The UN Security Council last Wednesday (December 5th) sanctioned al-Qaeda splinter group Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
Under the resolution, "UN member states have to freeze the assets of groups and individuals on this black list, impose a ban on arms sales and a travel ban on all of its members," according to AFP.
The UN said that the MUJAO had seized heavy machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, explosives and other military equipment from Mali military arsenals since moving into the country.
"The MUJAO's leaders are known to be drug traffickers, involved in the drug trade in the Sahel," the UN statement added.
Following the passage of the UN resolution, MUJAO leaders Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou of Mauritania and Ahmed al-Talmasi of Algeria were put on international lists of known terrorists.
A source close to Kheirou's family spoke to Magharebia on December 9th.
"He belongs to the Tagounanet tribe in Lebeiratt, Trazra province, in southeast Mauritania. He joined al-Qaeda in 2003 when he left to fight against international forces in Iraq. He climbed the ladder in al-Qaeda until he became the head of the Sharia committee, and was later appointed as head of the judiciary council in Gao after MUJAO controlled the city," the source said under condition of anonymity.
According to analyst al-Mokhtar al-Salem, "the area of Lebeiratt - from where Ould Mohamed Kheirou hails - is also the home of the great Mauritanian scholar Lemjidry Ould Hob Allah, who brought Wahhabism to the East in the 19th century".
"The people around here don't think the resolution changed anything," journalist Osman Mohamed Osman said.
"The MUJAO hasn't denied its relations with al-Qaeda and its leaders realise that they have been a target for the hostility of all Western and regional forces since the formation of the group," journalist Osman Mohamed Osman said.
"Anyway, this resolution can be seen as important as far as the procedural and moral aspects only are concerned, as it's already known that regional countries weren't selling arms to MUJAO and weren't dealing amicably with their elements," Osman said.
The MUJAO first appeared after the kidnapping of three humanitarian workers at a Western Sahara refugee camp in October, 2011. AQIM and MUJAO are currently holding at least 13 foreign hostages, including the Algerian diplomats kidnapped in Gao.
By Jemal Oumar, 10 December 2012