August 28, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8909

Jihadi Reactions To Mali Coup: From Celebration To Indifference

August 28, 2020
Africa | Special Dispatch No. 8909

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

On August 19, 2020, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced his resignation and the dissolution of parliament, the day after he and Prime Minister Boubou Cissé were arrested by soldiers and transported from the president's residence to the Kati military camp on the outskirts of the capital, Bamako. This coup occurred after months of mass protests objecting to the Malian government's corruption and to the presence of French troops in the country.

Jihadis were quick to react to news of the developments in Mali, where there is an active jihadi insurgency led by two rival groups – the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jama'at Nusrat Al-Islam Wal-Muslimeen (Group for Support of Islam and Muslims - GSIM).[1] Many supporters of the two jihadi groups celebrated the news as serving the interests of the mujahideen in the Sahel region, with supporters of each group asserting that their group will benefit more from the instability caused by the coup and the deposal of the French-backed president, whom they view as an apostate from Islam. However, other jihadis contend that the removal of Keïta is immaterial, as he will likely be replaced by some other apostate leader who will continue the country's dependence on its former colonial overlord, France.

Celebrations: Coup Will Increase Jihadi Activity

Both ISIS and Al-Qaeda supporters celebrated the coup against Keïta as contributing to Mali's instability and making it easier for jihadis to operate in the region. A message on the pro-ISIS Telegram channel Bilad Al-Haramayn Al-Asirah from August 18, 2020, reads: "Reports of a revolution in Mali today! Perhaps the events are being set in motion by the Causer of Causes [i.e. Allah] for the benefit of terrorism."[2] 

On the same day, ISIS supporter Labeeb posted a news report about the arrest of the Malian president and prime minister, commenting: "Mali has fallen, o men, but nothing has changed." However, Labeeb continues: Soon will be the real change," seemingly hinting at an expansion of jihadi activity in the country and perhaps a complete overthrow of the government.[3] 

Cryptically, and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, Algerian ISIS supporter Nouri wrote on August 19 that "the Black Hole [Nouri's idiosyncratic nickname for ISIS] is really behind the overthrow of Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, after he failed to repel and fight terrorism," adding in English: "Game over."[4]

The above Telegram post from ISIS supporter Nouri depicting deposed Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta claims that ISIS was responsible for the coup.

Supporters of Al-Qaeda and of Syrian jihadi group Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), itself an outgrowth of Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusrah, also believe the coup will serve the interests of jihad, but claim that the true beneficiary of the chaos will be GSIM. Commenting on August 18 on reports of a "military coup against the apostate government in Mali," Syria-based Al-Qaeda supporter Jallad Al-Murji'ah urges GSIM fighters: "Take advantage of this chaos and the current situation for the benefit of Islam and jihad, for today you are the strongest link in Mali – by Allah's grace. We know nothing so far about this coup, but we hope from Allah that it will bring good and that the mujahideen there will make use of it to the best of their ability." The Al-Qaeda supporter concludes with the prayer: "O Allah, grant victory to our brothers in Mali, cool our hearts with the glad tidings whose winds blow from West Africa, and let them reach us in Syria."[5]

On August 18, the pro-Al-Qaeda media outlet Warith Al-Qassam responded with the comment, "Allah Akbar," to reports that "dozens of apostates" had defected from the Malian police and security forces and revolted against the "Malian taghout [literally false deity, a reference to rulers who govern by manmade law]," praying that no soldiers and policemen should remain loyal to the Keïta government: "O Allah, do not leave a single one of them."[6]

HTS supporter Al-Dhahabi also celebrated the coup in an August 19 Telegram post, writing that the deposal of Mali's pro-France president proves that "Africa is a new Afghanistan" and demonstrates the "gradual growth of the jihadi presence there and that the events support this."[7]

Indifference: The Replacement Of Mali's President Will Change Nothing

In contrast to the celebratory reactions from supporters of the jihadi groups active in Mali, other jihadis with no stake in the country reacted to the coup more soberly, expressing doubt that the overthrow of the Malian president will make a significant difference to the country's dependence on France.

Commenting on reports that rebels had arrested Mali's president and prime minister, independent Syrian jihadi cleric Abu Yahya Al-Shami wrote that "most countries hurried to 'view [events] with worry' after the revolutionaries began to move." However, the jihadi cleric predicts the following sequence of reactions from members of the international community, anticipating that they will soon say: "It does not matter who has gone, as the expired collaborating government has no value," and then they will come to "new understanding with the new (aspiring) team," and finally "handle [the new regime] carefully until it becomes their slave, or it will be contained and replaced." Abu Yahya explains that the Malian government will inevitably remain subservient to outside powers because "Mali is a French fief."[8]

Saudi-born 'Abdallah Al-Muhaysini, another Syria-based independent jihadi cleric, expresses doubts that Keïta's overthrow will make any difference. Posting a photo of Malian Colonel Malick Diaw in an August 19 Telegram post, Al-Muhaysini writes: "2020 insists on making a mark in Africa. Yesterday, this young man carried out a coup in Mali, arrested the president, and forced him to dissolve the government and parliament." However, the jihadi cleric continues, "In general, we cannot be optimistic or pessimistic, for the experience of Sudan makes one think one hundred times before being optimistic," referring to the 2019 deposal of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir after protests in the country against his government, only for him to be replaced by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Al-Burhan who, like the former ruler, followed policies that are not popular among Islamists and jihadis.[9] 

The above Telegram post from Syria-based jihadi cleric 'Abdallah Al-Muhaysini showing Col. Malick Diaw, one of the ringleaders of the coup in Mali, expresses doubt about whether the coup will lead to real change.



[2] Telegram/ Bilad Al-Haramayn Al-Asirah, August 18, 2020.

[3] Telegram/LABEEB_2, August 18, 2020.

[4] Telegram/Noury_N, August 19, 2020.

[5] Telegram/Jallad_Almorgeah/171, August 18, 2020.

[6] Telegram/ Warethkasambot, August 18, 2020.

[7] Telegram/zahabi4, August 19, 2020.

[8] Telegram/ayshami, August 18, 2020.

[9] Telegram/shemmary/2637, August 19, 2020.

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