Nouakchott — As part of a struggle to improve his name since losing his al-Qaeda command, terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar just released a "greatest hits" video of his freelance work in Mali, Algeria and Niger.
The video sent Sunday (September 1st) to Mauritanian daily ANI shows members of Belmokhtar's "Signed in Blood Brigade" and El Moulethemoune katibat ("Brigade of the Veiled Ones") training for Sahel operations.
The 51-minute video marks the first time that Belmokhtar (aka Khaled Abou El Abbès, or "Laaouar") has been seen since the president of Chad reported him as killed in northern Mali.
On the new video, Belmokhtar is shown giving instructions for the twin suicide car bombings at a military camp in Agadez and a uranium mine in Arlit. The Niger attacks killed at least 20 people.
The MUJAO and al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam - Laaouar's group - claimed responsibility for the Niger violence, saying the actions were to avenge the February killing of Al-Qaeda brigade commander terrorist Abdelhamid Abou Zeid by international forces in Mali.
Laaouar appears on the tape training fighters for the Niger attacks, dubbed "Sheikh Abdelhamid Abou Zeid's conquest". The video includes photos of Abou Zeid with Belmokhtar, to emphasise their accord.
Going at it alone has not proven successful for the one-eyed terrorist.
The ousted al-Qaeda brigade leader last month joined forces with Mali-based terror group Movement of Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) to create the "Mourabitounes". He publicized the merger by including clips of his fighters as well as those of the MUJAO.
The video shows training and preparations for the 2013 siege at Algeria's In Amenas gas plant, which left dozens of civilian hostages dead. The January attack was a joint operation by the MUJAO and Laaouar's katibat.
The tape also features clips of the terrorists in action in northern Mali last year. Laaouar's "Brigade of the Veiled Ones" and their MUJAO allies are seen engaged in bloody clashes in Gao against the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
For many observers, however, Belmokhtar's video was a failure.
"This latest media production is an attempt by this group to show that it still has the strength and the gear to continue the fight in the Sahel," filmmaker Zine El Abidine Ould Bukhari told Magharebia.
"It is nothing more than a propaganda movie," he added. "This display of military equipment and mental readiness of terrorist elements did not bear fruit in the real field of confrontation, which means that it is mainly promotional material and nothing more."
Furthermore, young people are becoming more aware about terror recruiting efforts, so multimedia and propaganda tapes "no longer have the same magnitude of influence on them,", he said.
According to Sahara Media Editor Bashir Ould Babana, Belmokhtar was weakened and his forces divided.
"Therefore Laaouar is seeking to reunite the remaining pieces and trying to rebuild an organisation through publicity campaigns and buying weapons," Babana said.
To that end, the terrorist is now in Libya, Mosaique FM reported on Friday.
"Laaouar, who has a network of positive relations with some of the leaders of terrorist organisations in Libya, was accompanied on his trip by Iyad Ag Ghaly, leader of Ansar al-Din," the Tunisian radio station reported.
Laaouar is in Libya looking for weapons, unnamed security sources reportedly told the radio station, in order to conduct terrorist attacks in Tunisia and Algeria.