Amadou Kouffa is a U.S.-designated radical preacher and a senior member in Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), an al-Qaeda affiliate active in the Sahel region of Africa. On November 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of State designated Kouffa as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224.“U.S. Department of State Terrorist Designation of Amadou Kouffa,” U.S. Department of State, November 7, 2019, https://www.state.gov/u-s-department-of-state-terrorist-designation-of-amadou-kouffa/. Kouffa is one of the top deputies to Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of JNIM, a group which has repeatedly attacked soldiers and civilians in Mali and neighboring Burkina Faso.Tiemoko Diallo, “Mali says it confirms death of veteran jihadist leader Koufa,” November 24, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mali-security-france/mali-says-it-confirms-death-of-veteran-jihadist-leader-koufa-idUSKCN1NT0EJ. As well as ties with Ghali, Kouffa reportedly has links to Mokhtar Belmoktar, who founded al-Mourabitoun after leaving al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in late 2012.Conor Gaffey, “Mali Hotel Attack: What Is The Macina Liberation Front, Mali's Boko Haram,” Newsweek, November 24, 2015, https://www.newsweek.com/mali-hotel-attack-who-are-macina-liberation-front-malis-boko-haram-397727.
Born in Niafunke, Amadou Kouffa was born Amadou Diallo. “Kouffa” refers to the locality where his father officiated as an imam. Kouffa’s popularity came in part from his mastery of radio as a tool for communication in his native Fulani language.Conor Gaffey, “Mali Hotel Attack: What Is The Macina Liberation Front, Mali's Boko Haram,” Newsweek, November 24, 2015, https://www.newsweek.com/mali-hotel-attack-who-are-macina-liberation-front-malis-boko-haram-397727. In January 2015, Kouffa founded and led the militant group Macina Liberation Front (FLM), which went on to claim responsibility for a number of attacks in central and southern Mali. Given the popularity of Kouffa’s radio sermons, many of Kouffa’s recruits are Fulanis, and the FLM is often considered in Malian media to be a “Fulani movement.”Pauline Le Roux, “Confronting Central Mali’s Extremist Threat,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, February 22,2019, https://africacenter.org/spotlight/confronting-central-malis-extremist-threat/. His calls for more equality of opportunity and political reform resonated among young Fulani herders aggrieved over the theft of their livestock, abuses by administrative authorities, and certain traditional leaders, as well an identity crisis over their role in the religious, ethnic, and intergenerational crosscurrents buffeting many Sahelian communities.Pauline Le Roux, “Confronting Central Mali’s Extremist Threat,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, February 22,2019, https://africacenter.org/spotlight/confronting-central-malis-extremist-threat/. However, there is little evidence to suggest that the FLM incorporates Fulanis in West Africa beyond Mali and its borderlands.Jacob Zenn, “The Sahel’s Militant ‘Melting Pot’: Hamadou Kouffa’s Macina Liberation Front (FLM),” Jamestown Foundation, November 13, 2015, https://jamestown.org/program/the-sahels-militant-melting-pot-hamadou-kouffas-macina-liberation-front-flm/#.VlQ8n-nVvzK.
On March 1, 2017, Kouffa appeared alongside Ag Ghali, Yahya Abou Al Hamem of AQIM, Abu Hassan al-Ansari of Al-Mourabitoun, and Abu Abderrahman El Shenhadji of AQIM, to announce the merger of their jihadist groups into a single movement, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Mouslimin (JNIM).“In Central Mali, Civilian Populations Are Caught Between Terrorism and Counterterrorism,” Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme, November 2018, https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/fidh_centre-of-mali_population-sized-between-terrorism-and-counter-terrorism_727_en_november2018.pdf.
On November 23, 2018, French forces conducted a raid against jihadists in Mopti, central Mali. The forces claimed the raid killed over 30 Islamist militants, including Kouffa.Tiemoko Diallo, “Mali says it confirms death of veteran jihadist leader Koufa,” Reuters, November 24, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mali-security-france/mali-says-it-confirms-death-of-veteran-jihadist-leader-koufa-idUSKCN1NT0EJ. However, a few months later on February 29, 2019, video footage was released which showed Kouffa denying and mocking reports of his death.“Exclusive: Key Mali jihadist Amadou Koufa resurfaces to deny reports of his death,” France 24, February 28, 2019, https://www.france24.com/en/video/20190228-exclusive-key-mali-jihadist-amadou-koufa-resurfaces-deny-reports-death.
On November 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in concert with the Department of State, designates Amadou Kouffa as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.“Nicaragua-related Designations; Counter Terrorism Designation,” United States Department of the Treasury, November 7, 2019, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20191107.aspx.