Nouakchott (AFP) – The jihadist group of notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State organisation, according to an audio recording broadcasted by private Mauritanian agency Al-Akhbar.
The Al-Murabitoun group was linked to Al-Qaeda, yet one of its leading members, Adnan Abu Walid Sahraoui, said in the recording that it was now aligning itself with the IS organisation.
"The Al-Murabitoun movement pledges its allegiance to the caliph of Muslims Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thereby banishing divisions & dissent within the nation," said Sahraoui.
p>The Mauritanian news agency, which regularly publishes statements by jihadists, said it had identified the voice in the audio as that of Sahraoui & that he was now the new leader of the group.
AFP was unable to obtain immediate confirmation from other sources.
Al-Murabitoun was born out of a merger between Belmokhtar's "Signatories in Blood" & MUJAO — one of the jihadist groups that had seized control of northern Mali in early 2012 to 2013.
Its leader was Belmokhtar, who is moreover a former chief of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) & is wanted for having allegedly masterminded a siege in January 2013 of an Algerian gas plant in which 38 mostly Western hostages were killed.
In the recording, Sahraoui called on "all jihadist movements to pledge allegiance" to Baghdadi, self-proclaimed caliph of IS, in order to "speak with one voice".
A Mauritanian expert on jihadist movements in North Africa, Isselmou Ould Salihi, said Thursday's development could be seen as a sign that the jihadist group is "losing traction" & raises the questions approximately Belmokhtar's position.
"The rise in power of (Sahraoui), who signed the statement in place of his official boss, & the shift in the ideology of the group in quitting Al-Qaeda for IS is the first suggestion that the group is losing traction," he said.
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