AQIM on Mauritania/Mali Fighting

AQIM released a communique (text here) claiming to have killed “more than one hundred and ten apostates” in various recent attacks in Algeria and Mauritania. It consists most of a list (bullet points) of attacks and engagements involving its fighters in recents months and weeks, the vast majority of which took place in Algeria; one bullet point is devoted to activity in Mauritania.

The bullet point dealing with Mauritania/Mali describes AQIM’s version of events in Mali (at the Wagadou Forest) and at Bassiknou. It reads as a refutation of media and official accounts of the battles which may regarded as both significant routes by the Mauritanian (and Malian) armed forces and significant improvements in Mauritanian performance against AQIM since their major defeat at the hands of AQIM in September 2010. It describes the failed Bassiknou raid, led by Mauritanian Khaled al-Chinquitti (Khalid al-Shinqiti) (more on him here and below) only briefly. It dwells more on the battle at the Wagadou Forest, focusing on weapons and other materiel the group claims to have taken from its Mauritanian Army opponents (of which there was apparently either too much to carry because the supplies were so plentiful or because they faced heavy losses/shortages in terms of trucks). As might be expected it downplays AQIM’s losses in men and materiel (it makes no mention of air strikes or bombing from the Mauritanian Air Force) and leaves out details; it also includes no body counts for the Mauritanian side. It also makes no mention of the Malian Army. Its tone is triumphant though bitter and defensive lacks detail in contrast with previous communiqués following contact with the Mauritanian Army. It reads as a refutation of media and official reports on the engagements in Mali and Mauritania. Here is a short summary:

  • AQIM launched a “provocative ambush of the Mauritanian Army which still continues launching foolishly its proxy war against the mujahideen on behalf of France, and upon the arrival of a convoy of seventeen Mauritanian military vehicles it attacked the mujahideen and a fierce battle was raged in the Wagadou Forest in northern Mali” where the communique claims “the killing of at least twenty soldiers, the destruction and burning of twelve machines, the flight of the five remaining machines, and the mujahideen have been able to shepherd (capture) some light weapons from the enemy (seven guns) while burning the rest of the machines and heavy weapons, not being able to carry them; the mujahideen lost two [men] in this battle, not yet knowing the fate of these two mujahids; as for what is promoted by the Mauritanian Army of having killed fifteen mujahideen this is nonsense, a lie typical of them.”

Other accounts. On the Wagadou and Bassiknou fighting four reports from Sahara Media and CRIDEM reflect the Mauritanian media and official versions of the clashes, both published last week. One includes pictures of the materiel collected by the Mauritanians following the fighting at the Wagadou Forest. Another describes how the Wagadou Forest site was used by AQIM before and during the confrontation with the Mauritanian Army (how the men cut paths, set up defensive positions and surprise defense systems using landmines and remotely detonated bombs (using cell phones); how Mauritanian and Malian soldiers combed parts of the forest before the attack, how they were ambushed, incidences of friendly fire, etc.; it uses sources “close to AQIM”, from the military and civilian witnesses accounts.). The other two are run downs of the brief fighting at Bassiknou. (Also worth noting: General Carter Ham, head of US AFRICOM visited Nouakchott today and met with president Ould Abdel Aziz and praised Mauritania’s recent performance against AQIM and, as the Mauritanian papers widely reported, said the US was not planning to open a military base in Mauritania)

Khaled al-Chinguitti. On Khaled al-Chinguitti (b. Elmaymoune Ould Isselmou Ould Meinouh, 1986), it is interesting to note that he comes from a family from Taganit (so do a large number of other AQIM militants) which has had another young man (around the same age as Khaled al-Chinguitti) recruited into AQIM and other men from the same generation heavily involved in the broader youth Islamist movement in Mauritania. He lost many close relatives as a young man in the 1994 Air Mauritanie crash which contributed to his alienation from relatives along with several younger sisters and two younger brothers. He comes from a respected tribe (Kounta, Sidi el Wafi clan; strong links to the Azaouad region going back to the eighteenth/nineteenth century via Sheikh Sidi Elmokhar ElKounty who headed the Qadiri order there) and his parents were state employees, generally described as middle class, who passed away while he was young and he was raised by relatives. He was named after an uncle who was a naturalized Saudi citizen (after being expelled for resisting French rule). As a boy he was known as being somewhat reserved but having “natural” leadership qualities and a brilliant student; he was introduced to the religious movement in high school (he took his bac in maths and was interested in computer science and a brother-in-law mentored him in the subject) and continued to move within its networks at university in Nouakchott (where he was apparently radicalized after being denied a scholarship to study overseas) where he was recruited into the groups of young men heading to the camps in the desert in the early 2000s; he vanished altogether in 2007, sending his relatives a letter (which was not in his handwriting) saying he did not plan to return. As this went on his parents and close relatives to exception to his increasing religiosity at a time when Salafi and other forms of religious revivalism were regarded as socially abnormal in Mauritania. Certainly this is a person to keep in mind.

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15 thoughts on “AQIM on Mauritania/Mali Fighting

  1. Below the link to the declaration of the US Embassy after the visit of General Ham. A drone from time to time to repel these bandits would be nice. But no mention of that. These djihadists are building-up their presence in the area since around 2003 and it is only Mauritania that is asked now to deal with it alone? Algeria and Mali are not lifting a finger, of what we read …

    http://www.cridem.org/C_Info.php?article=57732

  2. The fpif article is by Keenan. I see him being cited less and less.

    Can it be said that the raids against Aqim, with limited success as they are, are raising the Mauretanian status not only in the region but also in the eyes of the world?
    Here’s a rather poor country doing what they can against terrorism, and more ably so then the Malians, and without the smoke screens of the Algies.
    As I understand it, the air raids are conducted by the French. Are we now to believe that the Americans would be interested in sending drones to the area? They could be most useful, even more so than in Waziristan. Both for intelligence and for attack. Much cheaper and more effective than training Malian troops for decades. What would the French position be on this? Their hostage situation is fast becoming acute.

    • Priffe,

      Keenan has said everything on this and has been quoted all over. Let’s see what he will write on Libya and AQIM in Aljazeera English. I found it always interesting to read Keenan. Giving credit or not to what he says is upon the person who reads him. I have the tendency to read and listen to him very seriously. Because the governments’ story lines do not hold at all and I have been following this (through the web) for the last 4 years.

  3. Probably a propagnda from Morocco: hanging the reputation of an adversary, instead of making an effort to talk to him to solve this AQIM issue and solve their difference later. The big guys should strive to find peace as this is going on for decades and the lack of it is not advancing anything useful.

    Good points Priffe.

    http://www.cridem.org/C_Info.php?article=57814

  4. If the algies are sore about the Mauri success (as reported, at least) against Aqim, why don’t they jump start the joint command in Tamanrasset? The Algerian attitude is self-defeating, rendering them irrelevant in the long run.
    Two things:
    – isn’t it a little disturbing how the Mauretanians are describing their soldiers killed in action as “martyrs”? What is the reasoning behind this?
    – why aren’t the Mauri military open about their losses, and showing proof of their gains? The way I see it they could only gain from being credible in their reporting. Whether they win or loose a battle, they would only gain stronger support from the people, since Aqim are not at all popular. The reporting from last years’ clashes were confusing to say the least; this year they are doing better – I think.

  5. Priffe,
    Arabic-speaking Muslims typically refer to someone killed in battle, especially in any war, as a martyr. I don’t find this worrisome at all. They refer to those killed in the Sahara War and early confrontations with GSPC/ AQIM as martyrs as well. Quite normal.

    I also think they’ve been secretive about casualties over concerns about how it might influence the morale of the military and public (the 1978/79 experience being a point of reference for fears over coups). I think they’ve been more open recently because they’ve been more successful and Aziz feels more comfortable in office.

  6. Priffe,

    Just seen this article on Lake Faguibine and your comment. I guess Faguibine is in plein territoire malien and the Malians will not lift a finger.

    The Tamanrasset club (Algeria, Mauritania, Mali & Niger) will certainly let these AQIM guys build up there and attack them, but again Algeria will not lift a finger.

    I don’t know why these bandits went to Wagadou to build-up in the first place: either they are idiots as I always say or they are told by some country (ies) to go there to be wiped-out. Same thing happening with Lake Faguibine.

    This stuff is manipulated and wondering what Keenan is saying about this (I believe him more and more). This GWOT is just a joke.

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