Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa

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Monotheism and Jihad Movement in West Africa
جماعة التوحيد والجهاد في غرب أفريقيا
Jamāʿat at-tawḥīd wal-jihād fī gharb ʾafrīqqīyā
Participant in Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
2012 insurgency in northern Mali
Active October 2011–present
Leaders Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou (Alias Abu Qumqum)[1]
Area of
 Algeria,  Mali,  Niger[2]
Originated as Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb
Allies Ansar Dine
and wars
Battle of Gao

Battle of Menaka

The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA),Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), or Jamāʿat at-tawḥīd wal-jihād fī gharb ʾafrīqqīyā[3] (Arabic: جماعة التوحيد والجهاد في غرب أفريقيا‎, French: Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO)) is an active militant organisation that broke off from the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb.

It announced its first armed action on video in 12 December 2011,[citation needed] with the intended goal of spreading jihad across a larger section of West Africa, though operations have been limited to southern Algeria and northern Mali. The group has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, citing an alliance with AQIM in 2012. The group merged with the Masked Men Brigade into a group called Al-Mourabitoun.[4]


The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) broke with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in mid-2011 with the alleged goal of spreading jihad further into areas of West Africa that were not within the scope of AQIM. Some analysts believe that the split of the Black African-led MOJWA is a consequence of the Algerian predominance on AQIM’s leadership.[5] The group released a video that referenced their ideological affinity for such figures as Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar but placed greater emphasis on historical figures of West African origin, claiming to be the “ideological descendants” of Cheikhou Amadou, Usman Dan Fodio and El Hadj Umar Tall. “Today we are inaugurating jihad in West Africa” claimed one of the militants, who spoke in English and Hausa.[6] Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania had been present for at least a decade prior to the group’s founding and escalated further following the 2011 Libyan civil war and the influx of weapons in the desert area.[7]

Following the Battle of Gao, MOJWA warned that it would not hesitate to attack any countries or personnel that would be involved in an invasion force within the Azawad region.[8] On 20 December 2012, the United Nations Security Council passedresolution 2085 which sanctioned the group as part of the “Al-Qaida sanctions list.”[9]

In the January 2013 Battle of Konna, MOJWA temporarily gained control of Konna before being forced to retreat by the Malian army and its allied French armed forces.

The group merged in August 2013 with the Masked Men Brigade into a group called Al-Mourabitoun.[4]


Mauritanian Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou is believed by the local media to be the chief of the group, as the principal speaker on the 12 December video. Mauritanian authorities issued an international arrest warrant on 28 December. Other key members are Algerian Ahmed Al-Talmasi and Malian Sultan Ould Badi, who is defined by Malian authorities as a “drug traficker”.[10][11] Omar Ould Hamaha was MOJWA’s military commander (“chief of staff”).[12]


The first appearance of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa was on 22 October 2011, when the group kidnapped three western aid workers from the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. The Polisario Front, which administers the refugee camps, initially blamed AQIM. MOJWA released in December a video of the abducted Italian and Spanish women as well as a Spanish man, demanding 30 million euros for their release. The three hostages were freed in July 2012 in exchange for $18 million and the release of three Islamists.[13][14] On 3 March 2012, MOJWA claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing at a paramilitary police base in Tamanrasset that resulted in injuries to 10 soldiers and one civilian, some of whom were in serious condition.[3]

After warning that it would attack French targets for their role in attacking northern Mali, MOJWA were suspected of carrying out two car bombings in Niger on 23 May 2013.[15] In March 2014, Mailian military sources reported that Omar Ould Hamaha and Abu Walid Sahraoui had been killed by a French air strike in the northeast.[16]

In spring 2014, MOJWA, along with AQIM and MNLA, took control of Kidal and other areas following a regional visit by Prime Minister Moussa Mara.[17]

Capture and seizure of Gao[edit]

Further information: Battle of Gao

During the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in late March, MOJWA stated that it had taken part in the capture of Gao,[18] along withAnsar Dine, which was confirmed later by residents of the town. On 9 April, MOJWA claimed the kidnapping of seven Algerians from the consulate in Gao, including the consul and vice-consul.[19] Three days later, it issued a statement that read the hostages were being treated well “according to Sharia law” and they asked for the liberation of imprisoned members of MOJWA in Algeria in exchange for the consular staff, according to sources mentioned by the Algerian newspaperEchorouk.[20] Three of the diplomats were freed in July 2012.[21] After Algeria arrested three Islamists leaders, MOJWA threatened to execute the hostages unless Algeria released Necib Tayeb, also known as Abderrahmane Abou Ishak Essoufi, a senior member of AQIM.[22] The vice-counsul, Tahar Touati was executed on 1 September,[23] according to Agence Nouakchott d’information. Walid Abu Sarhaoui, the president of MOJWA’s governing council, said: “We have carried out our threat. The hostage has been killed. Algeria had the time to move negotiations along but did not want to. We executed the hostage on Saturday.”[24] However, Algeria’s Foreign Ministry released a statement that read: “The statement announcing the execution of the Algerian vice-consular official can only fuel surprise and justify the steps taken to try to confirm the accuracy of the information sent out on late Saturday.” At the same time, Algeria’s policy of not negotiation or releasing convicted terrorists from prisons was seen by El Watan as an hindrance to the release of the other hostages.[25] Another diplomat, Boualem Sayes, later died in captivity from a chronic illness. The surviving diplomats were released on August 31, 2014.[26]

On 27 June 2012, MOJWA fighters clashed with the forces of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. MOJWA took control of the governor’s palace and MNLA Secretary General Bilal Ag Acherif‘s residence, as well as taking 40 MNLA soldiers prisoner. Ag Acherif was wounded in the fighting and was evacuated to Burkina Faso for medical treatment.[27]MOJWA’s fighters patrolled the city’s streets through the night and arrested at least three people carrying guns.[28]

On 1 September, MOJWA took over the northern town of Douentza, which had previously been held by a Songhai secular militia, the Ganda Iso (Songhai for “Sons of the Land”). Omar Ould Hamaha said that the group had an agreement with theGanda Iso to govern the town, but had then decided to take it over when the militia appeared to be acting independently.[29]After MOJWA’s troops surrounded the town, the militia reportedly surrendered without a fight and were then disarmed.[29][30]