Extremist islamist groups in Africa’s Sahel region merge into a single organization
All three groups already had ties to al-Qaeda, and were involved in an onslaught that saw northern Mali fall out of government control for nearly a year from spring 2012. (AFP/File)
Click here to add Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as an alert
Disable alert for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
Click here to add al-Murabitoun as an alert
Disable alert for al-Murabitoun,
Click here to add al-Qaeda as an alert
Disable alert for al-Qaeda,
Click here to add Ayman al-Zawahiri as an alert
Disable alert for Ayman al-Zawahiri,
Click here to add Iyad AG as an alert
Disable alert for Iyad AG,
Click here to add Iyag Ag as an alert
Disable alert for Iyag Ag,
Click here to add Osama bin Laden as an alert
Disable alert for Osama bin Laden
Three extremist groups operating in the Sahel region have merged to form one single organisation, Mauritania's private news agency ANI said on Thursday, citing a video distributed by the Islamists.
Among the groups joining the merger south of the Sahara are Mali's al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine and al-Murabitoun, led by Algerian extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The new movement will operate under the name the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, and will be led by Ansar Dine's Iyag Ag Ghaly, ANI said, adding that it had received the video on Wednesday.
The Macina Brigades group, active in central Mali, has also joined the merger.
ANI distributed a screenshot of the video showing five jihadist leaders seated together, with Iyad Ag Ghaly in the centre.
The four others were identified as the "emirs" of the new movement.
In an audio excerpt, Iyad Ag Ghaly can be heard swearing allegiance to slain Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - whose al-Qaeda in Iraq group later evolved into the Islamic State group - and Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's current leader.
He can also be heard praising al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan in May 2011.
It was not clear when the video was recorded, though ANI said it was "recent".
All three groups already had ties to al-Qaeda, and were involved in an onslaught that saw northern Mali fall out of government control for nearly a year from spring 2012.
The extremists were later expelled from the region by a French-led international military intervention.
Nonetheless, large swathes of northern Mali continue to come under attack from jihadist groups.
The area is also seen by governments battling the jihadist threat as a launchpad for attacks against other countries in the region.
- Delta Partners White Paper Reveals Strategic Insight into Challenges and Opportunities for Telecom Operators in the Middle East & Africa
- WEF MENA 2015: Strategic competition in MENA requires regional solution
- Egypt, US discuss combating Daesh funding
- Syrians in the Sahara: a new path to Europe for asylum seekers
- French Muslim Leader: Arabs should not Underestimate the Power their Communities Have in Europe