Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Lands (Arabic: جماعة أنصار المسلمين في بلاد السودان Jamāʿatu Anṣāril Muslimīna fī Bilādis Sūdān), better known as Ansaru or Al Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel, is an Islamist jihadist militant organisation based in the northeast of Nigeria. It is a splinter group of the larger Boko Haram organisation, founded in January 2012, and reportedly has more of an international focus than the latter. As of 2013, the group stopped addressing itself as Al Qaeda in the lands beyond the Sahel, and changed its name to Ansaru.
In the group's first statement, released on the Internet in January 2012, its leader, Abu Usmatul al-Ansari (nom de guerre of Khalid al-Barnawi) described Boko Haram actions as "inhuman to the Muslim Ummah". Ansari also praised the Sokoto Caliphate and its founder, Usman dan Fodio. In March 2012,the group released a statement, naming itself Al Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel, claiming responsibility for the murder of a Italian tourist. In another Internet video released by the group in June 2012, al-Ansari claimed that the group would not kill innocent non-Muslims or security officials, except in "self defense" and that the group would defend the interests of Islam and Muslims not just in Nigeria but the whole of Africa. Unlike Boko Haram, which is based in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, Ansaru operates in and around Kano State in north-central Nigeria, the heartland of the Hausa-Fulani peoples.
The group reportedly coordinates its operations with the northern Mali-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. Ansaru is designated as a proscribed terrorist organization by New Zealand and the UK Home Office.
Several of Ansaru’s commanders were reported as returning to Boko Haram over 2013.
Attacks that Ansaru has claimed responsibility for include a prison break at the Special Anti-Robbery Squad headquarters in Abuja in November 2012, a January 2013 attack on a convoy of Nigerian troops on their way to participate in the conflict against Jihadist groups in Northern Mali and a 23 May 2013 attack on a French-owned uranium mine in Niger in cooperation with Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
The group has carried out a number of kidnappings in Nigeria, including the May 2011 abductions of a Briton and an Italian from Kebbi State, the December 2012 kidnapping of a French engineer, Francis Collomp, in Katsina State and the February 2013 kidnapping of seven foreigners from a construction site in Bauchi State. Collomp escaped in November 2013. Ansaru executed the hostages taken in both May 2011 and February 2013 following what it said were failed rescue attempts by the British and Nigerian governments.
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Kambar was killed in 2012, however, and Barnawi (also known as Abu Usama al Ansari) then assumed the number one position.
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