Al-Qaeda group divided on Islamic State

With two contradictory statements issued by top AQIM emirs within a week, there could be a fundamental split in the organization's thinking and direction.

al-monitor A man looks at a picture of Abdelmalek Droukdel, aka Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), seen on US monitoring group SITE Intelligence, in Paris, Nov. 19, 2010. Photo by REUTERS.

Topics covered

security, salafists, mali, jihadists, islamists, islamic state, al-qaeda in the islamic maghreb (aqim)

Jul 21, 2014

A new message by the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has revealed signs of a rift within the organization regarding issues related to the organization of “the basis of jihad.” The organization issued two contradictory statements about the Islamic State (IS). One statement was issued by the emir of the group, Abu Musab Wadud, and the second by Sheikh Abu Abdullah Osman al-Assimi, who is believed to be the group’s judge.

The contradictory statements were issued over the course of a week. While one statement pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — following his July 5 speech — and criticized the stance of al-Qaeda Leader Ayman al-Zawahri, the other one denied any allegiance for IS and stated a renewed loyalty to Zawahri.

It remains unclear whether this disparity in positions is the result of a rift within AQIM about which organization is worth allegiance, the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. Following the proclamation of an Islamic caliphate headed by Baghdadi nearly a month ago, AQIM has issued a statement pledging allegiance to IS. Al-Qaeda’s judge addressed IS fighters saying, “We would like to build bridges of friendship between you and us. You are loved by us more than our families and clans and you shall always have our support.”

This statement was made by Assimi in an audio recording. It is believed that he hails from Algiers and has been newly appointed to his position, knowing that the head of the judicial committee in the organization was arrested two years ago in Ghardaia, south of the [Algerian] capital.

However, the organization has contradicted itself by criticizing IS for “not consulting with jihadist leaders” as to the proclamation of the Islamic caliphate on the lands it had seized in Syria and through its rapid progress in parts of Iraq.

AQIM justified its nonrecognition of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq saying that the IS leaders “did not consult with jihadist leaders” to this effect. “We re-emphasize our loyalty to our sheikh and emir Ayman al-Zawahri. Our allegiance to him is deeply entrenched in us and we do not see any reason to renege on it. It is our aim to liberate the lands of Muslims, implement the Islamic Sharia and regain the caliphate that is in line with the prophecy,” he said.

In another context, armed political movements that are active in north Mali declared their commitment to peaceful dialogue to solve “deep-seated problems” that are causing the local crisis. The groups expressed their hope that a dialogue in Algeria would measure up to the aspirations of the citizens of north Mali. Vice President of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) Mohamad Maiga said, during the meetings of the first round of inclusive dialogue between Malians, that the movement “reflects the legitimate and real demands of the Azawad people which should not be marginalized, [but] rather emphasized in the dialogue.”

In addition to Mali’s parties, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations, the European Union and the Islamic Cooperation Organization also attended the dialogue meetings.

Mali’s partners expressed their satisfaction with the conditions under which the inclusive dialogue was prepared. Secretary-General of the Islamic Cooperation Organization Iyad Madani said, “The road to peace won’t be easy in the absence of the peace option and commitment to the unity of Mali’s territories. Moreover, Mali’s geographic characteristics should be taken into consideration and the neighboring countries and international community must be supportive in order to reach peace.”

In Dakar, a spokesman for the radical al-Mourabitoun jihadist group claimed responsibility yesterday for the suicide bombing during the week that claimed the life of a French soldier in north Mali.

A video posted on the Internet showed the spokesman, who introduced himself as Abu Assem al-Mouhajer, saying that the attack in the Al-Moustarat region, north of Gao in eastern Mali, came in response to the French allegations that they had killed the mujahedeen.

The group was formed last year when two Islamist groups in north Mali merged. They were the Al-Mulathamun Battalion, led by the veteran jihadist Mokhtar Bel Mokhtar, and The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.

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