Armed assailants seized the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Nov. 20, taking some 170 hostages and sparking a confrontation with security troops and US and French special forces in which at least 27 people are dead. A group calling itself al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility jointly with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Al-Mourabitoun is said to be the new outfit of Algerian Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar—who was twice reported killed, once in a Chadian military operation in Mali in 2013 and then earlir this year in a US air-strike in Libya. In a statement posted on Twitter on June 19, just after the Libyan air-strike, the group said he was "still alive and well and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies." (SMH, CNN, DNA)
There are several presumably unrelated factions that go by the name of al-Mourabitoun or Mourabitun around the world. One is the youth wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a civil organization led by Sheikh Raed Salah, "the sheikh of al-Aqsa." (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11) Another is the Murabitun Worldwide Movement, a Morocco-based sect led by Abd al-Qadir al-Sufi—said to be a former British anarchist who wrote under the name Ian Dallas in the 1960s. The Murabitun Worldwide Movement has over the past 15 years established a following among the Maya indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico. (World War 4 Report, June 2004)
All these groups take their name from the Moorish dynasty that controlled Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries (also known as the Almoravids). Tellingly, this original Murabitun was a harsh and proto-fundamentalist military order that took over Spain following the decline of the more tolerant and universalist Caliphate of Córdoba. It's an irony that Islamophobes have seized upon the period of Murabitun rule to try to tar the entire eight-century era of Islamic dominion in Spain—and now jihadists are similarly seizing on this period as apprently representative of their ideal. Another one to file under "paradoxical unity of opposites."