The French army has been fighting in Mali since January 2013 against a myriad of jihadist groups that have spread throughout the Sahelian zone. 13 French soldiers were killed on 25 November 2019 in a helicopter crash.
“The terrorists also have their G5-Sahel Ansar Dine, Front of Macina, al-Murabitoune, AQIM, Ansarul Islam, Islamic State in the Great Sahara: it makes a G5”, says the leader of a group of ex-rebels in northeastern Mali, quoted by RFI. Some do not hesitate to talk about“international jihadist”. In fact, Islamists fighting in the Sahel separate, merge … The French army is thus faced with a myriad shifting armed groups.
Roughly speaking, there are two categories of groups in Mali: those close to Al Qaeda and those linked to Islamic State (IS).
Groups close to Al Qaeda
The Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) was characterized in 2018 by Release as “the most dangerous jihadist movement in the Sahel”. FromAQIM and “alliance of several Islamist armed movements of the Sahel”, the GSIM is led by Malian Iyad Ag Ghali, former blues bassist, but especially “enemy number one of France in Mali”.
Near the GSIM, Ansaroul Islam, “essentially composed of Fulani” (The cross), is one of the main jihadist actors present in Burkina Faso. He is also active in Mali. he was created in 2016 by Ibrahim Jafar Dicko, who would have died in May 2017. He would be losing ground.
Groups near EI
The Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS), against which the French military intervened on November 25, 2019, is led by Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, who reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015. The latter is apparently a former member of the Polisario Front in Western Sahara. Subsequently, he was one of the leaders of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), that fought the French army by intervening in 2013 in Mali
In the same movement, we find the Katiba Macina, also very active entity, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, close to the American Pentagon. This movement would grow very fast. It is led by Amadou Koufa, a Fulani. In November 2018, he appealed to his Fulani “brothers”: “Where you are (…), come support your religion (…) in Senegal, Mali, Niger, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon “ to lead the holy war against “Miscreants”. Katiba Macina intervenes in the center of Mali.