Jihadi Propaganda Fight Erupts Over Credit For Mali Attack

Supporters of ISIS spar with al Qaeda affiliates for credit of the attacking a luxury hotel and taking hostages in Bamako

Nov 20, 2015 at 1:47 PM ET

Even before the terrorist attack on a luxury hotel in Mali was over, jihadists online were fighting over who’d get to claim credit for the bloody deed. Attackers stormed a Radisson in the capital Bamako Friday and took 170 hostages, including many tourists. At least 27 are dead.

Al Mourabitoun, a group that reportedly split from al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement a supporter of the group posted to a Tumblr page. There has been no independent confirmation of this. Before the claim was made, Vocativ analysts using our deep web technology found chatter from Islamic State supporters insisting jihadists from Boko Haram, a terror group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS, were involved. Al Qaeda sympathizers said the attackers were from Ansar al Din, a terror group operating in Mali that cooperates closely with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. Once al Mourabitoun made its claim, Vocativ analysts found, jihadists quickly clamored to say that it was affiliated with their group, rather than someone else’s.

Confusion over who al Mourabitoun is affiliated with has been raging since earlier this year, when an official for the group supposedly declared allegiance to ISIS. His statement was quickly rebuffed by members of the group, who said that the official made that pledge of allegiance for himself and on his own behalf, and that he wasn’t speaking for any other members of group. That debate continued Friday following the attacks.

Translation: Back in May, France 24 reported that al Mourabitoun pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in an audio message.

Supporters of ISIS were sharing news of the attack with hashtags belonging to the Islamic State, while supporters of al Qaeda were re-tweeting with al Qaeda hashtags, Vocativ found. In one ISIS forum, a commenter addressing a post regarding al Mourabitoun and its affiliation wrote: “Are they related to AQ or ISIS?!?! I’m confused.”

Translation: This is the first time I’ve heard that al Qaeda has established a base in the Sahara…