Ansar al-Din battles isolation
By Raby Ould Idoumou for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 14/08/12
Malian Islamist group Ansar al-Din paid a price for its alliance with al-Qaeda: a poor public image. It is now trying to mitigate the damage through the use of modern technology.
The Touareg Islamist group has initiated a new round of discussions on Ansar Al-Mujahideen Network and other jihadist web forums by responding to questions submitted online.
For starters, Ansar al-Din spokesperson Sanad Ould Bouamama on August 5th refuted claims that his group was merely a fragmented entity.
Ould Bouamama asserted that together with al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) fighters, Ansar al-Din controlled nearly all of northern Mali.
While acknowledging the media isolation facing his group, he voiced outrage that the press depicted al-Qaeda as monsters, murderers and bloodthirsty terrorists hostile to human civilisation.
The Ansar al-Din official also dismissed the possibility of a military strike against his group and its al-Qaeda allies in order to prevent them from establishing an Islamic emirate in Azawad.
He warned Mauritania, Algeria and Mali of the consequences of participation in such an attack.
Ould Bouamama said that regional countries should focus on their internal problems rather than to attacking neighbouring countries, a clear attempt on the part of al-Qaeda to exploit the Arab Spring and peaceful protests in the Arab world.
He did not deny that his group could potentially annex new areas, whether from neighbouring countries or further south in Mali. He claimed that the invitation to participate in recent mediation talks with Mali in Burkina Faso was actually driven by fears of his group's possible move towards Bamako.
The Ansar al-Din official said that his group did not respect the UN system and called the regions' borders "imaginary".
According to Sheikh Mohamed Ould Harmah of Mauritania's Sahara Media, however, this new online initiative is nothing more than an attempt by Ansar al-Din to stem criticism over its ties to al-Qaeda.
The fear of losing the political battle is haunting the leaders of the Islamic extremist group, forcing them to look for alternative channels for communication with those outside northern Mali, journalist Moulay Baheide agreed.
Baheide said that the new step would not succeed in changing opinions, given the hostility created by Ansar al-Din among Sufis, secularists and others, when it declared that it would not respect current borders.
The journalist also doubts that the new online messaging will attract more young recruits, due to the group's ties with the MUJAO and Boko Haram, as well as its position on the creation of an Islamic state on "Azawadi soil".
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