The leader of an armed, radical Islamic group out of west Africa, Hamada Ould Mohamed Kheirou, declared "war" against France Thursday over what he calls French hostility towards Islam. The threat came in a video reportedly seen by AFP journalists and is not the first time the jihadist group has vowed to wage war with the increasingly Islamized France.
"We again declare war on France, which is hostile to the interests of Islam," Kheirou said in Arabic. Allegedly donning dark glasses and a turban, the Mauritanian militant added, "The jihad [holy war] will be exported everywhere it is necessary and for God, we must be ready for anything."
The last part of the video reportedly focused on the group's ideology and ambitions, specifically, "to impose shari'ah [Islamic law] across the whole of west Africa." According to AFP, the video depicts young African fighters calling for "pure and tough" Islam.
AFP via News24 reports that the video also revealed images of three Westerners - a Spanish man and woman and an Italian woman - who were kidnapped in late-October from a camp for Sahrawi refugees in southern Algeria:
That kidnapping was claimed by Kheirou's Movement for Unity and Justice in West Africa, which then emerged as a breakaway group from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which originated in Algeria and now has bases in northern Mali. [...]
Mauritania last week issued an international arrest warrant against Kheirou, also known as Abou Qumqum. The mandate also targeted three other Mauritanians, including Moustapha Ould Limam Chafi, an influential man in west Africa who has notably negotiated the release of Western hostages by AQIM.
All four men are accused of being "influential members" of AQIM, of financing terrorism and of supporting terrorist groups in the Sahel strip of northwest African nations on the southern edge of the Sahara.
According to AFP, the zone is extremely volatile and difficult to patrol and monitor. AQIM has reportedly carried out numerous attacks on troops, kidnappings of Westerners and routinely traffics drugs and weapons from within the region.
12 Europeans -- six of whom are French nationals -- are presently held hostage in the Sahel.