ICC Issues Arrest Warrant Against Mali’s ‘Desert Fox’

Iyad Ag Ghaly in northern Mali in 2012 (AFP)
Iyad Ag Ghaly in northern Mali in 2012 (AFP)
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ICC Issues Arrest Warrant Against Mali’s ‘Desert Fox’

Iyad Ag Ghaly in northern Mali in 2012 (AFP)
Iyad Ag Ghaly in northern Mali in 2012 (AFP)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said it issued an arrest warrant for the leader of Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Iyad Ag Ghaly, one of the Sahel’s top terrorist militant leaders and the most important leader of el-Qaeda in West Africa.
The arrest warrant against him was issued in 2017 under seal but made public only on Friday.
This means that the Court had first issued it when Ag Ghaly was named as JNIM's overall emir shortly following the organization’s formation in March 2017.
Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin is the largest alliance of terrorist movements in the Sahel region. It includes Ansar Eddine, the Sahara Emirate, an al-Qaeda affiliated group, the Macina Liberation Front and Al-Mourabitoun organization.
In a statement issued on Friday, the ICC said that the “Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court, at the request of the Prosecutor, made public an arrest warrant against Iyad Ag Ghaly.”
It added that the arrest warrant was initially issued under seal on 18 July 2017 and that Ghaly is not detained by the ICC.
The warrant was not made public when it was issued in 2017 because of the “potential risks to witnesses and victims.”
War Crimes
The Court said there are reasonable grounds to believe that Ag Ghaly would be the undisputed leader of Ansar Eddine, which had control of Timbuktu, Mali, between January 2012 and January 2013 when war crimes and crimes against humanity were allegedly committed in the Malian historic city.
The Court accuses Ag Ghaly of being responsible for the murder of soldiers placed hors de combat in Aguelhoc on 24 January 2012. It referred to the battle led by Ag Ghaly in January 2012 in the city of Aguelhok between Ansar Eddine and the Malian army, in which the latter suffered heavy casualties.
He is also accused of imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty; rape, sexual slavery and any other form of sexual violence.
The ICC noted that Ag Ghaly is suspected of having committed these crimes jointly with others and/or through others; ordering, soliciting or inducing their commission or aiding, abetting or otherwise assisting in the commission of these crimes; or in any other way contributing to the commission or these crimes; and/or as a military commander.
The Chamber ordered the Registrar of the Court to prepare a request for cooperation in the arrest and surrender of the suspect, and to address it to the competent authorities of any relevant State and any other relevant authority.
Mali’s Desert Fox
The ICC memo comes years after the disappearance of Ag Ghaly in the Sahel region of Africa.
Unofficial reports say the man is hiding in a rugged mountainous area on the border between Mali and Algeria, where his Tuareg ethnicity is deeply embedded.
The court's indictment focuses on the period when Iyad Ag Ghaly led the Ansar Eddine group, which he founded in 2011, and after he allied with el-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and took control of large parts of northern Mali in 2012.
But Ag Ghaly’s plan collapsed after the French Special Forces had touched down in Malian territory to prevent the collapse of the state of Mali, and to hunt down the man.
The Forces dealt a heavy blow to his group in 2013 and forced it to retreat towards the Ifoghas' Mountains in the far northeast of Mali.
In the 1980s, Ag Ghaly’s journey landed him in Libya where he received military training and joined the ranks of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Green Brigade which was composed mainly of Tuareg tribesmen.
Having excelled in training, he earned a place in the Libyan mission and was sent to fight against Tchad and also to South Lebanon to fight alongside Palestinians.
Ag Ghaly returned to northern Mali in the early 1990s to form a rebel militia which opposed the Malian central government based in Bamako.
In 2007, the man had a Salafist lifestyle. During this period, he established relations with militant extremist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and played a major mediating role to ultimately win the release of western hostages and earned huge sums of money.
Most Wanted Man
The International Criminal Court (ICC) published the arrest warrant on Friday against Iyad Ag Ghaly, however, the court does not have the capacity to apprehend suspects and relies on member states to carry out arrests.
For the past 10 years, the French had unsuccessfully tried to arrest the 76-year-old man in Mali.
Reports claim that Ag Ghaly was wounded in one of the French attempts to liquidate him.
Nicknamed “Desert Fox,” he is described as intelligent and highly experienced on desert trails.
Ag Ghaly was able to hide for years because of the support he enjoys from locals.
Since 2020, Ag Ghaly is fighting a war on two fronts: The man continues his attacks against the state and the Army in Mali where he expanded his circle of influence in the north and center. Also, he is fighting a bloody war against ISIS, the terrorist group that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Mali.



Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

The Middle East was reeling Sunday from deadly violence with Israel bombing Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen in quick succession in response to attacks from Iran-backed militant groups.
Despite Washington's top diplomat asserting a deal is near the "goal line" to end more than nine months of devastating war between Israel and Gaza rulers Hamas, the Israeli military said it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen, as it pressed on with its offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory, Agence France Presse reported.
Dozens have been killed since Saturday across the Gaza Strip, the civil defense agency said, including in strikes on homes in the central Nuseirat and Bureij areas and displaced people near southern Khan Yunis.
Residents said a major operation was underway in the district of Rafah in the south, reporting heavy artillery and clashes.
The deadly strikes in Gaza came hours after Hezbollah and its ally Hamas said they fired at Israeli positions from south Lebanon, while Yemen's Houthi group vowed to respond to Israeli warplanes hitting a key port.
The fire left raging by the strikes on Hodeida port "is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Detailing the first strikes claimed by Israel in Yemen, Gallant warned of further operations if the Houthis "dare to attack us" after a Houthi drone strike killed one in Tel Aviv on Friday.
In Hodeida three people were killed and 87 wounded, health officials said in a statement carried by Houthi media.
Netanyahu travels to Washington
The trio of militant groups has vowed to keep up attacks on Israel until a truce ends the violence in Gaza, which lies in ruins, with most residents forced to flee their homes.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel's military retaliation to wipe out Hamas has killed at least 38,919 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The war has also unleashed hunger and health crises in Gaza, with Israel and the United Nations trading blame for vital aid supplies failing to reach those in need.
After the detection of poliovirus in Gaza sewage, though no individual cases, the World Health Organization said there were "monumental" constraints to mounting a timely response.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday the agency believes many more diseases are "spreading out of control" inside Gaza.
The premier is due to address US lawmakers Wednesday in Washington, where he will be under pressure to reach a ceasefire with Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday a truce was within reach.
"I believe we're... driving toward the goal line in getting an agreement that would produce a ceasefire, get the hostages home, and put us on a better track to trying to build lasting peace and stability," he said.