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Al Murabitoon claims Mali hotel siege

Al Murabitoon, an al Qaeda-affiliated group that operates throughout the Sahara, has reportedly claimed responsibility for a hotel siege in the town of Sevare in central Mali over the weekend. Al Jazeera reported that the jihadist organization sent the news agency a statement in which it claims the attack.

The statement said that "Elements of Jamaat al Murabitoon of al Qaeda managed to implement an operation in the city of Sevare after long reconnaissance and monitoring." It continued by stating that the operation was "specifically on hotel Byblos in which Western nationals were dwelling." Al Jazeera reported that the statement ended with the group saying that it will release more details on the operation at a later date.

On August 7, jihadists stormed a hotel in Sevare, which is a trading hub in the Mopti region of central Mali. It was first reported that the Debo hotel was attacked, but it later became known that the jihadists stormed the Byblos hotel. At least 12 people were killed in the siege, including five UN personnel.

The Mauritanian news agency Al Akhbar had initially reported that the Macina Liberation Movement, a front for Ansar Dine, another jihadist group in al Qaeda's network in Mali, was likely behind the attack. However, Ansar Dine did not release a statement.

Al Murabitoon was formed in 2013 from the merger between Ahmed al Tilemsi's Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Mokhtar Belmokhtar's Al Mulathameen Brigade. The jihadist organization has had several leaders, but the group's Shura Council publicized that it elected Mokhtar Belmokhtar as its new emir in a statement sent to Al Jazeera last month. In the same statement, the group reaffirmed its allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, the overall leader of al Qaeda. The MUJAO faction has also suffered some defections to the Islamic State, but the latter group has yet to comment on this.

Al Murabitoon has also launched several attacks in Mali's capital of Bamako this year. The attacks include an assault on a Malian nightclub, which killed five people, an attempted assassination of a Malian general, and an attack on UN troops.

[Source: By Caleb Weiss, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, 10Aug15]

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