Omar Ould Hamaha

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Omar Ould Hamaha (or Oumar Ould Hamaha, Hakka; 5 July 1963 – March 8, 2014) was an Islamist militia commander from Northern Mali.[1] During the 2012 Northern Mali conflict he became known alternatively as the spokesman and chief of staff for both Ansar Dine[2] and Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA),[3][4] militant groups associated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Ould Hamaha was born in Kidal, Mali.[1] He was the son of a military camel driver and member of the Arab ethnicity. In 1984, he graduated from the Franco-Arabic lycée in Timbuktu. Instead of going to university, he opted to study the Koran at a Mauritanian madrasa. Returned to Timbuktu in 1990, he was refused preaching licence at the Grand Mosque. After his brother, who was a fighter of the Arab Islamic Front of Azawad, was killed by the Malian army during the Tuareg rebellion of the early 1990s, Ould Hamaha went underground. Influenced by Pakistani preachers, he embraced Salafist teachings.[5]

In the mid-2000s, he joined Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and became the deputy to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an emir of AQIM's Sahelian Brigade. At some point during Belmokhtar and Ould Hamaha's relationship it is believed that Belmokhtar married a daughter of Ould Hamaha, further strengthening their relationship.[1] The Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, who was abducted by AQIM in Niger in 2008, identified Ould Hamaha as one of his kidnappers.[6] After 1 April 2012, he became publicly known as the spokesman of the Islamist militant group Ansar Dine. The MOJWA, in coordination with its allied Militant Islamist groups AQIM and Ansar Dine, took control of Northern Mali from the Battle of Gao in June 2012 until the French Operation Serval in January 2013, which led to the recapture of Northern Mali. Following the capture of Gao, Ould Hamaha became identified as deputy to the MOJWA chief of Gao.[2] In August 2012, he became the chief of staff of MOJWA.[5] Ould Hamaha's actual position in both of these groups was undefined, with one commentator describing him as "a spokesman for the [Islamist] coalition" that ruled Northern Mali.[2]

After France's intervention into Northern Mali in January 2013, Ould Hamaha, along with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, alluded capturing by French and MINUSMA forces. At the end of May 2013, two near simultaneous suicide attacks at a uranium mine and military barracks in Northern Niger were claimed both by MOJWA and Belmokhtar's breakaway organization, Katibat al-Mulathimeen or "The Masked Brigade." Ould Hamaha's relationship with both MOJWA and Belmokhtar is believed to have factored into the joint operation.[7] On 22 August 2013, Mauitania's news agency, ANI, reported that MOJWA and Belmokhtar's brigade had merged to form al-Murabitun, in reference to the 11th Century Almoravid Dynasty of Morocco and Southern Spain.[4][8]

On 3 June 2013, the US State Department's Rewards for Justice program announced a $3 million bounty for information leading to Ould Hamaha's arrest. The State Department also announced a $5 million bounty for Belmokhtar's arrest.[9] In March 2014, Mailian military sources reported that Ould Hamaha had been killed in a shootout with French forces in northeastern Mali.[10] A month later, a spokesman for Al-Mourabitoun denied Hamaha was killed.[11][12] Despite this denial of Hamaha's death, the Rewards for Justice program removed him from the list in May 2014.[13] AQIM officially confirmed Hamaha's death in February 2016.[14]

Ould Hamaha's nom de guerre was Hakka (French pronunciation of "AK", alluding to his skill at handling the AK-47 assault rifle). He was also known as the "red-bearded" or Barbe Rousse for his henna-dyed goatee beard. Besides Arabic, Ould Hamaha spoke French and Songhay.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Ould M. Salem, Lemine (17 January 2013), Portrait. On l'appelle "Barbe rousse" (in French), Telquel, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  2. ^ a b c Thurston, Alex (27 September 2012), Mali's Islamist Coalition Responds to External Intervention Discussions, Sahel Blog, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  3. ^ Zen, Jacob (21 December 2012), AQIM Leaders Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelmalek Droukdel Split, UNHCR, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  4. ^ a b Wanted: Information Leading to the Location of Oumar Ould Hamaha, Rewards for Justice, US Department of State, 3 June 2013, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  5. ^ a b c Thiolay, Boris (3–9 October 2012), "Le djihad du "Barbu rouge"", L'Express (in French), pp. 40–41 
  6. ^ Callimachi, Rukmini (31 December 2012), Al-Qaida Carves out Own Country in Mali, ABC News, retrieved 11 January 2012 
  7. ^ Lebovich, Andrew (28 May 2013), Niger Attacks and the Sahel's Shifting Jihad, al-Wasat, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  8. ^ Lebovich, Andrew (23 August 2013), Of Mergers, MUJAO, and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, al-Wasat, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  9. ^ US Announces Bounty for African Group Leaders, Al-Jazeera, 4 June 2013, retrieved 16 January 2014 
  10. ^ Ahmed, Baba (2014-03-14). "UN mission: Mali jihadist spokesman Hamaha killed". Bigstory.ap.org. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  11. ^ "Mauritanie : Aqmi dément la mort d'un de ses chefs annoncée par Paris (porte-parole)". Maliactu.net. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  12. ^ "- وكالة نواكشوط للأنباء". وكالة نواكشوط للأنباء. 
  13. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20140517064733/https://rewardsforjustice.net/english/most-wanted/all-regions.html
  14. ^ "AQIM confirms death of former MUJAO spokesman". The Long War Journal.