Deadly Mali Attack Marked the Reemergence of Al-Qaeda in West Africa

(New York, NY) –- One year after a deadly attack in Mali, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is releasing updated resources on the Islamic extremist groups responsible for the attack, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Mourabitoun, as well as Mali’s struggles to combat extremists while attempting to end a civil war that began in 2012.

On November 20, 2015, gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, taking as many as 170 people hostage and in the words of one eyewitness, “shooting at anything that moved.” After several hours, Malian security forces, backed by French and American soldiers, killed the two gunmen and freed the hostages. The attack left 20 people dead.

The attack marked the reemergence of al-Qaeda’s presence in the region, with AQIM eager to expand its reach beyond its base in Mali. On January 15, 2016, four AQIM-affiliated gunmen targeted the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso, killing at least 30 people and wounding 50 others. Two months later, on March 15, 2016, AQIM-affiliated gunmen stormed a beach resort in Côte d’Ivoire, killing 16 civilians and three soldiers. The AQIM attacks in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire represented the first al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in those countries.  

Led by Musab Abdel Wadoud, AQIM is dedicated to dismantling regional governments and implementing Islamic law in areas where it operates, including in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, and Niger. Al-Mourabitoun, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, believes it has a “Shari’a-based duty” to unite Africa’s Muslims and Islamic movements against secular and non-Muslim influences.


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Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.

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