Merged al-Qaeda affiliate in Mali will look to mark arrival with attack in coming months
Three Sahel-based groups, Ansar al-Din (AaD), al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQM) and AQM-afilliate al-Murabitun announced a formal merger on 2 March. The newly enlarged group will be called called the “Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimeen” (Support of Islam and Muslims), and has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. These groups have been closely coordinating their activities in Mali and the Sahel in recent years. However, the decision to unite was likely taken in order to prevent Islamic State (whose Mali-based Greater Sahara affiliate was founded by militants who split from al-Murabitun) from establishing a rival foothold in the region. The merger will strengthen the new group’s capabilities in Mali, which will see its ability to conduct attacks rise over the year. It is also plausible that the group will seek to conduct a major strike in the country in the coming months to mark its arrival.