Ansar al-Dine's Criminal Enterprise
Last fall, we looked at Katibat Macina – a jihadist group active in the African Sahel. Similar to Katibat Macina, Ansar al-Dine is a terrorist organization based in Mali. The group is affiliated with Jama’at Nusrat Al-Islam Wa Al-Muslimeen (JNIM) - an umbrella coalition of al-Qaeda aligned groups in the region. Ansar al-Dine is infamous for its contribution to the instability in the Sahel, as well as for its destruction of World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu. In this article, we’ll outline what we know about Ansar al-Dine’s finances.
Origins and Operations
Ansar al-Dine, translated as “Defenders of the Faith” was formed by Iyad ag Ghali in 2011 and emerged as a powerful militant force in the Sahel. The group was initially active in Kidal and the Timbuktu region. State military activity eventually pushed the group and its allies out of northern Mali. Nonetheless, Kidal and the border region with Algeria eventually became a center of operations for Ansar al-Dine again. They further carried out attacks in the Timbuktu, Segou, Sikasso, Koulikoro, and Gao regions of Mali.
Many of Ansar al-Dine’s militants belonged to the Tuareg ethnic group and came from Mali, Algeria, and Nigeria. As Ansar al-Dine has now been amalgamated into JNIM, the exact number of original group members is unknown. One estimate places membership before the amalgamation to be around 500.