Overview

Also known as:

Executive Summary:

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a jihadist terrorist group based in North Africa. As a formal al-Qaeda affiliate, the group is dedicated to dismantling regional governments and implementing sharia (Islamic law) in areas where it operates, primarily in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, and Niger. In December 2015, AQIM linked up with its former offshoot, al-Mourabitoun, to carry out attacks throughout the Sahel region. The groups carried out a series of deadly terrorist attacks, including the November 2015 attacks in Mali, the January 2016 attacks in Burkina Faso, and the March 2016 attacks in Côte d’Ivoire.Caleb Weiss, “AQIM targets beach resort in Ivory Coast,” Long War Journal, March 13, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/03/aqim-claims-beach-attack-in-ivory-coast.php.

On March 2, 2017, AQIM merged with local Salafist groups Ansar al-Dine and al-Mourabitoun to form Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), led by Iyad Ag Ghali, Ansar al-Dine’s former emir.Dario Cristiani, “Ten Years of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Evolution and Prospects,” Jamestown Foundation, May 5, 2017, https://jamestown.org/program/ten-years-al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-evolution-prospects/; Beligh Nabli, “L’unification du djihadisme sahelien,” L’Economiste, June 3, 2017, http://www.leconomistemaghrebin.com/2017/03/06/lunification-djihadisme-sahelien/. While operating under a new name and new emir, JNIM appears to remain under the direction of AQIM and AQ central. Ghali pledged allegiance to both al-Qaeda central and AQIM emir Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud.Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa,” Long War Journal, March 13, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/analysis-al-qaeda-groups-reorganize-in-west-africa.php. In 2017, al-Qaeda-linked groups were responsible for 276 attacks in Mali and West Africa, comparable to the number of attacks its affiliated groups launched in 2016.Caleb Weiss, “Al Qaeda maintains operational tempo in West Africa in 2017,” Long War Journal, January 5, 2018, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/al-qaeda-maintains-operational-tempo-in-west-africa-in-2017.php.

AQIM finds its roots in the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), an Islamist movement founded in Algeria in the early 1990s. GIA leader Hassan Hattab split from the GIA over ideological differences, and he later founded the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). In September 2006, GSPC merged with al-Qaeda, formally rebranding itself as AQIM in the months following. In Mali, AQIM is known for its de facto war with the French government beginning in 2013, as well as its extensive history of kidnapping and extortion.“Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Who is the terror group reportedly behind the Ivory Coast shooting?” Independent (London), March 13, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/al-qaeda-in-maghreb-aqim-terror-group-who-where-a6929276.html.

Doctrine:

AQIM aligns its movement with al-Qaeda’s broader goals to institute sharia (Islamic law) in all its areas of operation. Leader Abdelmalek Droukdel told the New York Times in 2008 that “Our first goal is the arbitration of the Lord of the world’s law [Sharia], and the achievement of the servitude to God. Our general goals are the same goals of Al Qaeda the mother, and you know them.”“An Interview with Abdelmalek Droukdal,” New York Times, July 1, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/world/africa/01transcript-droukdal.html?pagewanted=all.

AQIM perceives all non-Islamist governments as illegitimate and, accordingly, seeks to replace the various governments in the countries in which AQIM operates. According to Droukdel, these governments “are all secretions of the colonialism that invaded our country in the last two centuries, and enabled those regimes to govern. Therefore, they started governing for its account and on behalf of it. They implement its programs and protect its interests and fight Islam on its behalf.”“An Interview with Abdelmalek Droukdal,” New York Times, July 1, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/world/africa/01transcript-droukdal.html?pagewanted=all. Moreover, the group specifically targets what it sees as continued Western influence in the region. According to Droukedel, “We seek to liberate the Islamic Maghreb from the sons of France and Spain and from all symbols of treason and employment for the outsiders, and protect it from the foreign greed and the crusader’s hegemony.”“An Interview with Abdelmalek Droukdal,” New York Times, July 1, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/world/africa/01transcript-droukdal.html?pagewanted=all. Regarding attacks on American interests, Droukdel said that, “We will strive to strike them whenever we can.”“An Interview with Abdelmalek Droukdal,” New York Times, July 1, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/world/africa/01transcript-droukdal.html?pagewanted=all.

Organizational Structure:

Like all al-Qaeda outfits, AQIM has a distinct hierarchy, with leader Abdelmalouk Droukdel at its head. AQIM also has a central decision-making body, the Majlis al-Ayan (Council of Notables),Nazim Fethi, “Al-Qaeda Leader El-Abbes Surrenders in Algeria,” Magharebia, February 6, 2010, http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/features/2010/06/02/feature-01. its own media wing, Al-Andalus Media Productions, and a Sharia Council that governs Islamic legal matters.“Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb,” Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/al-qaeda-lands-islamic-maghreb-aqim-salafist-group-preaching-and-fighting-see-separate-entry.

After al-Mourabitoun re-joined AQIM in 2015, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri allegedly ordered a regional division among his commanders. Droukdel was placed in charge of Algeria, al-Mourabitoun leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar of Libya, and Djame Okacha (a.k.a. Abu Yahya al-Hammam) of West Africa.Olivier Guitta, “The re-emergence of AQIM in Africa,” Al Jazeera, March 20, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/emergence-aqim-africa-160320090928469.html. The Tunisian branch of AQIM has carried out a series of attacks in recent years, particularly in Tunisia’s Kasserine region.Caleb Weiss, “Tunisian AQIM branch claims attack on troops in Kasserine,” Long War Journal, September 1, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/tunisian-aqim-branch-claims-attack-on-troops-in-kasserine.php. This regional division reflects the early organization of AQIM, which was divided in katibas (brigades) that both cooperated and competed with each other.Zachary Laub and Jonathan Masters, “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 27, 2015, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb.

In March 2017, AQIM announced the formation of Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) in a merger that included Ansar al-Dine and al-Mourabitoun. JNIM announced Ansar al-Dine’s former emir, Iyad Ag Ghali, as its leader.Dario Cristiani, “Ten Years of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Evolution and Prospects,” Jamestown Foundation, May 5, 2017, https://jamestown.org/program/ten-years-al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-evolution-prospects/; Beligh Nabli, “L’unification du djihadisme sahelien,” L’Economiste, June 3, 2017, http://www.leconomistemaghrebin.com/2017/03/06/lunification-djihadisme-sahelien/. Ghali claimed that the factions had united “into one group” operating under “one emir” after al-Qaeda “sought unification according to Sharia law.”Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa,” Long War Journal, March 13, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/analysis-al-qaeda-groups-reorganize-in-west-africa.php. While operating under a new name and new emir, JNIM appears to remain under the aegis of al-Qaeda. Ghali paid bayat (allegiance) to al-Qaeda central and AQIM emir Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud.Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa,” Long War Journal, March 13, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/analysis-al-qaeda-groups-reorganize-in-west-africa.php. Thus, the relationship between AQIM and Ansar al-Dine and al-Mourabitoun has shifted from one of collaboration to a structured hierarchy with AQIM at the top.Dario Cristiani, “Ten Years of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Evolution and Prospects,” Jamestown Foundation, May 5, 2017, https://jamestown.org/program/ten-years-al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-evolution-prospects/.

Financing:

AQIM acquires a significant portion of its funding through kidnapping and extortion.Adam Nossiter, “Millions in Ransoms Fuel Militants’ Clout in West Africa,” New York Times, December 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/world/africa/kidnappings-fuel-extremists-in-western-africa.html?pagewanted=all. The State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism noted that, in addition to kidnapping for ransom, the group also engages in criminal activities to finance its operations. Specifically, AQIM reportedly raises funds though “protection rackets, robbery, people and arms trafficking, money laundering and smuggling and increasingly, the facilitation of drug trafficking from South America into Europe.”“Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb,” Australian National Security, accessed June 27, 2014, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Al-QaidaintheIslamicMaghrebAQIM.aspx. Lastly, AQIM also successfully fundraises globally. This includes supporters residing in Western Europe, who “provide limited financial and logistical support.”“Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224829.htm.

AQIM is also allegedly supported by foreign governments. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The Algerian government has accused Iran and Sudan of funding the group. Al Qaeda also provides material and financial support to AQIM. In addition, AQIM has many members abroad, the majority located in Western Europe, who provide financial and logistical support.”"Militants Kill Soldiers in Algeria,” New York Times, April 20, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/world/africa/militants-kill-soldiers-in-algeria.html.

Recruitment:

An April 2007 report by Lianne Boudali of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center suggested that the GSPC merged with al-Qaeda in part due to declining recruitment. Rebranding as AQIM and broadening their focus outside of Algeria and Tunisia made it easier for the group to recruit informants, logisticians, and militants.Lianne Boudali, “The GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa’ida’s Global Jihad,” Combating Terrorism Center, April 2007, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA466539. As part of this plan, GSPC trained and sent fighters to join Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—then the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq—in 2005.Lianne Boudali, “The GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa’ida’s Global Jihad,” Combating Terrorism Center, April 2007, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA466539. The increased scope and scale of attacks after 2007 suggests that AQIM successfully recruited some of these Iraqi fighters after Zarqawi’s death.Lianne Boudali, “The GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa’ida’s Global Jihad,” Combating Terrorism Center, April 2007, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA466539.

As AQIM shifted its focus away from Algeria and toward the more vulnerable west African countries of Mali, Niger, and Côte d’Ivoire, it increased its recruitment efforts within these countries. By 2016, Malians had reportedly replaced Algerians as the most prominent nationality within the group.Olivier Guitta, “The re-emergence of AQIM in Africa,” Al Jazeera, March 20, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/emergence-aqim-africa-160320090928469.html. This change is visible in the March 2016 beach resort attack in Côte d’Ivoire, in which all of the terrorists involved were sub-Saharan Africans.Michael E. Miller, “Horror at the beach: 22 dead in terrorist attack on Ivory Coast resorts,” Washington Post, March 14, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/14/horror-at-the-beach-22-dead-in-terrorist-attack-on-ivory-coast-resorts/?utm_term=.41a7ad9cd104.

Training:

Most of AQIM’s leadership first trained alongside Osama bin Laden during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.Zachary Laub and Jonathan Masters, “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 27, 2015, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb. In the mid-2000s, GSPC trained recruits in the desert in temporary bivouacs which they moved after a few days.Lianne Boudali, The GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa’ida’s Global Jihad, Combating Terrorism Center, April 2007, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA466539. However in 2006 reports emerged suggesting that AQIM had sent men to train with Hezbollah in Lebanon.Lianne Boudali, The GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa’ida’s Global Jihad, Combating Terrorism Center, April 2007, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA466539. By the late 2000s, AQIM began training Boko Haram fighters in the construction of IEDs.Thomas Joscelyn, “Osama bin Laden’s files: AQIM commander recommended training Boko Haram’s members,” Long War Journal, February 18, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/02/osama-bin-ladens-files-aqim-leader-recommended-training-boko-harams-members.php. According to internal documents seized from bin Laden’s compound, AQIM divides its training into two parts: “practical training and… theoretical training, which is less beneficial.”Thomas Joscelyn, “Osama bin Laden’s files: AQIM commander recommended training Boko Haram’s members,” Long War Journal, February 18, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/02/osama-bin-ladens-files-aqim-leader-recommended-training-boko-harams-members.php.

Key Leaders

  • Iyad Ag Ghali

    JNIM emir (leader)
  • Abdelmalek Droukdel

    AQIM emir (leader), in charge of Algeria
  • Mokhtar Belmokhtar

    Al-Mourabitoun emir, co-founder
  • Yahya Abu Hammam

    Yahya Abu Hammam

    Leader of Sahara-Sahel region
  • Yahia Djouadi

    Former emir of the southern sector
  • Salah Mohamed

    Head of media committee
  • Abdarrahmane al-Azawadi

    Spokesman
  • Salah Mohamed

    Head of media committee
  • Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad

    Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad

    Head of media
  • Ahmed Deghdegh

    Finance chief
  • Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi

    Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi

    Member of Shura council
  • Mohamed Lahbous (a.k.a. Mohamed Ould Nouini)

    Military commander of al-Mourabitoun and co-founder of JNIM (deceased)

History

 

Violent Activities

AQIM has been the most successful al-Qaeda affiliate when it comes to kidnapping and ransoming foreigners, collecting more than $90 million by the end of 2012.Adam Nossiter, “Millions in Ransoms Fuel Militants’ Clout in West Africa,” New York Times, December 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/world/africa/kidnappings-fuel-extremists-in-western-africa.html?pagewanted=all. AQIM also launches hundreds of small-scale attacks each year against United Nations, French, and local security forces, killing hundreds. However, AQIM is most notable for its large-scale terror attacks on a beach resort in March 2016 and a popular restaurant in August 2017, which combined killed 37 civilians.“Mali arrests third suspect in Ivory Coast beach attack,” France 24, April 17, 2016, http://www.france24.com/en/20160417-mali-arrests-suspect-ivory-coast-beach-terror-attack-aqim Caleb Weiss, “AQIM claims two attacks in northern Mali,” Long War Journal, November 30, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/11/aqim-claims-two-attacks-in-northern-mali.php; Caleb Weiss, “Jihadists strike across West Africa,” Long War Journal, August 15, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/08/jihadists-launch-attacks-across-west-africa.php.

Designations

Designations by the U.S. Government:

September 24, 2001: The Department of the Treasury designates GSPC as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Terrorism: What You Need to Know about U.S. Sanctions,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, accessed December 4, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/terror.txt. March 27, 2002: The Department of the Treasury designates GSPC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).“Terrorism: What You Need to Know about U.S. Sanctions,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, accessed December 4, 2014, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/terror.txt.
October 24, 2003: The Department of the Treasury designates Mokhtar Belmokhtar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“U.S. Designates Three Individuals And One Organization Involved In Terrorism In Algeria,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 24, 2003, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js944.aspx. February 21, 2008: The Department of the Treasury designates AQIM as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Treasury Targets Al Qaida-Affiliated Terror Group in Algeria,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 17, 2008, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1085.aspx.
July 17, 2008: The Department of the Treasury designates Ahmed Deghdegh as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).Office of Foreign Assets Control, “Treasury Targets Al Qaida Affiliated Terror Group in Algeria,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 17, 2008, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1085.aspx. July 17, 2008: The Department of the Treasury designates Abid Hammadou as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).Office of Foreign Assets Control, “Treasury Targets Al Qaida Affiliated Terror Group in Algeria,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 17, 2008, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1085.aspx.
September 7, 2011: The Department of the Treasury designates ‘Abd al-Rahman Ould Muhammad al-Husayn Ould Muhammad Salim as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“Treasury Targets Three Senior Al-Qa'ida Leaders,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 7, 2011, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1289.aspx. February 14, 2013: The Department of the Treasury designates Yahya Abu Hammam as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).Office of Foreign Assets Control, “Treasury Designates an Additional Senior Leader of Al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, February 14, 2013, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1855.aspx.
September 5, 2018: The Department of State designates JNIM as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (under Executive Order 13224).“State Department Terrorist Designation of Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM),” U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2018, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/09/285705.htm.  

Designations by Foreign Governments and Organizations:

United Nations—listed GSPC as a terrorist organization on October 6, 2001.“Narrative Summaries of Reasons for Listing: QE.T.14.01. The Organization of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,” United Nations Security Council, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE01401E.shtml. United Nations—listed AQIM as a terrorist organization on April 26, 2007.“Narrative Summaries of Reasons for Listing: QE.T.14.01. The Organization of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,” United Nations Security Council, last modified September 9, 2014, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE01401E.shtml.
Australia—listed GSPC as a terrorist organization on November 14, 2002.“Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb,” Australian National Security, accessed June 27, 2014, http://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Al-QaidaintheIslamicMaghrebAQIM.aspx. United Kingdom—listed GSPC as a terrorist organization on October 10, 2001.“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK,” HM Treasury (UK), last modified June 16, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/320559/alqaida.pdf.
Canada—listed GSPC as a terrorist organization on July 23, 2002.Public Safety Canada, “Currently Listed Entities,” Government of Canada, accessed July 1, 2014, http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#2008. New Zealand—listed GSPC as a terrorist organization on October 17, 2002.“Designated Individuals and Organizations,” New Zealand Police, updated June 26, 2014, http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/personal-community/counterterrorism/designated-entities.

Associations

Ties to Extremist Entities:

AQIM has either verbally or materially supported a plethora of Salafi terrorist and extremist groups across the region. AQIM officials have issued clear statements on their attempts to strengthen ties with al-Qaeda subgroups in Yemen, Syria, and East Africa.Casey Britton, “AQIM : Answers to Open Meeting with Sheikh Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad,” WorldAnalysis.net, April 19, 2013, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2197. They have also cooperated with, trained, or equipped other extremist groups in North Africa, including al-Mourabitoun and Boko Haram.SITE Intel Group, Twitter post, March 16, 2016, 10:56 a.m., https://twitter.com/siteintelgroup/status/710162802565062656; Felipe Pathé Duarte, “Maghrebian Militant Maneuvers: AQIM as a Strategic Challenge,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, September 28, 2011, http://csis.org/publication/maghrebian-militant-maneuvers-aqim-strategic-challenge.

Ahrar al-Sham
AQIM has posted on Twitter in solidarity with Ahrar al-Sham and other Syrian-based jihadist groups: “The stance of AQIM from the Jihadi groups like… Ahrar Al-Sham Brigades and the other Jihad groups is alliance and support and searching for the ways of cooperation in goodness and piety to bring our Muslim Ummah out from the state of backwardness and humiliation which it fell in to after the fall of the Khilafah.”Casey Britton, “AQIM : Answers to Open Meeting with Sheikh Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad,” WorldAnalysis.net, April 19, 2013, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2197.

Al-Mouraibtoun


Al-Mourabitoun (“The Sentinels”) formed after the 2013 merger of AQIM offshoots al-Mulathamun (“The Masked Men”) Battalion (AMB) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Al-Mourabitoun reaffirmed its allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2015 and formally rejoined the group that December after a joint attack in Bamako, Mali. Led by notorious Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, al-Mourabitoun seeks to establish an Islamic state in West Africa.Olivier Guitta, “The re-emergence of AQIM in Africa,” Al Jazeera, March 20, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/emergence-aqim-africa-160320090928469.html. Since rejoining the AQIM banner, al-Mourabitoun is still believed to retain some autonomy. For instance, of the three gunmen named in the attacks at Grand-Bassam, two—Hamza al-Fulani and Abu Adam al-Ansari—were reportedly associated with al-Mourabitoun whereas the third—Abdul Rahman al-Fulani—was reportedly a member of AQIM proper.SITE Intel Group, Twitter post, March 16, 2016, 10:56 a.m., https://twitter.com/siteintelgroup/status/710162802565062656.

Al-Qaeda
AQIM clarified its ties to al-Qaeda when AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel said in 2008, “We [AQIM] and Al Qaeda are one body. It’s normal that they get stronger by us and we get stronger by them. They back us up and we back them up. They supply us and we supply them with any kind of support, loyalty, advice and available support.”“An Interview With Abdelmalek Droukdal,” New York Times, July 1, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/world/africa/01transcript-droukdal.html.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
According to AQIM, the group’s relationship with AQAP is “a relation of love, brotherhood, alliance, support and cooperation to retrieve the lost glory of this Ummah....”Casey Britton, “AQIM : Answers to Open Meeting with Sheikh Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad,” WorldAnalysis.net, April 19, 2013, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2197.
ISIS
AQIM has a controversial relationship with ISIS in light of the strain and ultimate rift between ISIS and al-Qaeda in February 2014. AQIM leaders have expressed support for the group despite the break and AQIM’s official allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. On July 1, 2014, for example, AQIM posted an official message of congratulations to ISIS in light of the group’s military gains.Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb calls for reconciliation between jihadist groups,” Long War Journal, July 2, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/al_qaeda_in_the_isla.php. In the statement, however, AQIM tempers its congratulations with calls for reconciliation between ISIS and al-Qaeda as well as its affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. The statement also explicitly defers to al-Zawahri, calling him as “Our Sheikh and Emir.”Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb calls for reconciliation between jihadist groups,” Long War Journal, July 2, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/al_qaeda_in_the_isla.php. Two weeks later, AQIM posted a statement officially rejecting ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate. In the statement, AQIM refused to swear allegiance to ISIS leader and self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Thomas Joscelyn, “AQIM Rejects Islamic State’s Caliphate, Reaffirms Allegiance to Zawahiri,” Long War Journal, July 14, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/aqim_rejects_islamic.php. Some analysts have pointed to these two contradictory statements as evidence of internal rifts emerging within AQIM’s leadership over ISIS’s controversial declaration of caliphate.“Al-Qaeda Group Divided on Islamic State,” Al Monitor, July 21, 2014, http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/07/separate-statements-highlight-possible-rift-in-aqim.html; “ISIS Divides Maghreb al-Qaeda (AQIM),” African Armed Forces, August 19, 2014, http://www.aafonline.co.za/news/isis-divides-maghreb-al-qaeda-aqim. In September 2014, AQIM and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a joint statement calling on ISIS to reconcile with al-Qaeda.Thomas Joscelyn, “Al Qaeda Branches Urge Jihadist Unity Against US,” Long War Journal, September 16, 2014, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/09/al_qaeda_branches_ur.php. Also in September, some AQIM members are reported to have splintered from the group to pledge allegiance to ISIS under a new name, “the Caliphate Soldiers in Algeria.”Lamine Chikhi, “Splinter group breaks from al Qaeda in North Africa,” Reuters, September 15, 2014, http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/09/14/algeria-security-idINL6N0RF0F020140914.
Boko Haram
Although AQIM does not have a public relationship with Boko Haram, there are numerous reports of support between the two groups. In January 2010, AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel declared unconditional support for Boko Haram, pledging support in the form of training, weapons, equipment, and personnel.Felipe Pathé Duarte, “Maghrebian Militant Maneuvers: AQIM as a Strategic Challenge,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, September 28, 2011, http://csis.org/publication/maghrebian-militant-maneuvers-aqim-strategic-challenge. In 2012, AQIM is reported to have given Boko Haram $250,000, and trained its members in kidnapping as a way to raise further money.Tim Cocks, “Boko Haram Too Extreme for 'al Qaeda in West Africa' Brand,” Reuters, May 28, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/28/us-nigeria-bokoharam-analysis-idUSKBN0E81D320140528. According to intelligence officials, members of Boko Haram have met Algerian brigades of AQIM fighters for training and weapons. The alleged mastermind of the August 2011 UN bombing is reported to have trained with AQIM and a number of operatives in the region have reported ties to both Boko Haram and AQIM. Tim Cocks, “Boko Haram Too Extreme for 'al Qaeda in West Africa' Brand,” Reuters, May 28, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/28/us-nigeria-bokoharam-analysis-idUSKBN0E81D320140528; “Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee Adds Abubakar Mohammed Shekau, Ansaru to Its Sanctions List,” United Nations Security Council, June 26, 2014, http://www.un.org/press/en/2014/sc11455.doc.htm. Al-Qaeda has not made formal links with Boko Haram, and Ayman al-Zawahiri has made no explicit mention of the group.Tim Cocks, “Boko Haram Too Extreme for 'al Qaeda in West Africa' Brand,” Reuters, May 28, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/28/us-nigeria-bokoharam-analysis-idUSKBN0E81D320140528; Robin Simcox, “Boko Haram and Defining the ‘Al-Qaeda Network,’” Al Jazeera, June 6, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/boko-haram-al-qaeda-201463115816142554.html. Nonetheless, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has claimed that Boko Haram is an “al-Qaeda operation,” and one reporter for news outlet Al Jazeera says that the group’s ties to al-Qaeda and its affiliates are “now so numerous that they are impossible to ignore.”Robin Simcox, “Boko Haram and Defining the ‘Al-Qaeda Network,’” Al Jazeera, June 6, 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/boko-haram-al-qaeda-201463115816142554.html.
Iran
AQIM has not made a statement on the group’s relationship with the Iranian government or al-Qaeda’s overarching relationship with Iran. When asked to clarify the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran, AQIM’s representative responded, “We are authorized to speak on behalf of AQIM only, and the answer of that question exceeds our authority, so excuse us.”Casey Britton, “AQIM : Answers to Open Meeting with Sheikh Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad,” WorldAnalysis.net, April 19, 2013, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2197.
Al-Shabab
As of April 2013, AQIM pursued a relationship with Somalian group al-Shabab. AQIM has described its relationship with al-Shabab as “what we aspire to achieve not only with al-Qaeda in the East Africa but also with all the branches of al-Qaeda Al-Jihad in the world and that is a normal matter for each organization.”Casey Britton, “AQIM : Answers to Open Meeting with Sheikh Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad,” WorldAnalysis.net, April 19, 2013, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2197.
Nusra Front
AQIM has declared its support for the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. As AQIM’s head of media stated in 2013, “The stance of AQIM from the Jihadi groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham Brigades and the other Jihad groups is alliance and support.”Casey Britton, “AQIM : Answers to Open Meeting with Sheikh Abu Abdul Ilah Ahmad,” WorldAnalysis.net, April 19, 2013, http://worldanalysis.net/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2197.

Media Coverage

  • AQIM Defeated or Resurgent

    Like its parent organization and other affiliates, AQIM is not immune from the media debate over whether it has been defeated or is resurgent. In...
  • 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-...
  • Benghazi

    The initial coverage of the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens blamed Ansar al-Sharia (AAS),...
  • Kidnappings

    From 2009 through 2011, AQIM gained further notoriety by kidnapping more than a dozen predominantly European nationals. After the June 2009 beheading...
  • Violence in Algeria

    When the newly minted AQIM unleashed multiple bombings in Algeria on April 11, 2007, including one that targeted the prime minister’s office,...
  • Media Outlets Gauge Scale of Threat from Group’s Allegiance to Al-Qaeda

    In September 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri announced the merger of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) with al-Qaeda, raising fears the group...

Rhetoric

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AQIM Statement, May 2018

“This statement calls to boycott all Western companies and foundations ... that operate in the Islamic Maghreb ... and the countries of the Sahel, and gives a warning to them that they are legitimate target for the mujahideen.”“Al Qaeda branch threatens attacks on Western companies in Africa,” Reuters, May 8, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-africa-al-qaeda/al-qaeda-branch-threatens-attacks-on-western-companies-in-africa-idUSKBN1I93ES.

AQIM Statement, June 2013

“A group of lions... went to cut off the head of the criminal Lotfi Ben Jeddou at his home... and God allowed them to kill a number of his personal guards…”“Al-Qaeda claims recent attack on Tunisian minister’s home,” Al Arabiya News, June 13, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2014/06/13/Al-Qaeda-claims-recent-attack-on-Tunisian-minister-s-home-.html.

Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi, May 2013

“[Polytheists] are working continuously and cunning at day and night against the Muslims and to corrupt their religion and limiting their freedom in practicing its rituals, all that for oppression and enmity and out of envy from themselves.”“The English Translation of the audio speech for sheikh Abu Ubayda Yousif Al-Annabi Entitled War on Mali,” Fursan Al-Balagh Media Translation Department, May 2013, http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaykh-abc5ab-ubaydah-yc5absuf-al-anc481bc4ab-22the-war-on-mali22-en.pdf.

Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi, May 2013

“The enmity of France towards the religion of Islam is old, since this state appeared as a global power, and it set out crusader colonial campaigns it didn’t stop its aggression against the Muslims rather it continued to this day, although in recent times it began to take the forms dominated by the character of malice and guile and cunning, and exhuming the infrastructure of the Islamic civilization and identity intending to ruining and blur its features, without rushing to the use of military force, and this crusade is only another proof for the deep-rootedness of this enmity in the hearts of the French politicians, the old and current, liberals and socialists, moderates and extremists, they are all alike.”“The English Translation of the audio speech for sheikh Abu Ubayda Yousif Al-Annabi Entitled War on Mali,” azelinfiles.wordpress.com, May 2013, http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaykh-abc5ab-ubaydah-yc5absuf-al-anc481bc4ab-22the-war-on-mali22-en.pdf. See Aaron Y. Zelin, “al-Andalus Media presents a new video message from al-Qā’idah in the Islamic Maghrib’s Shaykh Abū ‘Ubaydah Yūsuf al ‘Anābī: ‘The War on Mali,’” Jihadology, May 7, 2013, http://jihadology.net/2013/05/07/al-andalus-media-presents-a-new-video-message-from-al-qaidah-in-the-islamic-maghribs-shaykh-abu-ubaydah-yusuf-al-anabi-the-war-in-mali/.

Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi, May 2013

“Ironically when it began it began its invasion of north Mali to end the rule of the Islamic Sharia under the claim that it is harsh and inhuman… at this time the French parliament was gathered to discuss the law of disgrace, fire and shame, the law of same sex marriage which will remain a disgraceful stain in the forehead of humanity as a whole…”“The English Translation of the audio speech for sheikh Abu Ubayda Yousif Al-Annabi Entitled War on Mali,” azelinfiles.wordpress.com, May 2013, http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaykh-abc5ab-ubaydah-yc5absuf-al-anc481bc4ab-22the-war-on-mali22-en.pdf. See Aaron Y. Zelin, “al-Andalus Media presents a new video message from al-Qā’idah in the Islamic Maghrib’s Shaykh Abū ‘Ubaydah Yūsuf al ‘Anābī: ‘The War on Mali,’” Jihadology, May 7, 2013, http://jihadology.net/2013/05/07/al-andalus-media-presents-a-new-video-message-from-al-qaidah-in-the-islamic-maghribs-shaykh-abu-ubaydah-yusuf-al-anabi-the-war-in-mali/.

Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi, May 2013

“[A]fter two days of intensive discussions [on the topic of gay marriage] the supporters of immorality… pass[ed] this dirty project with a disgraceful majority may Allah fight them.”“The English Translation of the audio speech for sheikh Abu Ubayda Yousif Al-Annabi Entitled War on Mali,” Fursan Al-Balagh Media Translation Department, May 2013, http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaykh-abc5ab-ubaydah-yc5absuf-al-anc481bc4ab-22the-war-on-mali22-en.pdf.

Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi, May 2013

“The advocates of this grave deviation who declared war against Allah and all His messengers and violated the Quran and even the Torah and Bible by this disgraceful law [law of same sex marriage in France] are the same advocates of this crusade that was launched against our Muslim people in Mali unjustly and aggressively to force them to leave the pure Sharia of their Lord and make them follow their madness and rebellion against the religions, minds and nature, what they are calling to is a great vice which the heavens may almost be rent thereat, and the earth cleave asunder, and the mountains fall down in pieces, it wasn’t legalized by anyone neither in the dark ages and first Jahiliya or the medieval ages or even the people of Lot who were destroyed by Allah for practicing that immorality and destroyed their village by turning it upside down and rained on them stones of baked clay.”“The English Translation of the audio speech for sheikh Abu Ubayda Yousif Al-Annabi Entitled War on Mali,” Fursan Al-Balagh Media Translation Department, May 2013, http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaykh-abc5ab-ubaydah-yc5absuf-al-anc481bc4ab-22the-war-on-mali22-en.pdf.

Abu Ubayda Yousif al-Annabi, May 2013

“O’ people of Islam all over the world: before this new crusade of France and its occupation for one of the Muslims lands we can only call all of you to a comprehensive and general mobilization, and ask you to support your brothers with all the kinds of support that you capable of, and we remind you that jihad after this aggression became an individual obligation on every capable person from you… O’ all Muslims it is an obligation on you to repel this assault by targeting the French interests everywhere because since the first day of this aggression since these interests have become legitimate targets for you.”“The English Translation of the audio speech for sheikh Abu Ubayda Yousif Al-Annabi Entitled War on Mali,” Fursan Al-Balagh Media Translation Department, May 2013, http://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaykh-abc5ab-ubaydah-yc5absuf-al-anc481bc4ab-22the-war-on-mali22-en.pdf.

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