did It Come to This?” Guardian (London), January 17, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/17/mali-aqim-background.
After France intervened and put the jihadist groups “on the run” in the northern desert and mountainous regions of the country, Time wrote in early February 2013 that France’s military campaign had been “so successful” that the French President planned to visit “scarcely three weeks after the anti-Islamist operation began January 11.”Bruce Crumley, “France’s Next Move: With Mali’s Islamists on the Run, Time to Talk to the Tuaregs,” CNN, February 1, 2013, http://world.time.com/2013/02/01/frances-next-move-with-malis-islamists-on-the-run-time-to-talk-to-the-tuaregs/.