AQIM’s Al-Andalus Media released a 22m31sec high quality video focusing on spies, or as described ‘traitors’, locals providing intelligence to French (Barkhane)-, Malian-, Mauritanian- and MINUSMA forces. A previous video on the subject was released on December 7, 2015 entitled ‘Traitors’, thus making this release the “sequel”.
The video begins with a Qur’an recitation of two verses from Surah an-Nisa’ (4:138-139)
Give tidings to the hypocrites that there is for them a painful punishment – Those who take disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Do they seek with them honor [through power]? But indeed, honor belongs to Allah entirely.
The first captive presented, named Mohamed Ould Boihy gave a detailed account on how he was approached by a commander called “Guillame” and his translator “Redouane” during Operation Serval, how he started working for the French -and Malian intelligence and how he recruited informers in favor of the French forces, hence building a network of spies in Timbuktu and surroundings.
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The speaker in the video stated that the information provided by the “traitors” or “spies” has caused direct deaths within the ranks of the “Mujahideen”. Throughout the video is reference made to the late senior Al-Qaeda official and ideologue Abu Yahya al-Libi on the subject matter. The captives in an act of repentance (forced or not) strongly discourage others from doing their mistakes by collaborating or sharing information, since it is useless as stated by Ould Badi. AQIM’s Sharia Court sentenced the two to death for treason and spying, and executed them in front of a crowd of around hundred people in a small unidentified village. The two captives were executed by gunshots with the executions filmed and featured in the video, although with strong blurring effect in contrast to videos by the ‘Islamic State’.
Interestingly, some observers and analysts put emphasis on the similarities with ISIS videos, despite the fact previously highlighted regarding the strong blurring effect applied to the execution sequences. Furthermore, the video is by comparison to the December 2015 release less brutal and far more censored, hence, subtly indicating a strategy in the opposite direction, and in strong contrast to the bloody and brutal scenes displayed in ‘Islamic State’ media. Additionally, any link to the accession of al-Sahrawi’s faction of al-Murabitin to the ‘Islamic State’ is neither evident nor articulated in any sense. In an interview in January with the Mauritanian news outlet Alakhbar, Yahya Abu al-Hammam, the ‘Emir’ of AQIM’s Sahara Emirate stated regarding their relationship to Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi and his men, “..Our relationship is normal connecting us to them through relations and contacts”, only on a general level did he address the ideological schism between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, hence, seemingly irrelevant within the context of the jihadist scene in Mali and border zones of neighbouring countries. Quickly making conclusions and drawing comparisons to ISIS videos without looking at some basic, but nevertheless important facts constitute a limited and short-sighted analysis.
The assassination operation of the National Guard officer Bachir Ould Afad on September 26 in the Abaradjou neighbourhood of Timbuktu is also featured in the video, together with the execution of local MLNA spokesman Efad Ag Arifek abducted on June 6 in Ber, east of Timbuktu. In the sequence with Ag Arifek, the commander of Katibat al-Furqan Talha al-Libi is standing beside.
The video ends by showing Daou Ould H’med a 34 year-old recruited by Mauritanian intelligence in a refugee camp in Mauritania. He was according to what was portrayed in the video forgiven, since he turned himself in together with the performance of ‘tawba’, the act of repentance.
The video’s main aim is to deter locals from collaborating with military forces opposing the “Mujahideen”, a local population that constitutes a crucial component for the jihadist project in Northern Mali, or what is referred to as Azawad. A local population that AQIM is highly dependent on, and with which it has built connections since the beginning of the 21th century, a relationship it has managed to maintain. AQIM attempts to balance between rewards and punishments in accordance with Shariah law, and also portrays itself as a fair judge laying emphasis on the “careless” acts of the captives, who prioritized material wealth in disfavor of “morals and loyalty to their people”.