“Today’s designations notify the U.S. public and the international community that this group is a terrorist organization and this individual has committed or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism,” the Department of State said last week in a statement.
ISIS-GS emerged when Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi and his followers split from Al-Mourabitoun, an al-Qaeda splinter group and U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Al Sahrawi was first battle hardened within the ranks of the Algerian-backed Polisario militias. In 2011 he was among the extremists who came together to form the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, MUJAO, one of the jihadist groups that seized control of northern Mali for several months in 2012.
In 2015, Al-Sahrawi issued a bay’a, or pledge of allegiance, to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the overall leader of the Islamic State militant network.
Al-Sahrawi still has connections to many of the AQIM sub-groups in Mali because of his experiences. But his loyalty is to the Islamic State.
Al-Sahrawi involvement is but the three that hides the forest. Morocco has been warning of an ongoing connivance between the Polisario and terrorist groups in the Sahel.
The disenchanted youth in the Polisairo-run camps are lured by the lucrative activities offered by terrorist networks that also engage in trafficking and criminal activities.
Recently, an EU-funded report entitled: “Illegal Markets and the Acquisition of Firearms by Terrorist Networks in Europe”, highlighted the documented connection between the separatist front and the jihadist groups swarming in the Sahel-Sahara powder keg, notably the MUJAO and Ansar Dine (a creation of the Algerian intelligence services/DRS) based in the city of Gao, in northern Mali.
“ISIS-GS is primarily based in Mali and operates along the Mali-Niger border and has claimed responsibility for several attacks under al-Sahrawi’s leadership, including the October 4, 2017 attack on a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol in the region of Tongo Tongo, Niger, which killed four U.S. soldiers and five Nigerien soldiers,” said the US Department of State.