Notes on the New JNIM/AQIM Video

The jihadist formation in the Sahara-Sahel region, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa-l-Muslimin (JNIM, the Group for Supporting Islam and Muslims), recently put out a new video called “The Battle Continues.” JNIM is a subsidiary of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). MENASTREAM, as always, has a good rundown of some key moments, personalities, and images.

The video is heavily branded as an al-Qaida effort. It returns repeatedly to images of Usama bin Laden and other al-Qaida figures. The video presents the jihadist fight in Mali as both (a) a replay of medieval battles between Muslims and Crusaders, and (b) a part of a global struggle that extends to Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Chechnya. Surveying the contemporary global scene, the video emphasizes images of Muslim civilians being killed and repressed by security forces. The video also displays images of numerous dead jihadist leaders, ranging from Yemen’s Nasir al-Wuhayshi to AQIM’s Abd al-Hamid Abu Zayd to Ansar al-Sharia Libya’s Muhammad al-Zawahi. In other words, the video wants the viewer to think something along the lines of “Muslims are being unfairly attacked around the world and al-Qaida leaders are giving their lives to defend them.”

But to just take the video as an expression of transnational jihadist ties would be to miss some of its politics. So much analysis of jihadist videos, in fact, focuses on the visual symbolism to a degree where the actual content of what jihadists are saying goes under-analyzed. And this video, albeit not very original, is trying to stake out some political ground vis-a-vis both France and toward interpretations of the Mali conflict that JNIM does not want to become dominant.

In one sequence starting around 8:35, the video pivots to France, showing television clips of Western analysts asserting that France’s fight in Mali is motivated by ambitions to control resources in the Sahel. But then the video cuts to a clip from RT, where the announcer asks whether France’s intervention in Mali was in fact part of a war on Islam. JNIM cleric Abd al-Hakim al-Muhajir makes that case emphatically, arguing that “it is not an economic or interest-based war in the first degree…Rather, it is a war of creeds between faith and unbelief, Islam and polytheism, between the sovereignty of man, which France wants, and the sovereignty of God alone, for the sake of which the mujahidin are struggling (Bal hiya harb ‘aqadiyya bayn al-iman wa-l-kufr, wa-l-islam wa-l-shirk, bayn hakimiyyat al-bashar, kama turiduha Faransa wa bayn hakimiyyat Allah wahdahu, kama yujahid min ajliha al-mujahidun).” Al-Muhajir argues that economic interests are at stake, but as a secondary matter in this broader combat he sees between belief and unbelief. The video then includes two clips of French philosopher Michel Onfray arguing that France has double standards for when it invokes human rights justifications in foreign affairs.

To me, this was the most interesting argument the film made – ironically, both France and JNIM/AQIM now work to combat the perception that this is a conflict over untapped resources in the Malian Sahara. One wonders whether JNIM is not also, indirectly, trying to combat the perception that it too is a product of a conspiracy involving great powers. Interestingly enough, JNIM may lose ground in the information war if what it considers the wrong kind of conspiracy theories gain too much traction – JNIM wants audiences to understand the conflict as black and white, and that requires arguing that France is explicit about its “Crusader” ambitions, rather than arguing that France has hidden agendas.

Another part of the video’s message revolves around the romanticization of jihadist life. This comes across to some extent in the military sequences, which includes both JNIM’s own training footage and then news footage of the aftermath of JNIM’s June 2018 attack on a G5 Sahel Joint Force base in Sévaré, central Mali. Later, the video shows jihadists impersonating a United Nations convoy as they prepare for and execute their April 2018 attack on a MINUSMA base in Timbuktu.

But the romanticization comes across most strongly in sequences highlighting ordinary fighters. This section emphasizes the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the fighters, who are presented as joyful, pious, and disciplined youth. If this is in part a recruitment video, the pitch is based largely on the idea that recruits will enjoy a pure life and a vibrant camaraderie. The segments featuring JNIM/AQIM’s Yahya Abu al-Hammam and an audio message from JNIM leader Iyad ag Ghali are relatively unremarkable; the young fighters come across as more three-dimensional, and that may be intentional on JNIM’s part.

To me this read as a demonstration of strength and a reminder that JNIM is digging in for the long haul (hence the title). The video did not break any new ground, ideologically speaking. There was not as much emphasis on building popular support as I might have expected; but again, perhaps the theme of camaraderie stood in for a more explicit pitch.

1 thought on “Notes on the New JNIM/AQIM Video

  1. Il est logique que les pantins terroristes Franceàfric reprennent la propagande DGSE et de l’Elysée….. pour démentir leur véritable statut de miliciens de la riba impérialiste
    Ils ont été payés 58M$ par Sarkozy et Hollande plus les 20M€ d’octobre 2013 par Hollande Puga Le Drian et…. Macron !

    Pour moi, c’était l’argument le plus intéressant du film. Ironiquement, France et JNIM / AQMI s’efforcent désormais de combattre l’opinion qu’il s’agissait d’un conflit sur des ressources inexploitées dans le Sahara malien. On peut se demander si JNIM n’essaye pas aussi, indirectement, de combattre la perception selon laquelle il est aussi le produit d’un complot impliquant de grandes puissances. Il est intéressant de noter que JNIM risque de perdre du terrain dans la guerre de l’information si ce qu’elle considère comme une mauvaise sorte de théories du complot gagne trop de poids – JNIM veut que le public comprenne le conflit en noir et blanc, ce qui nécessite de faire valoir que la France est explicite à propos de son «Croisé ”Ambitions, plutôt que d’affirmer que la France a des agendas cachés
    Logique que les pantins de la DGSE dont Hama Ag Mahmoud (MNLA) a révélé en janvier 2014 qu’ils avaient été recrutés en 2011 par Sarkozy qui leur avait “donné l’Azawad” tentent de lutter contre l’intelligence des Maliens
    Ceux-ci ont ouvert les yeux dès février 2013
    Ils ont vu les 28 chefs terroristes de la liste du procureur général Tessougué (février 2013) se pavaner en France (Bilal Ag Achérif en avril 2013 au Sénat quand il figurait sur la liste Tessougué ou Nina Wallet Intalou invitée par …. Hollande Fekl et Gattaz dans un colloque MEDEF en décembre 2016) ou encore se pavaner à Bamako comme Ahmada Ag Bibi n°3 des jihadistes Ansardine de la liste…. devenu député RPM (internationale socialiste), le parti du président IBK
    Les médiafric ont camouflé que les jihadistes HCUA Ansardine JNIM et leurs collègues MNLA CMA ont participé à TRUQUER LES ELECTIONS avec des taux de participation délirants à Kidal, Menaka, Aguel Hoc etc……. des 85% quand 34% était le taux moyen au Mali pour les présidentielles de 2018.
    IBK élu par JNIM…… qui donc…… dément les intérêts économiques…… du complot terroriste de l’Elysée (et du Deep State auprès de qui Iyad Ag Ghali faisait ses rapports en 2007)

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