First Published: 12 July 2012. Updated: 4 February 2013
MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad)
The MNLA is a very recent organisation with a very old cause: the Tuareg have been fighting an insurgency against the central power in Mali since the late 1950s and openly fighting since 1963. This incarnation was created in September 2011 with the arrival of ex-soldiers from Libya after the fall of Gaddafi. They would like a separate state from Mali for the Tuareg people, who have lived in the region for centuries. They offer no explanation for their desire to settle down despite being a nomadic race, or for their decision to select part of only one country from the half a dozen where Tuareg originate.
Bilal ag Cherif, is primary leader as General Secretary of the MNLA. He studied in Libya.
Mohamed ag Najim, emigrated to Libya after the big drought of 1973 He had a successful military career and ranked as Colonel and Guide to the Libyan army. Today he is the military leader and a driving force of MNLA.
Nina Wallet Intalou described as the « passionaria » of Malian Tuaregs. She is the only woman in the MNLA leadership. Intalou was elected mayor of Kidal in Northern Mali in 1997, but could never carry out her duties because the Islamists refused to recognise a woman as Mayor. She is close to Mohamed ag Najim and is opposed to Ansar Dine and Iyad ag Ghali because of his links to Al Qaeda (AQIM), insisting he can never be pardoned because of the harm he has done to their cause.
Other members include Magdi Ag Bohada, MNLA political bureau member in charge of North Africa relations; Abdallah Al-Taouss, Deputy Chief of Staff; and MNLA Communications Officer Mossa Ag Attaher , and the official representative for ex-pats, Human Rights and Humanitarianism, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh.
Worth a mention is Colonel Habi Ag al Sallat [video], who is said to have fled Ansongo along with MNLA VP Mahamadou Djeri Maiga and a few others, after threats from MUJAO and was later reported to be in Niger’s capital, Niamey. Via our friend Tommy Miles, some info on Moussa Ag Acharatoumane: the original MNA guy from October 2010, who was arrested in Timbuktu (along with Ag Fadil). He was evicted from MNLAmov.net around March 2012. Also, Hassan Ag Mehdi – generally known by his nickname “Jimmy-le-rebele”, who’s joined and left almost every group .
There are occasional press mentions of various MNLA spokesmen and other associates aligned with the movement, such as Acheick Ag Mohamed and Acherif Ag Intakwa on the Toumast Press website. The MNLA has denied claims that it owns heavy armaments from Libya [video] and is estimated to have 2-3,000 fighters – about the same as the Islamist groups combined.
I originally used this image from a June 2012 youtube video, identifying the man on camera as Abdallah Al-Taouss. But then 27 November 2012, someone sent me a screengrab from an exclusive AlJazeera item which identifies the man, correctly, as Colonel Habi Ag al Sallat. I guess that is one way to boost the numbers.
Members Of The State of Azawad Transitional Council (TCSA)
(as of 15 January 2013)
|President||Mr. Bilal Ag Cherif|
|Vice-President||Mr. Mahamadou Djeri Maiga|
|Defence and Military Relations||Colonel Mohamed Ag Najim|
|Interior Security||Mr. Sidi Mohamed Ag Saghid|
|Justice||Mr. Ben Bella Assayid|
|Foreign Affairs||Mr. Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh|
|Territorial Administration||Mr. Alla Ag Elmehdi|
|Culture, Arts and Tourism||Mr. Mahmoud Ag Aghaly|
|Communication||Mr. Mossa Ag Attaher|
|Health||Mr. Abdul karim Ag Matafa|
|Human Rights||Mr. Moussa Ag Acharatoumane|
|Preaching and Islamic Orientation||Mr. Mohamed Ag Moussa|
|Veterans and Martyrs’ Families||Mr. Youssouf Ag Acheickh|
|Energy and Mines||Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Ag Aguidy|
|Legal Affairs||Mr. Mohamed Ag Habaye|
|Financial||Mr. Altanata Ag Ebalagh|
|Women, Children and Family||Mrs. Lalla Wallet Mohamed|
|Transport and Roads||Mr. Ould Sidaghmar Ahwaïssine|
|Livestock and Farming||Mr. Mohamed Ibrahim Ag Ghabdy|
|Environment||Mr. Ag Baye Diknane|
|Youth and Sports||Mr. Salah Mohamed Ahmed Abba|
|Telecommunications||Colonel Assalat Ag Haby|
|Agriculture and Resources Fish Farms||Mr. Seydou Abdoulaye Dicko|
|National Dress and Costumes||Mr. Mohamed Ousmane Ag Mohamedoune|
|Domains and Public Benefits||Colonel Hassan Ag Fagaga|
|Planning and Statistics||Mr. Ambeïry Ag Rhissa|
|Water||Mr. Mohamed Maiga Zeyni Aguissa|
|Trade||Mr. Souleymane Akli Iknane Ag|
|Social Cohesion and National Reconciliation||Mr. Mohamed Ag Intalla|
|Humanitarian Assistance and Refugees||Ms. Nina Wallet Intalou|
|Economy||Mr. Zeid Ag Kiri|
|Employment and Vocational Training||Colonel Mohamed Ag Mohamed Assaleh Rhissa|
|CTEA Presidency Spokesperson||Mr. Hamma Ag Sidahmad|
Republican Movement for the Reconstruction of Azawad (MRRA)
Colonel El-Hadj Ag Gamou, who claimed to have deserted the Malian army to join the MNLA but retained his uniform, to “differentiate himself from the likes of ag Ghali”, announced the birth of this militant breakaway movement with 1,000 Songhai, Fula, Arab and Touareg members and 250 military vehicles on 13 May 2012. The goals were to combat Islamic armed groups in northern Mali and to demand political autonomy for Azawad, according to spokesperson Ishaq Ag Housseyni. Colonel Ag Gamou later sought refuge with his men in Niger.
National Congress of Azawad
A separatist movement which claims to be aligned with the MNLA and led by Abu Bakr al-Ansari, a Touareg from the Kalnassar tribe. Abu Bakr al-Ansari is described in media reports as an analyst and journalist at Le Quotidien who specialises in the ongoing conflict in Mali. He tends to run interference, popping up in the media giving interviews that contradict statements from the MNLA.
Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
formerly the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC)
AQIM was created in September 2006 after the dissolution of the Salafist Group for preaching and Combat (GSPC) which itself evolved out of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, (GIA). They are thought to be very well armed and trained in the use of sophisticated weaponry.
Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel) born April 20, 1970. Wadoud earned a university degree in mathematics before joining the insurgency in 1996, and was a regional leader of the GSPC for several years before becoming the group’s commander in 2004.
Jamal Akasha, aka Yahya Abu al-Hamam/ Yahia Djouadi/ Abu Ammar/Abu Al Hammam, an Algerian born 1978 in Reghaia, near Algiers, is current senior emir of AQIM, replacing the late Nabil Abu Alqama, another Algerian, senior leader and negotiator for hostage deals (real name Nabil Makhloufi). Leader of the Tarek Ibn Ziyad brigade Abdelhamid Abou Zeid reports to Yahya Abu al-Hamam. Abou Zeid “The Russian”, real name Mohamed Ghedir, is an Algerian born 12 December 1965 in Touggourt who fought in the ranks of the GSPC, and the main emir in northern Mali.
The al-Furqan batallion, a group of mostly Mauritanian and Malian fighters which operates in the region north of Timbuktu along the Mauritanian border, is led by a Mauritanian – Mohamed Lamine Ould Hacen aka Abdel al Chinguetti. Born in Nouakchott in 1981, Ould Hacen graduated in 2006 from ISERI, despite being jailed for over a year for his membership of a jihadist group. He resurfaced as an AQIM spokesman after being released from prison. This group is thought to be holding two of the French hostages abducted from Niger, Thierry Dol and Daniel Larribe.
Sahel Emirs Ould Hacen and Abou Zeid have additional senior-level associates, such as Mauritanian Abu Anis Chinguetti, whose real name is Abderrahmane Tandaghi.
Abou Abdelkarim aka Le Targui (real name Hamada ag-Hama) leads the al-Ansar katiba based near Ain Khalil in the far north-east of Mali. Le Targui is responsible for the 2010 kidnapping and later killing of the elderly French aid worker Michel Germaneau, and for drug trafficking via Colombian cartels in Guinea-Bissau. This group is thought to be holding two of the French hostages abducted from Niger, Pierre Legrand and Marc Ferrer.
Oumar Amarha aka Omar Hamaha/Hamha or “Omar Redbeard”, a seasoned AQIM operative, previously involved in the 2008 kidnappings of Western envoys in Niger, and went on to become military commander of MUJAO (or Ansar Dine, depending which stories you read)..
AQIM’s judicial commission head Abderrahmane Abou Ishak Essoufi (real name Necib Tayeb) is currently detained in Algeria.