Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 5 - Al-Murabitoun

Aka al-Mulathamun Battalion; al-Mulathamun Brigade; al-Muwaqqi’un bil-Dima; Those Signed in Blood Battalion; Signatories in Blood; Those who Sign in Blood; Witnesses in Blood; Signed-in-Blood Battalion; Masked Men Brigade; Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade; al-Mulathamun Masked Ones Brigade; The Sentinels

Description:  Al-Murabitoun was designated as an FTO on December 19, 2013, originally under the name al-Mulathamun Battalion.  Al-Murabitoun was originally part of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but became a separate organization in late 2012 after its leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, split from AQIM.  After the split, Belmokhtar threatened to fight against Western interests and announced the creation of the al-Mulathamun Battalion.  In 2013, the al-Mulathamun Battalion and the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced that the two organizations would merge under the name “al-Murabitoun.”  In 2015, al-Murabitoun announced a re-merger with AQIM.  In 2017, the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front came together to form Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).

Activities:  In January 2013, what is now known as al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for the attack against the Tiguentourine gas facility near In Amenas, in southeastern Algeria.  More than 800 people were taken hostage during the four-day siege, resulting in the deaths of 39 civilians, including three U.S. citizens.  Seven other U.S. citizens escaped.

In May 2013, al-Murabitoun participated in twin suicide bombings on a northern Nigerien military base and a French uranium mine in Arlit.  The coordinated attacks killed more than 20 people, including all of the attackers.

In March 2015, al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for an attack at La Terrasse restaurant in Bamako, Mali that killed a French national, a Belgian national, and three Malians.  Al-Murabitoun also claimed responsibility for the August 2015 hotel siege in central Mali that killed 17 people.  In November 2015, al-Murabitoun operatives participated in the strike against the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, taking more than 170 people hostage – including U.S. citizens.  Nearly 27 people were killed in the attack, among them a U.S. international development worker.

Al-Murabitoun was reportedly involved in the AQIM January 2016 attack on a popular tourist hotel in Burkina Faso that killed nearly 30, including a U.S. citizen.  In addition, al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for a January 2017 suicide car bombing at a military camp in Mali that killed more than 47 people and injured more than 115.  In July 2018, al-Murabitoun was involved in fighting against French forces in Mali.  Al-Murabitoun remained active in 2019.

Strength:  Precise numbers are unknown.

Location/Area of Operation:   Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, and Niger

Funding and External Aid:  In addition to the support it may receive through its connections to other terrorist organizations in the region, al-Murabitoun is likely funded through kidnapping-for-ransom and other criminal activities.