Iyad Ag Ghaly, JNIM Leader, Declares a New Phase in Sahel Conflict

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Iyad Ag Ghaly

Iyad Ag Ghaly, the leader of the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), affiliated with al-Qaeda, has broken his silence since August 2021. In a new propaganda video released on Tuesday afternoon, the jihadist leader outlines the evolving contours of the Sahel conflict.

Ag Ghaly begins by enumerating his adversaries: the “treacherous powers” of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, along with their new “faithless allies,” Russia and Wagner. The jihadist leader contends that “the confrontation has entered a new phase” due to these fresh alliances, urging mobilization across the region.

The timing is deliberate. Eleven years after occupying northern Mali with other al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, and subsequently being expelled by the French Operation Serval, Ag Ghaly faces a new opponent and new opportunities.

The Malian army has recently dislodged rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CSP) stronghold in Kidal. The shattered 2015 peace agreement served as a bulwark against jihadists; now, the JNIM leader hopes to capitalize on the disillusionment of those who believed in the accord to recruit new members.

These recruits could potentially come from CSP fighters or the broader population in the North, wary of the military and Wagner’s actions. However, Ag Ghaly issues a warning: he doesn’t fight for the equal rights of Malians from the north and south but seeks to impose “the word and law of Allah.”

Wagner’s Massacres

Jihadists under Ag Ghaly’s command are responsible for nearly daily attacks against the military and civilian populations in their controlled areas, imposing their rules and resorting to assassinations or abductions for non-compliance.

In the video, Ag Ghaly condemns the massacres committed by national armies and Wagner mercenaries in Mali and Burkina Faso, attempting to position himself as a defender of the oppressed. He lists numerous locations where civilian populations fell victim to what he describes as “monstrous butchery,” predicting an expansion of jihad as a result.

To the Sahelian governments, he foretells that Russia and Wagner will face failure, akin to France before them.

Soukaina Sghir

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