Sahara extremists pledge allegiance to Islamic State group

May 14, 2015, 8:13 AM

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — An extremist group based in the Sahara desert known for carrying out terror attacks in Algeria, Mali and Niger appears to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group after years with its rival, al-Qaida.

If it is authenticated, the statement represents a major shift among extremist groups in the vast Saharan regions — and the possible demise of one of the most notorious extremists in the desert.

The audio recording from the Mourabitoune group was sent to a Mauritanian news agency late Wednesday that has carried its statements in the past and was in the name of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, rather than the group’s founder, Moktar Belmoktar, who gained notoriety for the January 2013 assault on an Algerian gas complex.

“We call upon all the jihadi groups to pledge allegiance to the Caliph, to unify the word of the Muslims and align the ranks in front of the enemies of religion,” said al-Saharawi’s statement, according to a translation by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group on Wednesday.

Belmoktar, once known as the most dangerous man in the Sahara, formed the Mourabitoune in August 2013, combined his own group with another and had recently renewed his allegiance to al-Qaida.

“If it’s confirmed, then we need to wonder about the whereabouts of Belmoktar,” said Djallil Lounnas, an expert on North African Islamic groups. “He’s either been removed, or killed or they split.”

The group most recently attacked a restaurant filled with foreigners in the Malian capital, Bamako, in March. Belmoktar’s most well-known operation was on an Algerian gas plant that resulted in a standoff with the Algerian military and the death of 39 foreign workers.

The Algerian-born militant was famous for extending al-Qaida’s reach beyond the Algerian heartland and into the Sahara desert where he made contacts with disaffected tribes, especially from the Tuareg minority, and made millions off smuggling and kidnapping.

Several high-profile members of the group were caught and killed in the past year during French-led operations in northern Mali, where the group is believed to operate.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

World News

Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during a f...
Associated Press

As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight?

ZHYTOMYR (AP) — As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and […]
24 days ago
(Instagram photo/@Clayton.Wolfe)...
Wills Rice

Arizona realtor announces new listing on ‘the top-floor’ of Mount Everest

Arizona realtor Clayton Wolfe scaled the treacherous 29,035-foot heights of Mount Everest in Nepal and announced a new listing at the summit.
25 days ago
(Photo by: Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

‘Tiger King’ star ‘Doc’ Antle arrested for money laundering charges

“Tiger King” star “Doc” Antle was arrested by the FBI and expected to appear in court Monday to face federal money laundering charges.
25 days ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in Israel for talks with political and business leaders

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is in Israel for five days of talks with political and business leaders of the Middle Eastern country.
1 month ago
A man rides a bicycle in front of a building ruined by shelling in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of ...
Associated Press

Russia takes steps to bolster army, tighten grip on Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order Wednesday to fast track Russian citizenship for residents of parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army. Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to […]
1 month ago
A man rides a bicycle in front of a building ruined by shelling in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of ...
Sponsored Content by

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order Wednesday to fast track Russian citizenship for residents of parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army. Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to […]

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Sahara extremists pledge allegiance to Islamic State group