Al-Qaeda Supporters Accuse ISIS Of Atrocities Against Civilians In Mali, Credit Al-Qaeda With Attack On Burkinabe Forces Also Claimed By ISIS

November 17, 2020

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On November 13, 2020, the pro-Al-Qaeda Thabat News Agency released the fourth issue of its weekly Thabat magazine, which summarizes accounts of recent operations carried out by Al-Qaeda's various affiliates worldwide.[1] The magazine contains an article accusing ISIS in West Africa of massacring a group of shepherds in Mali several weeks ago, along with a photo allegedly showing the deputy emir of the ISIS West Africa Province personally participating in the atrocities. The alleged massacre was first reported on November 11 by Al-Qaeda supporter Warith Al-Qassam, who claims that it took place about two weeks earlier.[2]

The Thabat article accuses ISIS fighters operating near the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger border area of committing multiple crimes against local Muslims, including expelling them from their villages, committing "highway robbery" against caravans transporting goods, and extorting tribute from villagers under the pretext of collecting zakat (alms mandated by Islam). According to the article, the most recent crime perpetrated by ISIS in the area was the "massacre" of eight nomadic shepherds near the Mali-Niger border about a month ago. Thabat claims a group of ISIS fighters led by a commander known as Abu Bara' attacked the shepherds, whom they accused of apostasy from Islam, killing them and mutilating their bodies. According to Thabat, the ISIS operatives filmed the massacre and shared the video among themselves, although it reached the hands of the locals, who thus learned the names of several ISIS fighters and commanders from the clip.

The above photo, printed in the pro-Al-Qaeda Thabat weekly, allegedly shows the bodies of shepherds killed by ISIS fighters in Mali.

In addition, Thabat claims the deputy emir of the ISIS West Africa Province, 'Abd Al-Hakim Al-Sahrawi, committed another "atrocity" about five months ago by beheading a captured prisoner accused of espionage after mutilating the man while still alive. The pro-Al-Qaeda magazine asserts that 'Abd Al-Hakim killed the alleged spy "in a way that is completely against the Islamic shari'a" by amputating the prisoner's hand and finger, gouging out his eyes, cutting off his ear, mutilating his face, and severing his leg, before finally beheading him with a knife. Thabat notes that ISIS has still not claimed responsibility for this execution nor for the killing of the shepherds, suggesting that this proves the victims were innocent. The magazine also writes that ISIS interviewed the emir of its West Africa Province, Abu Al-Walid Al-Sahrawi, in the most recent issue of its Al-Naba' weekly, but Abu Al-Walid made no mention of these atrocities committed by his men, nor did he apologize for their "crimes."

The above photo, printed in the pro-Al-Qaeda Thabat weekly, allegedly shows the deputy emir of ISIS' West Africa province dismembering an alleged spy before executing him.

Thabat claims that ISIS "has not fired a single bullet" at the governments of Mali and Burkina Faso in months, nor has the organization claimed responsibility for any attacks against Malian and Burkinabe forces for about three months, although ISIS fighters are easily able to strike "Crusader and apostate targets" in the region.[3] Thabat contrasts ISIS with Al-Qaeda affiliate Jama'at Nusrat Al-Islam Wal-Muslimeen (Group for Support of Islam and Muslims - GSIM), claiming that the latter group continues to carry out attacks on "the French Crusaders and their apostate lackeys in the region." The magazine also claims that a "large number" of ISIS fighters surrendered to the "Crusader government" in central Burkina Faso.

Several pro-Al-Qaeda Telegram channels also claim that GSIM was responsible for a November 11 ambush of Burkinabe soldiers for which ISIS has claimed responsibility. On November 13, 2020, official ISIS media outlets reported that the organization's fighters had killed ambushed Burkinabe soldiers two days earlier on the road between Beldiabe and Ti-n-Akof, near the border with Mali, killing twenty soldiers and wounding others and destroying several vehicles, as well as capturing several vehicles, motorcycles, weapons, and ammunition.[4] However, according to Thabat magazine, the attack was carried out by GSIM. The Thabat headline claims that 24 soldiers were killed or wounded in the attack and two vehicles were destroyed, while the article states that GSIM killed 14 soldiers and wounded eight, and also captured weapons and ammunition.[5] The Thabat Telegram channel provided slightly different numbers, claiming on November 13 that GSIM had carried out an attack killing 11 Burkinabe soldiers, wounding 9, and destroying two vehicles. [6] The Sahel-based pro-Al-Qaeda Tadayit Telegram channel reported that GSIM killed 13 Burkinabe soldiers and wounded others in the attack,[7] while Al-Qaeda supporter Warith Al-Qassam explicitly accuses ISIS of "living in a lie" by claiming responsibility for the attack. [8]

The above ISIS claim of responsibility alleges that the organization killed 20 Burkinabe soldiers on November 11.

The headline of the above article in the Thabat magazine credits GSIM for the attack, claiming it killed and wounded 24, while the body of the article claims 14 killed and 8 wounded.

The Al-Qaeda supporters' accusations against ISIS, as well as conflicting claims of responsibility for the recent attack in Burkina Faso are part of the general hostilities between the two rival jihadi groups, whose operatives in the Sahel have fought against each other in recent months.[9] By claiming responsibility for the Burkina Faso attack, ISIS refutes Al-Qaeda supporters' allegations that ISIS in the Sahel fights exclusively against Al-Qaeda and not against regime forces, while a GSIM claim of responsibility enables Al-Qaeda supporters to contend that they are the only jihadi group which fights against the governments of the Sahel countries.


[1] Thabat News Agency, November 14, 2020.

[2] Warethkasambot, November 11, 2020.

[3] In addition to operations against Al-Qaeda affiliates, ISIS most recently claimed responsibility for attacks in the Sahel in the June 11, 2020 issue of Al-Naba', which reported that ISIS forces had carried out several attacks on French Barkhane forces in Mali during the month of May. See MEMRI JTTM Report: ISIS Weekly Blasts Al-Qaeda In The Sahel For Focusing Exclusively On Fighting ISIS, June 15, 2020.

[4] Nashir News, November 13, 2020.

[5] Thabat News Agency, November 14, 2020.

[6] L 59, November 13, 2020.

[7] TadayitBot, November 14, 2020.

[8] Warethkasambot, November 14, 2020.

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