The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad is a political and military organisation within Azawad — a region in northern Mali. The movement is predominantly composed of ethnic Tuareg fighters who are rumoured to have fought in the Libyan army during the 2011 Libyan Civil War. The movement was founded in October 2011 (while some experts argue it was founded in 2010) and its initial manifesto stated that it included fighters from the entirety of the Sahara as it fought on behalf of “one of the many oppressed populations of the Sahara”.
The MNLA is allegedly directly linked to and supported by Al-Qaeda (according to Malian and French intelligence), although the movement itself denies these claims. The group fought extensively in early 2012 and was essentially in control of all of northern Mali along with another radical Islamist insurgency, Ansar Dine. The group proclaims itself as a secular movement. Moreover, the Tuareg fighters within the MNLA have been considered former allies of Muammar Gaddafi.
In fact, the close links between the MNLA and Muammar Gaddafi find their roots in Libya’s direct support for the group. Under both its Jamahiriya state and modern state forms, Libya has continuously offered its direct support to the movement. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine remain alleged allies despite evident clashes between all three parties since 2012. The main opponents of the MNLA remain Mali and Algeria, although French troops have been leading the suppression of the group. Their recent withdrawal from Mali, nonetheless, has severely empowered the movement and simultaneously weakened the integrity of the Malian fight against insurgents. The Malian military has since turned to Russia’s Wagner Group for support.
NOTE: This article will be updated soon.