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Aqim Leaders Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelmalek Droukdel Split

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Publication Date 21 December 2012
Citation / Document Symbol Volume: 3 Issue: 12
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Aqim Leaders Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelmalek Droukdel Split , 21 December 2012, Volume: 3 Issue: 12, available at: [accessed 26 April 2019]
Comments Jacob Zenn
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar is an Algerian-born former commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In July, he was reported to have been killed or seriously injured in the battle of Gao, in which AQIM supported the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and seized control of Gao from the Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) (see Terrorism Monitor Brief, July 12). Although the rumor of his death proved to be false, in October new reports emerged that he was removed from his AQIM combat unit, the Mulathamin Brigade. In December more rumors emerged about Belmokhtar. Now he is believed to have left AQIM in order to focus his efforts in sub-Saharan countries outside of the traditional Maghreb region, such as Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger (AFP, December 3). According to Omar Ould Hamaha, a former deputy of Belmokhtar and recent chief of staff of MUJWA, Belmokhtar will still remain under the orders of al-Qaeda Central (AP, October 15). 

Belmokhtar's departure from AQIM results from his falling out of favor of AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel and other members of AQIM who question Belmokhtar's commitment to Shari'a because of Belmokhtar's reputation as a weapons and drug smuggler (AFP, October 15). He is now planning to establish a new battalion named "Mouakaoun Bidima" the "Signatories by Blood" (Le Temps d'Algerie, December 7). In a video that Belmokhtar released after his dismissal, he said that he had foreign militants under his command and that they were prepared for suicide bombings. [1] He also warned all countries against intervening in Mali.

Meanwhile, Abdelmalek Droukdel is also sending a warning to European and African countries against any military intervention in Mali. In a video message, he said, "If you want peace and security in your country, we are for it. If you want war, the Sahara is a large graveyard for your soldiers and a disaster for your interests." Belmokhtar and Droukdel may have parted ways, but they share common ground on threatening the international coalition against intervention. Whether they will follow up and fight the international forces in conventional battles in the cities, engage in guerilla combat, or return to their desert smuggling ways will be known once the intervention begins, as expected, in early 2013.


1. See:, December 5.

2. See:, December 3.

Copyright notice: © 2010 The Jamestown Foundation

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