Algerian Group Declares Itself West African al-Qaeda Branch

Group's Territory Appears to Overlap With Existing AQIM

A statement reportedly from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is now claiming that his new faction, al-Murabitoun, has become itself a branch of al-Qaeda, and is going by the name Qaeda al-Jihad in West Africa (QJWA).

Belmokhtar split with AQIM in 2012, former a breakaway faction which later merged with MUJAO, a northern Mali militant group, into Murabitoun. He says he will be followed previous orders by Osama bin Laden to target France and its allies.

Murabitoun’s status has been a subject of no small speculation in recent months. In May, one of the group’s leaders claimed it was joining ISIS, though Belmokhtar disavowed this and insisted they backed al-Qaeda’s parent organization. Belmokhtar was reported killed in a US airstrike in June, though this appears not to have been the case.

Murabitoun’s most high-profile attack came in 2013, when they hit a gas plant in Algeria, killed 38 hostages, including a number of westerners. It is unclear how this group’s territory as QJWA would be reconciled with AQIM, which itself is supposed to span much of this area.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.