Skip to main content
You are here >> Skip breadcrumbAustralian National Security > > Terrorist organisations > > Al-Murabitun

 Al-Murabitun

(‘Al-Murabitun’ translates from Arabic into English as ‘the Sentinels’)
(AKA al-Murabitoun)

Listed in Australia 5 November 2014.

The following information is based on publicly available details about al-Murabitun.  To the Australian Government’s knowledge, these details are accurate and reliable and have been corroborated by classified information. 

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney-General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  • is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, or assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act (whether or not a terrorist act has occurred or will occur); or
  • advocates the doing of a terrorist act (whether or not a terrorist act has occurred or will occur).

Details of the organisation

Backround

Al-Murabitun is a Sunni Islamic extremist group with leadership based in northern Mali. Al-Murabitun was formed in August 2013 on the amalgamation of two regional extremist groups, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA)—also known as the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), Jama’at at‑tawhid wal-jihad fi gharb ‘afriqqiya (TWJWA), Mouvement pour le Unite et du Jihad en Afrqiue de l’Ouest (MUJAO)—and al-Muwaqi’in Bid-Dam (AMBD), also known as Signatories in Blood group. 

  • Before their formal merger, MUJWA and AMBD co-operated to conduct simultaneous attacks in Niger in May 2013 targeting a military installation in Agadez and the French-operated uranium facility at Arlit.

MUJWA and AMBD both originated as splinter groups of al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  MUJWA splintered from the al-Moulathamoune battalion, a Sahel-based unit of AQIM, in December 2011.  Its stated objective was to spread jihad across wider West Africa. MUJWA membership included various nationalities and ethnicities, and its formation was reportedly influenced by objections to the dominance of Algerians in AQIM leadership.

  • In July 2013, MUJWA released a video of two of its members encouraging Muslims in France and the United States to conduct terrorist attacks.
  • MUJWA claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Portuguese-French citizen near Diema, Mali in December 2012.
  • MUJWA claimed responsibility for the 30 June 2012 suicide bombing attack on the Algerian national gendarmerie headquarters in Ouargla, Algeria.

AMBD originated as the al-Moulathamoune battalion.  Following years of conflict between AQIM leadership and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the al‑Moulathamoune battalion, Belmokhtar, and most of the battalion departed from AQIM in December 2012 to form AMBD.

  • In January 2013, AMBD claimed responsibility for the siege of the gas processing facility at In-Amenas, Algeria, which lasted four days and resulted in the deaths of 39 hostages and one security guard.

Objectives

Al-Murabitun’s objective is to unite Muslims and other Islamic movements across Africa against non-Muslim and secular influences.  It has publicly called for attacks on French interests and French allies in Africa as a “Shari’a-based duty”.

Leadership and membership

Al-Murabitun’s leader has not been publically named. According to the group’s public statements, its leader fought for the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the 1980s and in 2002 against Coalition forces following the fall of the Taliban regime.

Many of al-Murabitun members are former members of AQIM who departed when MUJWA and AMBD splintered from AQIM; others were recruited to these groups before the formation of al-Murabitun.  The members are drawn from across North and West Africa including Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

Recruitment and funding

Before the formation of Al-Murabitun, MUJWA derived funding from regional drug smuggling.  In 2011, MUJWA was also involved in the kidnap of three aid workers from a refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria who were released in return for a ransom payment.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Directly or indirectly engaged in the doing of terrorist acts

In a statement issued in January 2014, al-Murabitun detailed its attacks during 2013.  In addition to attacks conducted following the formal integration of MUJWA and AMBD as al-Murabitun, the statement also claimed responsibility on behalf of al‑Murabitun for attacks conducted before al-Murabitun’s formation.  The attacks claimed included:

  • January 2013: AMBD attacked the gas processing facility at In-Amenas, which the al-Murabitun statement said was in response to Algeria opening its airspace to French aircraft providing support to the Mali intervention.
  • February 2013: A car bombing was conducted by MUJWA at In-Khalil, Mali targeting the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist group operating in northern Mali. The bombing was reportedly initiated because the MNLA were viewed as allied to French troops.
  • May 2013: AMBD and MUJWA collaborated to plan and conduct simultaneous suicide bombing and small arms attacks against a military site in Agadez, Niger and the French-operated uranium mine and processing facility near Arlit, Niger.
  • October 2013: Al-Murabitun claimed responsibility for launching rockets at the Gao airport in Mali.
  • November 2013: Al-Murabitun claimed responsibility for an IED attack on a Malian army vehicle between Asongo and Menaka resulting in the deaths of four soldiers.
  • November 2013: al-Murabitun conducted a suicide attack on the French barracks in Menaka. While al-Murabitun’s statement claimed French soldiers were killed, the French military stated the only casualty was the bomber.

Directly or indirectly preparing and/or planning terrorist acts

In a statement released in January 2014, al-Murabitun said it intended to continue targeting French allies with raids, car bombs, explosive devices and rockets.  The statement indicated these attacks were motivated by the opposition of France and its African allies to the implementation of Islamic law.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Al-Murabitun has advocated for extremists to attack French interests ‘wherever they are’ as a duty under Islamic law in a statement in August 2013. The group repeated its call for attacks on France and its allies in January 2014 when it stated this was necessary because France does not accept Islamic rule.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses al-Murabitun continues to directly and/or indirectly engage in conducting, preparing, planning, assisting, advocating or fostering the doing of acts involving threats to human life and serious damage to property. This assessment is corroborated by information provided by reliable and credible intelligence sources.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, al-Murabitun is known to have committed or threatened action that:

  • causes, or could cause, serious damage to property, the death of persons or endanger a person’s life or create a serious risk to a person’s safety;
  • are done with the intention of advancing al-Murabitun’s political, religious or ideological causes;
  • are done with the intention of intimidating sections of the public globally; and
  • are intended to coerce or intimidate the government of a foreign country.

This assessment is corroborated by information provided by reliable intelligence sources.

Other relevant information

Proscription by the UN and other countries

The United States proscribed al-Murabitun as an alias of the al-Moulathamoune battalion in December 2013.

The United Kingdom proscribed al-Murabitun in April 2014.

Canada proscribed al-Murabitun on 2 June 2014.

New Zealand has designated al-Murabitun as a terrorist entity.

The United Nations listed al-Murabitun under the United Nations Security Council 1267 (al-Qa’ida) Sanctions Committee’s consolidated list as an entity associated with al-Qa’ida on 2 June 2014.

Links to other terrorist groups

Al-Murabitun has pledged allegiance to al-Qa’ida senior leadership. In a statement issued at the same time as the announcement of the formation of al-Murabitun, Belmokhtar stated al-Murabitun pledged allegiance to al-Qa’ida leaders in Afghanistan and to al-Qa’ida leader Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri.  He further stated that al-Murabitun adhered to the intellectual and moral methodology promoted by al‑Qa’ida and its founder Usama bin Laden.

Al-Murabitun leadership figure Belmokhtar is a former leader of an AQIM battalion.  As al-Murabitun was formed through the merger of two AQIM splinter groups, many of its members are former AQIM fighters.

Links to Australia

There are no known links between al-Murabitun and Australia.

Peace and mediation processes

Al-Murabitun is not known to have participated in peace or mediation processes.