CEP Releases Resources on Extremism in Mali Following Attack by Al-Mourabitoun and AQIM

(New York, NY) – The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is releasing new resources on extremism and counter-extremism in the West African country of Mali following the killing of 19 hostages at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the capital of Bamako. CEP is also releasing updated resources on the terror group al-Mourabitoun, which claimed it carried out the attack with the assistance of another violent Islamic extremist group active in the region, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

As many as 170 people were taken hostage when gunman stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako on November 20. Among the 19 people killed was one American, Anita Ashok Datar, a former Peace Corps volunteer and an executive with an international development consulting firm; six Russians; three Chinese citizens; two Belgians; and an Israeli citizen. Malian security forces—with the help of U.N., French, and U.S. soldiers—ended the siege after several hours, killing two gunmen and freeing the remaining hostages.

The attack comes as Mali struggles to combat extremists while attempting to negotiate an end to a civil war that began in 2012. France, the U.N., and other West African nations have assisted the Malian government’s efforts to restore order and security in the restive northern part of the country. The Radisson Blu Hotel was the site for peace talks between the Malian government and northern separatist groups.

Terrorist groups operating in Mali include AQIM and several of its affiliates, such as Ansar al-Dine (AAD). Another former AQIM affiliate, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), merged in 2013 with al-Mulathamun ("The Masked Men") Battalion (AMB) to form al-Mourabitoun, considered by the U.S. State Department to pose “the greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests in the Sahel.”  

Al-Mourabitoun believes it has a “Shari’a-based duty” to unite Africa’s Muslims and Islamic movements against secular and non-Muslim influences. The leader of al-Mourabitoun, Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, is one of the most deadly veteran extremist leaders in Africa. Belmokhtar helped establish AQIM. In 2013, Belmokhtar masterminded the four-day siege at Algeria’s Amenas gas plant that killed 38 hostages, including three Americans. 

Al-Mourabitoun gunmen have in the recent past claimed credit for other attacks against civilian targets. On August 7, 2015, gunmen attacked the Hotel Byblos in the central Malian town of Sevare, killing nine civilians and four Malian soldiers. And in March 2015, Al-Mourabitoun attacked La Terrasse—a restaurant frequented by expatriates—in the capital of Bamako, killing one Belgian security officer, three Malians, and wounding nine others.

The Mali Extremism & Counter-Extremism reports includes: A timeline of major extremist and terror incidents; descriptions of extremist groups operating in the country; domestic radicalization; foreign fighters; domestic counter-extremism; the role of France; and polling data revealing Malian attitudes toward armed separatists and Islamic extremists. 

To view the Mali report in its entirety, click here

To view the updated Threat Report on terror group al-Mourabitoun, click here.

To view the updated Threat Report on terror group AQIM, click here.

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