Jihadi terror groups in Africa merge, Christians say they are not intimidated
Three jihadi Islamic terror groups operating in the Sahel region of Africa have come together to form one single organisation, a move inspired by the unification of factions in Syria, Iyad Ag Ghaly, the former leader of Ansar Dine, said in a video.
The groups which have merged are Mali’s Al Qaeda-linked ‘Ansar Dine’, ‘Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’ and ‘Al-Murabitoun’, led by Algerian extremist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar who had claimed responsibility along with AQIM, al-Qaida’s North Africa branch, for the November 2015 attack at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako that killed least 20 people. The declaration was made in a video distributed on Friday, according to SITE Intelligence Group. Macina Brigades terror group operating in central Mali has also joined the merger.
The merged group will now be called “Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen,” which means “Support of Islam and Muslims.” The merged group will be led by Ansar Dine’s Iyag Ag Ghaly.
In the video released by the Islamic terror group, Ag Ghaly swore allegiance to the late 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. Ag Ghaly also praised Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan in May 2011 by the American Seal team.
Wassim Nasr an expert on jihadist movements in Africa said, “It is very particular to see them all together,” Adding that the merger is out of character with what is known of the operations of the radical Jihadists in the region. Nasr noted that the terror groups are trying to build a formidable force, “They are confirming their presence there.” He said.
The merger heightens threat of increased insecurity in the entire West African region which, except in Nigeria and occasionally Niger Republic, had seen very little deadly attacks by Islamist extremist groups.
A prominent Church leader, who does not want to be named for security reasons, in Damaturu, northeastern Nigeria where the Boko Haram Islamic terror group had devastated and declared as part of its Caliphate, said, “This development is worrisome and should alert all the governments in the region and the Church. We know that Islamic Jihadi groups’ targets have always been Christians and western interests. The church must be anxious over this development.”
The cleric added, “As much as we may want to wish this away, Islamic jihadi terrorist groups will be with us for a long time. This is what this shows and unfortunate many people will be killed in this Islamic jihadists madness.”
A member of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Maiduguri branch said, “Christians need to be up in prayers at all times, they may gather and plot but our trust is in Christ Jesus. We will be cautious but will not be intimidated by these workers of evil.”