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Ansar Dine

ansar dine, ansar dine islamist group
State Opponents

  • Mali
  • Senegal
  • Mauritania
  • United States
  • France

Non-State Opponents

  • National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad

Ansar Dine Arabic: أنصار الدين‎‎ ʾAnṣār ad-Dīn, also transliterated Ançar Deen; meaning "helpers of the Islamic religion" or "defenders of the faith"2 is a militant Islamist group led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, one of the most prominent leaders of the Tuareg Rebellion 1990–1995 who is suspected of having ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is led by his cousin Hamada Ag Hama Ansar Dine seeks to impose strict Sharia law across Mali34 The group's first action was in March 2012 The organization is not to be confused with the Sufi movement Ançar Dine, started in Southern Mali by Chérif Ousmane Haidara in the 1980s, which is fundamentally opposed to militant Islamism56 Ansar Dine is opposed to Sufi shrines7


  • 1 Organization
    • 11 Membership
    • 12 Command Structure
    • 13 Weapons
  • 2 Ideology
  • 3 Participation in 2012 northern Mali conflict
    • 31 March 2012
    • 32 April 2012
    • 33 May 2012
    • 34 June 2012
    • 35 July 2012
    • 36 November 2012
    • 37 January 2013
    • 38 March 2017
  • 4 References



Ansar Dine has its main base among the Ifora tribe from the southern part of the Tuaregs' homeland8 It has been linked with Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM because its leader Iyad Ag Ghaly is the cousin of AQIM commander Hamada Ag Hama4 In April 2012, Salma Belaala, a professor at Warwick University who does research on jihadism in North Africa said that this association was false, claiming that Ansar Dine was opposed to Al Qaeda9 Ag Ghaly was also previously associated with the 1990 Tuareg rebellion4 The group's members are reported to be from Mali, Algeria, and Nigeria10 Omar Ould Hamaha, who served as Ansar Dine's spokesman after April 2012, became the military leader of the AQIM-affiliated Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa MOJWA in August 201211

On 24 January 2013, a faction calling itself the Islamic Movement for the Azawad split from Ansar Dine As of January 2013, this group was led by prominent Tuareg leader Alghabass Ag Intalla1213

In March 2013 it was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State,14 and similarly classed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council15

Command Structureedit

In Mopti, the Ansar Dine fighters obtained access to heavy construction equipment from fleeing construction workers and used them to build fighting positions The fighting positions include an elaborate tunnel network and vehicular obstacles such as trenches16


Ansar Dine has reportedly put together at least one convoy of 100 vehicles carrying soldiers equipped with small arms17 There have also been rumors that fighters may have been able to obtain weapons from Libya's weapons depots after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi18 The Ansar Dine arsenal also includes anti aircraft weapons which can be mounted on pickup trucks1920


The group seeks to impose sharia law across Mali, including the Azawad region Witnesses have said that Ansar Dine fighters wear long beards and fly black flags with the Shahada Islamic creed inscribed in white212223 According to different reports, unlike the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad MNLA, Ansar Dine does not seek independence but rather to keep Mali intact and convert it into a rigid theocracy2425

Participation in 2012 northern Mali conflictedit

Main article: Tuareg rebellion 2012

March 2012edit

On 21 March 2012, the group claimed control of Mali's vast northeast regions The Agence France-Presse reported that Ansar Dine claimed to occupy the towns of Tinzaouaten, Tessalit, and Aguelhok, all close to the Algerian border, and that they had captured at least 110 civilian and military prisoners26 France accused the group of summarily executing 82 soldiers and civilians in capturing Aguelhok, describing the group's tactics as "Al-Qaeda-style"26

On 22 March, mutineering Malian soldiers unhappy with Amadou Toumani Touré overthrew the Malian government in a coup d'état Taking advantage of Malian disarray, Ansar Dine and MNLA proceeded to take the towns of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu within the following ten days According to Jeremy Keenan of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Ansar Dine's military contribution was slight compared to the much larger MNLA: "What seems to happen is that when they move into a town, the MNLA take out the military base—not that there's much resistance—and Iyad Ag Aghaly goes into town and puts up his flag and starts bossing everyone around about sharia law"27

April 2012edit

On 3 April, the BBC reported that the group had started implementing Sharia law in Timbuktu24 That day, Ag Ghaly gave a radio interview in Timbuktu announcing that Sharia would be enforced in the city, including the veiling of women, the stoning of adulterers, and the punitive mutilation of thieves According to Timbuktu's mayor, the announcement caused nearly all of Timbuktu's Christian population to flee the city28 On 6 April, the MNLA issued a declaration of independence However, the military wing of Ansar Dine rejected it hours after it was issued29

May 2012edit

Ansar Dine was reportedly responsible for the burning of the tomb of a Sufi saint, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on 4 May in Timbuktu30 The group also blocked a humanitarian convoy bringing medical and food aid from reaching Timbuktu on 15 May, objecting to the presence of women in the welcoming committee set up by city residents;31 after negotiations, the convoy was released on the following day32 In Gao, the group reportedly banned video games, Malian and Western music, bars, and football31

On 26 May, the MNLA and Ansar Dine announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state called the "Islamic Republic of Azawad"33

June 2012edit

However, some later reports indicated that the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine3435 MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,36 culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali37

July 2012edit

In the summer of 2012, members of Ansar Dine broke down the doors of the Sidi Yahya Mosque, which, according to legend, were not to be opened until the Last Days They claimed that reverence for the site was idolatrous, but offered roughly $100 US dollars to repair the mosque38

November 2012edit

Ansar Dine and MNLA in Ouagadougou, with Blaise Compaoré, November 16, 2012

Ansar Dine was in peace talks with Mali's neighbours Burkina Faso and Algeria39

January 2013edit

In late January 2013, during the French Operation Serval against the Islamist fighters in Northern Mali, a faction split off from Ansar Dine, led by Alghabass Ag Intallah It calls itself the Islamic Movement of Azawad MIA and claims to be ready for negotiations and to reject extremism and terrorism as well as any association with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb404142

March 2017edit

In March 2017, Iyad Ag Ghaly appeared in a video, alongside leaders from AQIM, Al-Mourabitoun and the Macina Liberation Front, in which it was announced their groups were merging under Ag Ghaly's leadership, in an organisation called Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin143


  1. ^ a b "Al-Qaeda now has a united front in Africa’s troubled Sahel region" 3 March 2017 Retrieved 4 March 2017 
  2. ^ "Timbuktu taken as Mali junta signals talks" Agence France-Presse 2 April 2012 Retrieved 3 April 2012 
  3. ^ Armed Islamist group claims control in northeast Mali, AFP
  4. ^ a b c "Islamist fighters call for Sharia law in Mali" Google News Agence France-Presse 13 March 2012 Retrieved 13 April 2012 
  5. ^ "2012 - Society - Qantarade" Enqantarade 2012-12-19 Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  6. ^ Flood, Derek Henry 24 July 2012, "Between Islamization and Secession: The Contest for Northern Mali", CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center, retrieved 12 January 2013 
  7. ^ Mali crisis: 'Timbuktu joy after life of fear' retrieved 17 January 2013
  8. ^ Gurfinkiel, Michel 12 April 2012, "Meet Azawad, Africa’s Newest Country", PJ Media 
  9. ^ Tim Lister 13 April 2012 "Disaster looms for people of Mali as country is split by revolt" CNN Retrieved 13 April 2012 
  10. ^ Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra 1 July 2012 "Mali Islamists destroy more holy Timbuktu sites" Reuters Retrieved 2 July 2012 
  11. ^ Thiolay, Boris 3–9 October 2012, "Le djihad du "Barbu rouge"", L'Express in French, pp 40–41 
  12. ^ Sudarsan Raghavan and Edward Cody 2013-01-25 "French troops face complicated military landscape in Mali" The Washington Post Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  13. ^ Polgreen, Lydia 24 January 2013 "Faction Splits From Ansar Dine in Northern Mali" The New York Times 
  14. ^ "Terrorist Designations of Ansar al-Dine" United States Department of State 21 March 2013 Retrieved 21 March 2013 
  15. ^ "Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 1999 and 1989 2011 concerning Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities QEA13513 ANSAR EDDINE" United Nations 21 March 2013 Retrieved 21 March 2013 
  16. ^ "Ansar Dine Mali | Africa - News and Analysis" Africajournalismtheworldcom Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  17. ^ "Qaeda, Ansar Dine convoy headed for assault on Malian town: sources" Englishalarabiyanet 2013-01-05 Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  18. ^ Riedel, Bruce 2012, "Al Qaeda's Resurgence", A World Connected: Globalization in the 21st Century, Yale Global Online, p 137, ISBN 0977992209 
  19. ^ "Pictures: Timbuktu Under al Qaeda" Newsnationalgeographiccom 2012-12-07 Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  20. ^ Afua Hirsch, west Africa correspondent 2 April 2012 "Mali rebels tighten grip on northern towns | World news" London: The Guardian Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  21. ^ "Gunfire breaks out as Tuareg rebels enter northern Mali city" Montreal Gazette 31 March 2012 Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  22. ^ Daniel, Serge 30 March 2012 "Mali's isolated junta seeks help to stop Tuareg juggernaut" ModernGhanacom Retrieved 1 April 2012 
  23. ^ Nkrumah, Gamal 12–18 April 2012 "Saharan quicksand" Al-Ahram Weekly Online Retrieved 13 April 2012 
  24. ^ a b "Mali: Timbuktu heritage may be threatened, Unesco says" BBC News 3 April 2012 Retrieved 3 April 2012 
  25. ^ Kosciejew, Marc 10 April 2012, "Mali’s Azawadian Factor, Part 1: Tuareg Secession, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and an Impending Humanitarian Disaster", Robben Island, Center for African Affairs and Global Peace 
  26. ^ a b Agence France-Presse 21 March 2012 "Islamist fighters call for Sharia law in Mali" Archived from the original on March 22, 2012 Retrieved 25 March 2012 
  27. ^ Robyn Dixon and Jane Labous 4 April 2012 "Gains of Mali's Tuareg rebels appear permanent, analysts say" Los Angeles Times Retrieved 3 April 2012 
  28. ^ "Tuareg rebels in Mali declare cease-fire, as Mali’s neighbors prepare military intervention" The Washington Post Associated Press 5 April 2012 Archived from the original on 6 April 2012 Retrieved 5 April 2012 
  29. ^ "Confusion in Mali after Tuareg independence claim" 6 April 2012 Retrieved 6 April 2012 
  30. ^ "Rebels burn Timbuktu tomb listed as UN World Heritage site" CNN 6 May 2012 Retrieved 4 May 2012 
  31. ^ a b "Islamists block first Mali aid convoy to Timbuktu" Reuters 15 May 2012 Archived from the original on 17 May 2012 Retrieved 16 May 2012 
  32. ^ "Mali Islamists to let first aid convoy enter Timbuktu" Chicago Tribune Reuters 15 May 2012 Retrieved 16 May 2012 
  33. ^ "Mali Tuareg and Islamist rebels agree on Sharia state" BBC News 26 May 2012 Retrieved 27 May 2012 
  34. ^ Biiga, Bark 3 June 2012 "Nord Mali: le MNLA refuse de se mettre "en sardine"!" in French FasoZine Archived from the original on 8 June 2012 
  35. ^ "Mali Islamists Reopen Talks With Tuareg Rebels" Voice of America 2 June 2012 
  36. ^ "Mali rebel groups 'clash in Kidal'" BBC News 8 June 2012 
  37. ^ Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra 28 June 2012 "Islamists declare full control of Mali's north" Reuters Retrieved 29 June 2012 
  38. ^ "Defiant Mali Islamists pursue wrecking of Timbuktu" Reuters 2 July 2012 Retrieved 29 July 2012 
  39. ^ "Mali and al-Qaeda: Can the jihadists be stopped" The Economist 2012-11-10 Retrieved 2013-04-30 
  40. ^ Valdmanis, Richard; Lewis, David 24 January 2013, "Split emerges within Mali Islamist alliance as Africans prepare assault", The Globe and Mail, Toronto 
  41. ^ "Mali's Ansar Dine Islamists 'split and want talks'", BBC News, 24 January 2013 
  42. ^ Polgreen, Lydia 24 January 2013, "Faction Splits From Islamist Group in Northern Mali", The New York Times 
  43. ^ "Islamic extremist groups to merge in Mali, pledge allegiance to al-Quaida" 

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