What do we know about the Splendid Hotel attackers?
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb released its first detailed statement claiming the attack against Splendid Hotel and Cafe Cappuccino in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, an attack which involved a mass shooting and hostage taking that resulted in 28 people dead (18 different nationalities), +56 wounded and 4 of the attackers killed.
With the release of the statement al-Andalus Media also published photos of 3 of the attackers who were killed during the operation presented with their ‘noms de guerre’ as Ahmad al-Fulani (al-Ansari), al-Battar al-Ansari and Abu Muhammad al-Buqali (al-Ansari) described in the statement as ‘Knights of Azawad”. Note that all three have been given the title al-Ansari, this particular nisba can have several meanings, first, it could mean that they are natives of the area or in other words of indigenous origin i.e. Burkinabes or Sahelians, second, it could be a reference to fighters from Northern Mali or a title given to a member of the group in this case AQIM / Al Mourabitoun, third, it could mean ‘supporters’ or ‘helpers’ in this case of the Prophet Muhammad, something that is highlighted as a justification for the operation in the statement’s first paragraph with the reference to Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf and its modern equivalents in the satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Jyllands-Posten, 2005 (Denmark)
Charlie Hebdo, 2011 (France)
The original photo used by al-Andalus Media in their detailed statement and presentation of the attackers who carried out the operation called ‘Forey [into] Burkina Faso’
Ahmed al-Fulani (al-Ansari) carries the name of his ethnic group Fulani as a nisba although without reference to any specific place or country. The Fulanis inhabit a vast area stretched across West Africa which makes it difficult to point out al-Fulani’s country of origin
Fulani presence and movement in West Africa
al-Battar al-Ansari’s name does not give any information about his origins although al-Battar is the name of the sword taken by the Prophet Muhammad as booty from the tribe Banu Qaynuqa. The information does not reveal if al-Battar is Tuareg, Moor or Arab, although it is worth noting that an audio recording was released in connection to the attack with one of the attackers ‘interviewed’ on sight and this person spoke arabic in a dialect close to Maghrebi dialects i.e. Moroccan Arabic
Abu Muhammad al-Buqali (al-Ansari)
Regarding al-Buqali it is important to transcribe the nisba correctly in order to acquire some understanding of his origins and in order to do that we need to apply ‘French transcription’ (standard in former French colonies and protectorates), further, ‘Buqali’ does not seem to have any significant meaning within the contextual setting neither with regard to place names or family names, so by transcribing the letter qaf as G and not Q we get al-Bougali which gives some meaning in contrast to al-Buqali, we find two place names with that reference, one that is found is represented by the place Bougal in Mali, close to the Mali-Burkina Faso border located in the Mopti region, and the other is Bougali in the Central African Republic, although it is most likely that the nisba refers to Bougal in Mopti, a region where the majority of the population belongs to the Dogon people, but there is also a significant presence of Maasina Fulfulde (Fulani) and Bomu. Worth noting is that the operation is described as a revenge for ‘our people’ in Mali and the Central African Republic, with these two countries mentioned specificallly in the statement while other Muslim lands only mentioned in general, collectively.
Location of Bougal, Mali close to the Mali-Burkina Faso border