As part of our series on Jama’at Nusrat Al-Islam Wa Al-Muslimeen (JNIM), this article examines the financial activities of Al Mourabitoun - a terrorist organization based in Mali that became part of JNIM in 2017. The organization was involved in a range of militant activities, including kidnappings for ransom, transnational criminal enterprises, and attacks on military and civilian targets. Al Mourabitoun captured worldwide attention in November 2015 when members stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, and ultimately killed 19 people. The cooperation between members of both Al Mourabitoun and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) during the attack signalled the integration of the two groups, which were eventually both further subsumed into JNIM.
The evolution, alliances, and operational strategies of Al Mourabitoun, all of which are determined by its financial resources, have had far-reaching implications for the security landscape in the Sahel and contributed to the broader instability in the region.
Origins and Operations
Al Mourabitoun was formed in August 2013 by Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The group emerged from the amalgamation of two militant groups, the Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO) and the Al Mulathamun Battalion. Al Mourabitoun gained international notoriety, particularly in the United States, following its claim of responsibility for the January 2013 attack on a gas facility in Algeria that resulted in the deaths of three US citizens. Al Mourabitoun further claimed responsibility for attacks on hotels and nightclubs in Mali that were often frequented by foreigners. Although the group's operations were initially concentrated in Mali and Algeria, it soon extended its activities into neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, and even sought connections with local tribes in Libya.