The Department of State has designated Iyad ag Ghali as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. As a result of the designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Ghali has any interest is blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with him or to his benefit.
Ghali is also listed by the United Nations 1267/1989 al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee. The UN listing requires all member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against Ghali. The UN action demonstrates international resolve in eliminating Ghali’s violent activities in Mali and the surrounding region.
Iyad ag Ghali is the leader of Ansar al-Dine (AAD), an organization operating in Mali which cooperates closely with al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Ghali created AAD in late 2011 because his effort to take over a secular Tuareg organization failed due to his extremist views.
Ghali has received backing from AQIM in AAD’s fight against Malian and French forces, most notably in the capture of the Malian towns of Agulhok, Tessalit, Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu, between January and April 2012. Before the French intervention in January 2013, Malian citizens in towns that had been under AAD’s control who did not comply with AAD’s laws had faced harassment, torture, or execution.
Before creating AAD, Ghali directed a 1990 rebellion against the Malian government by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MPLA). In 1991, he became the secretary general of an MPLA splinter group before becoming the Tuareg community’s leading negotiator with the Malian President’s office after the 1992 peace accords. In 1999 and 2003, he served as an intermediary in the release of western hostages held by the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (a precursor organization to AQIM). In 2006, Ghali took command of the rebel fighters responsible for attacks on military bases in Kidal, Mali.