Ansar Dine (Arabic: أنصار الدين Anṣār ad-Dīn, also transliterated Ançar Deen; meaning "helpers of the (Islamic) religion" or "defenders of the faith") also known as Ansar al-Din (abbreviated as AAD) is a militant Islamist group led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, one of the most prominent leaders of the Tuareg Rebellion (1990–1995) who is suspected of having ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is led by his cousin Hamada Ag Hama.
Ansar Dine seeks to impose strict Sharia law across Mali, including the Azawad region. Witnesses have said that Ansar Dine fighters wear long beards and fly black flags with the Shahada (Islamic creed) inscribed in white. According to different reports, unlike the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Ansar Dine does not seek independence but rather to keep Mali intact and convert it into a rigid theocracy.
Ansar Dine has its main base among the Ifora tribe from the southern part of the Tuaregs' homeland. The group's members are reported to be from Mali, Algeria, and Nigeria. Omar Ould Hamaha, who served as Ansar Dine's spokesman after April 2012, became the military leader of the AQIM-affiliated Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) in August 2012.
On 24 January 2013, a faction calling itself the Islamic Movement for the Azawad split from Ansar Dine. As of January 2013, this group was led by prominent Tuareg leader Alghabass Ag Intalla.
In March 2013 it was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State, and similarly classed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council.
In Mopti, the Ansar Dine fighters obtained access to heavy construction equipment from fleeing construction workers and used them to build fighting positions. The fighting positions include an elaborate tunnel network and vehicular obstacles such as trenches.
Ansar Dine has reportedly put together at least one convoy of 100 vehicles carrying soldiers equipped with small arms. There have also been rumors that fighters may have been able to obtain weapons from Libya's weapons depots after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The Ansar Dine arsenal also includes anti aircraft weapons which can be mounted on pickup trucks.