JNIM - Group Profile - February 2019

Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), or Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) in English, is a militant jihadist organization with presence in the Maghreb and West Africa, which seeks to incite the West African Muslim community to “remove oppression” and expel non-Muslim “occupiers.” Specifically, the group is opposed to France – who has maintained a military presence in Mali since 2012 – and its Western partners, including those involved in UN peacekeeping missions. Like its ideological forefathers in the Salafi-jihadist movement, the group’s goal is to ultimately impose Shariah Law in the entire region.

JNIM was officially formed in March 2017 by the merger between three existing jihadist organizations – Ansar Dine, Al-Mourabitoun, and the Sahara branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – all of them al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliates. The group would later also absorb the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), an Ansar al-Din affiliate in central Mali, reinforcing JNIM’s local credentials and territorial control, as well as making it the largest jihadi group in the Sahara.

Since its inception, JNIM has been recognized as the official branch of Al-Qaeda in Mali, with its leaders having sworn allegiance to AQ’s supreme leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the emir of AQIM, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud. It has also been stated by the group’s leadership that through their allegiance to al-Zawahiri, they have also pledged ultimate fealty to the Emir of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Afghan Taliban).

It is considered that JNIM’s emir is Iyad Ag Ghaly, the former leader of Ansar al-Din and a long-time leader of Mali’s Tuareg uprising. Senior leadership of the group include Djamel Okacha (aka Yahya Abu Al Hammam - reportedly killed by the French military in Mali on 21 February 2019), deputy emir of JNIM and the former emir of AQIM-Sahara branch; Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the former emir of al-Murabitoun; Amadou Diallo (aka Amadou Mohamed Koufa – recently killed by French forces in Mali in November 2018), former emir of MLF; and Abu Abderrahman al-Sinhaji, a senior cleric of AQIM’s Sahara branch.

JNIM was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group on 5 September 2018. It was also added to the list of UN sanctioned entities on 4 October 2018. Iyad ag Ghaly has been a US SDGT individual since February 2013.