The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, an offshoot of the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has grown in reach and sophistication, since October 2011 when it became active.
The group announced its first armed action on video on December 12, 2011, with the intended goal of spreading Jihad across West Africa.It released a video that referenced its ideological affinity for such figures as al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar but placed greater emphasis on historical figures of West African origin, claiming to be the “ideological descendants” of Usman Dan Fodio, Cheikhou Amadou, and el Hadj Umar Tall.
Analysts believe MOJAO was strengthened with the influx of weapons from Libya after the country’s civil war.It went on to carry out some deadly attacks and gained control of Konna, town in northern Mali.
This triggered French intervention in the war, and with the aid of France, the Malian government forces launched a counterattack and retook the town.On December 5, 2012, the United Nations Security Council, sanctioned MOJAO, listing it as an associate of AQIM in pursuant to paragraphs 1 and 12 of resolution 1989 (2011), for participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of that entity.
UN Security Council described MOJAO as a splinter group of the AQIM, which formally announced its existence following the abduction of three humanitarian workers from a Saharan refugee camp in Tindouf on October 23, 2011.According to the UN, “MOJAO co-exists and works together with the organisation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb from which its operational capabilities derive. MOJAO operates in the same geographical area in the Sahel and shares objectives of the Organisation of al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb.
It grew considerably in its first 12 months of operation.”MOJAO has claimed responsibility for some operations including the abduction of three humanitarian workers from a Saharan refugee camp in the region of Tindouf, Algeria, on October 23, 2011; the abduction of seven Algerian diplomats, including the Consul, in Gao, Mali, on April 5, 2012; the attack on the Gendarmerie Nationale base in Tamanrasset, Algeria, on March 23, 2012; and the attack on the Gendarmerie Nationale base in Ouargla, Algeria, on June 29, 2012.Its most recent suicide bomb attack, at a military base and a French uranium mining complex in Niger Republic, killed at least 20 people.
The attack was a fulfilment of its vow to attack countries that were involved in the four-month-old French-led military intervention which ousted them from towns in northern Mali.UN Security Council also noted, that MOJAO also took advantage of the uprising of rebel movements in northern Mali in early 2012, to seize the towns of Gao and Bourem and took supplies of weapons from Malian arsenal.
“It is thus heavily armed with, for example, heavy machine guns (14.5 and 23 mm), anti-tank grenade launchers (RPG-7), mortars (60 and 82 mm), conventional and home-made explosives, night-vision binoculars and means of communication (mobile and satellite telephones, and VHF radios),” it said.