In late November, more than five months after al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader Abdelmalek Droukdel died in a raid by French forces, the group announced that Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Annabi would take over as the new emir.
Al-Annabi is the mastermind behind AQIM’s recent evolution. While al Qaeda does not recognize national borders or flags, AQIM recently has increasingly involved itself in local Algerian and Malian dynamics, with leaders appearing in front of national flags and publicly endorsing local causes. al-Annabi’s rise to lead the militant group likely will mean a continuation of the flexibility that has contributed to its resurgence – not just in Algeria and Mali but also increasingly elsewhere in West Africa.
The announcement of al-Annabi’s ascension came in an Al-Andalus compilation of mostly old footage. The video begins with a lengthy eulogy for Droukdel and three jihadists who died alongside him, including the media boss of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the group that united several jihadist factions under the banner of AQIM to operate in Mali and the Sahel in 2017.