A special report of Dispatch News Desk (DND)
Al Qaeeda in Mali is apparently following same strategy it opted in Afghanistan when NATO troops strike the country on the night of October, 2001 and found Kabul deserted and empty when forces reached the troubled spot and capital of Afghanistan. This strategy is simple—leave the place instead of fighting and run away for safe heavens. French forces are happy that they are defeating Salafi and Wahabi Islamists supported by Al Qaeeda. Taliban waited for spring to fight back in Afghanistan and Taliban sort of Ansar Dine will wait for summer to arrive when desert will become unbearable for French troops to run after them?
French and Malian troops advancing on Gao after capturing Hombori will try to lead to Timbuktu where Al Qaeeda is gathering but there is possibility they will disappear when international force will reach their hideouts.
Fighters from Ansar Dine, an al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in northern Mali are Salafi Muslims.
Ansar Dine means “Defenders of the Faith” in Arabic and it follows the puritanical form of Islam known as Salafism.
Along with Tuareg separatist movement MNLA, Ansar Dine and other Islamists were among rebels who seized northern Mali following a March 22, 2012 coup in the capital Bamako, in the south of the country, which paralysed the Western-backed Malian army.
Diplomats say Ansar Dine – with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), originally from Algeria, and al Qaeda splinter group MUJWA – have hijacked the MNLA’s secular separatist uprising and now control two thirds of Mali’s desert north, territory that includes the regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. However sources claim that Ansar Dine is a group of those who fought Afghan Jihad against Soviet Union and some of them even fought against NATO forces in Afghanistan and managed to escaped and reached back to Africa to implement Taliban sort of governments in their countries.
In direct opposition to MNLA’s stated aims, Ag Ghali has rejected any form of independence of the northern half of Mali and has vowed to pursue plans to impose sharia, Islamic law, throughout the now divided west African nation in the Sahel.
Ansar Dine’s turbaned fighters, who operate under the black Islamist flag similar to first flag of Taliban, initially gained a reputation in the north for keeping order after outbreaks of looting same as Taliban got hold of Afghanistan when local commanders were fighting with each other and there was a civil war in Afghanistan after Soviet Union left the country. Taliban started enforcing sharia – making women wear veils, shutting bars and shops selling alcohol, and lashing offenders same as Ansar Dine tried in Mali. But reaction of people of Mali was different and Ansar Dine earned hostility from locals who have a long history of practising a more liberal, tolerant style of Islam.
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou confirmed the fact that Afghan jihadists were training recruits for Islamist groups in the Malian north.
Who is Ag Ghali?
Ag Ghali, an Ifoghas of the Kel Ireyakkan faction of northern Mali’s Tuareg nomads, was a commander in a 1990 rebellion against the central government in Bamako launched by the fiercely independent “blue men of the desert” warriors, who are known for their distinctive indigo-coloured robes and veils. He helped negotiate a peace deal with the Malian government, establishing his reputation as an influential, yet notoriously inscrutable figure among the Tuaregs. A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2007 said the Malian government appointed Ag Ghali an adviser to its consulate at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli think-tank, says it was at this time that Ag Ghali adopted Salafism.