In Timbuktu, al-Qaida left behind a manifesto

Associated Press

TIMBUKTU, Mali     (AP) — In their hurry to flee last month, al-Qaida fighters left behind a crucial document: Tucked under a pile of papers and trash is a confidential letter, spelling out the terror network’s strategy for conquering northern Mali and reflecting internal discord over how to rule the region.

The document is an unprecedented window into the terrorist operation, indicating that al-Qaida predicted the military intervention that would dislodge it in January and recognized its own vulnerability.

The letter also shows a sharp division within al-Qaida’s Africa chapter over how quickly and how strictly to apply Islamic law, with its senior commander expressing dismay over the whipping of women and the destruction of Timbuktu’s ancient monuments. It moreover leaves no doubt that despite a temporary withdrawal into the desert, al-Qaida plans to operate in the region over the long haul, and is willing to make short-term concessions on ideology to gain the allies it acknowledges it needs.

Abdelmalek Droukdel

Abdelmalek Droukdel

The more than nine-page document, found by the AP in a building occupied by the Islamists for almost a year, is signed by Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the nom de guerre of Abdelmalek Droukdel, the senior commander appointed by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaida’s branch in Africa. The clear-headed, point-by-point assessment resembles a memo from a CEO to his top managers and lays out for his jihadists in Mali what they have done wrong in months past, and what they need to do to correct their behavior in the future.

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Mali Islamists Hit in Lightning Strikes by French

Map showing Mali's location in Africa (Source: CIA)

Map showing Mali’s location in Africa (Source: CIA)

Determined to win and win in a short time, French fighter planes began lightning strikes on Islamist strongholds in northern Mali Friday. Since then, the strikes have intensified, as have the amount of ground troops – now at 550 – that France has brought in for support.The French specifically stepped in as radical Islamists, who had taken over northern Mali last April, began a successful expansion campaign into the central region of the country, threatening to reach Bamako, the capital.

Seven other countries have joined the effort, including the U.S., who is providing communications support, and Britain, who is sending aircrafts to help transport troops from neighboring countries.

Since taking over the northern part of the country (an area greater than the size of France), the Al Qaeda-linked groups have imposed the most extreme form of Sharia (Islamic) law on the territory, amputating arms for those accused of thievery, public whippings of women for wearing perfume or makeup, flogging men for smoking cigarettes, and stoning to death individuals accused of adultery. Alcohol, music and watching sports on television have also been forbidden. The Islamists began their campaign in the region by smashing historic tombs and shrines located in Timbuktu.

See’s related report Mali Islamists Amputate Thief’s Hand. Threaten 60 More

Tens of thousands of Malians have fled the region, with those left behind having to deal with the horrors of everyday life under the Islamists.

“France’s goal is to lead a relentless struggle against terrorist groups,” the ministry said, “preventing any new offensive of these groups to the south of Mali,” said France’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Mali map (Source: CIA)

Mali map (Source: CIA)

The Islamists rapid expansion into central Mali prompted the French to take action to prevent Al Qaeda terrorists from establishing large terrorist bases from which to launch attacks in Europe and link to other Islamist groups in Somalia, Yemen and northern Africa.

France’s goal is also to provide support to Malian government forces, who are hoping to soon be joined by troops from other African nations to take back their country.

Read more a Radical Islam

Al-Qaida carves out own country in Mali

Women wearing veils, as mandated by Islamist group Ansar Dine, walk along a street in Timbuktu, Mali, on Oct. 18, 2012. (Associated Press)

Women wearing veils, as mandated by Islamist group Ansar Dine, walk along a street in Timbuktu, Mali, on Oct. 18, 2012. (Associated Press)

By Rukmini Callimachi – Associated Press

Mopti, Mali • Deep inside caves, in remote desert bases, in the escarpments and cliff faces of northern Mali, Islamic fighters are burrowing into the earth, erecting a formidable set of defenses to protect what has essentially become al-Qaida’s new country.

They have used the bulldozers, earth movers and Caterpillar machines left behind by fleeing construction crews to dig what residents and local officials describe as an elaborate network of tunnels, trenches, shafts and ramparts. In just one case, inside a cave large enough to drive trucks into, they have stored up to 100 drums of gasoline, guaranteeing their fuel supply in the face of a foreign intervention, according to experts.

Northern Mali is now the biggest territory held by al-Qaida and its allies. And as the world hesitates, delaying a military intervention, the extremists who seized control of the area earlier this year are preparing for a war they boast will be worse than the decade-old struggle in Afghanistan.

“Al-Qaida never owned Afghanistan,” said former United Nations diplomat Robert Fowler, a Canadian kidnapped and held for 130 days by al-Qaida’s local chapter, whose fighters now control the main cities in the north. “They do own northern Mali.”

Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Africa has been a shadowy presence for years in the forests and deserts of Mali, a country hobbled by poverty and a relentless cycle of hunger. In recent months, the terror syndicate and its allies have taken advantage of political instability within the country to push out of their hiding place and into the towns, taking over an enormous territory which they are using to stock arms, train forces and prepare for global jihad.

The catalyst for the Islamic fighters was a military coup nine months ago that transformed Mali from a once-stable nation to the failed state it is today. On March 21, disgruntled soldiers invaded the presidential palace. The fall of the nation’s democratically elected government at the hands of junior officers destroyed the military’s command-and-control structure, creating the vacuum which allowed a mix of rebel groups to move in.

With no clear instructions from their higher-ups, the humiliated soldiers left to defend those towns tore off their uniforms, piled into trucks and beat a retreat as far as Mopti, roughly in the center of Mali. They abandoned everything north of this town to the advancing rebels, handing them an area that stretches over more than 240,000 square miles. It’s a territory larger than Texas or France — and it’s almost exactly the size of Afghanistan.

Turbaned fighters now control all the major towns in the north, carrying out amputations in public squares like the Taliban did. Just as in Afghanistan, they are flogging women for not covering up. Since taking control of Timbuktu, they have destroyed seven of the 16 mausoleums listed as world heritage sites.

The area under their rule is mostly desert and sparsely populated, but analysts say that due to its size and the hostile nature of the terrain, rooting out the extremists here could prove even more difficult than it did in Afghanistan. Mali’s former president has acknowledged, diplomatic cables show, that the country cannot patrol a frontier twice the length of the border between the United States and Mexico.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, operates not just in Mali, but in a corridor along much of the northern Sahel. This 4,300-mile-long ribbon of land runs across the widest part of Africa, and includes sections of Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso and Chad.


“One could come up with a conceivable containment strategy for the Swat Valley,” said Africa expert Peter Pham, an adviser to the U.S. military’s African command center, referring to the region of Pakistan where the Pakistan Taliban have been based. “There’s no containment strategy for the Sahel, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.”

Earlier this year, the 15 nations in West Africa, including Mali, agreed on a proposal for the military to take back the north, and sought backing from the United Nations. Earlier this month, the Security Council authorized the intervention but imposed certain conditions, including training Mali’s military, which is accused of serious human rights abuses since the coup. Diplomats say the intervention will likely not happen before September of 2013.

In the meantime, the Islamists are getting ready, according to elected officials and residents in Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao, including a day laborer hired by al-Qaida’s local chapter to clear rocks and debris for one of their defenses. They spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety at the hands of the Islamists, who have previously accused those who speak to reporters of espionage.

The al-Qaida affiliate, which became part of the terror network in 2006, is one of three Islamist groups in northern Mali. The others are the Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, based in Gao, and Ansar Dine, based in Kidal. Analysts agree that there is considerable overlap between the groups, and that all three can be considered sympathizers, even extensions, of al-Qaida.

The Islamic fighters have stolen equipment from construction companies, including more than $11 million worth from a French company called SOGEA-SATOM, according to Elie Arama, who works with the European Development Fund. The company had been contracted to build a European Union-financed highway in the north between Timbuktu and the village of Goma Coura. An employee of SOGEA-SATOM in Bamako declined to comment.

Read more at Washington Times

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Islamists destroy Timbuktu heritage sites: Why are these targets?

A traditional mud structure stands in the Malian city of Timbuktu May 15, 2012. Al Qaeda-linked Mali Islamists began destroying prized mausoleums of saints in the UNESCO-listed northern city of Timbuktu on June 30, 2012 in front of shocked locals, witnesses said.
REUTERS/Adama Diarra

Ansar Dine, the Islamist militia that shares control of Mali’s north, is just the latest in long line of zealots of many faiths who destroyed the monuments of other faiths thought to be superstitious.

By Scott Baldauf at the Christian Science Monitor

When Islamist militants began this week to destroy ancient tombs of some of Mali’s most famous poets and Sufic teachers, they claimed that they were doing the work of God.

“We’re going to destroy everything before we apply Shariah in this city,” Ansar Dine spokesman Sanda Abu Mohamed told the Associated Press on Sunday in the ancient city of Timbuktu.

According to Ansar Dine – a relatively small militant group that shares control of much of northern Mali with other rebel groups and shares the theological outlook of Al Qaeda – the tombs had to be destroyed because “the population loves the saints like God.”

Today’s Ansar Dine, of course, is just the latest in a long line of religious dogmatists who came to town and destroyed stuff in the name of God.

In 1192 AD, the Turkic commander Qutbuddin Aynak destroyed a number of Hindu temples near present day New Delhi to provide building stone for his self-named Qutb Minar. To this day, Hindu nationalists point to this act as an example of Islam’s intolerance of other faiths. Yet some scholars, notably Buddhists, contend that Hindus had done similar work with the defunct temples of their Buddhist rivals.

Roman historians documented how Christian rulers ordered the destruction of pagan temples, and reportedly, the Library of Alexandria itself in 391 AD. During the Spanish Reconquista, Roman Catholic rulers razed many Islamic prayer halls, although, to their credit, they did leave many magnificent Moorish structures, such as the university at Alhambra, standing.

More recently, of course, the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar ordered the destruction of the Buddhist statues in the Afghan central province of Bamiyan in March 2001. “All we are breaking are stones,” the Taliban leader told reporters in Kandahar at the time, adding, “my job is the implementation of Islamic order.”

Each of these perpetrators of destruction, though belonging to different faiths, saw themselves as defenders of their faith, reformers of society, and enemies of superstition. While some of these so-called reformers may have halted the religious practice of others – as Ansar Dine has halted the reverence of Sufi teachers and saints in Timbuktu this week – in other cases, the destruction of religious monuments is largely a symbolic and political act. There were no local adherents of Buddhism in Bamiyan, when the Taliban artillery pieces used Buddha’s stone face for target practice. But their action had political power: It signaled to the world, and to the Islamic faithful, that the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan was total. There might be rivals, such as the Northern Alliance of Ahmed Shah Masood, tucked away up in the Panjshir Valley, but there was very little they could do to stop the Taliban from doing what it wanted to do.

Mali’s government, which lost control of northern Mali after its own Army launched a coup in March to topple the civilian government, has condemned the Ansar Dine destruction of shrines as a “war crime.” But with Mali’s politicians primarily focused on finding their place in the current political structure, and with Mali’s Army focused primarily on maintaining its own tenuous control of the political process, there is precious little they can do to stop the Ansar Dine from doing what they want to do up in Timbuktu.

Now, the question will be what will Ansar Dine do with all those private libraries and ancient books from the days when Timbuktu was a famous center of Islamic learning.? Will they revere these books as examples of Islam’s proud history? Or will they see all of those books as threats to the pure true faith taught by the prophet Muhammad in the Quran.

If they do the latter, then we can expect Malians to start smuggling out ancient manuscripts from Timbuktu, just as Afghans smuggled out ancient Buddhist artifacts from Afghanistan during Taliban rule.

Islam’s Cultural Revolution

By Giulio Meotti at Front Page:

Mao’s Cultural Revolution was one of the darkest chapters of the 20th Century: communist zealots, known as “the Red Guards,” attached revolutionary messages to Buddhist statues; seventeen professors from the Shanghai Music Conservatory committed suicide; intellectuals were harassed in public trials during which they had to confess their “sins,” kneeling on makeshift rostrums; thousands of churches, temples and monasteries were demolished; ancient libraries went up in smoke; imperial ceramics were smashed and religious relics melted down. Millions of people were killed.

A new Cultural Revolution is now taking place in the Middle East, where Islam’s Red Guards are obliterating the non-Muslim heritage. If Mao’s Guards took inspiration from the “red book,” Islamic zealots have the Koran. Their targets are Jewish shrines, Christian churches, ancient monuments and  cultural masterpieces.

A few days ago in Timbuktu, Mali, Islamists destroyed the tomb of a Sufi saint, Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar. Timbuktu is known as “the city of the 333 saints”, classified as Unesco World Heritage Sites. Sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam, but extremists believe Sufi shrines are “sacrilegious.” The UN cultural body didn’t raise its voice against this Islamic iconoclasm.

A few weeks before, Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, issued a religious fatwa, saying it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.” The most important Muslim cleric in the land that gave birth to Islam called for the destruction of churches without his rule attracting any global condemnation.

While in Libya Jews have been throw out again after trying to restore Tripoli’s ancient synagogue, Egyptians are planning to block Israelis from making the pilgrimages to the tomb of a Jewish saint, Yaakov Abuhatzeira.

An Islamic mob destroyed the Institute of Egypt in Cairo, founded by Napoleon and containing 192,000 books and documents from as far back as the XIX century. Now, it’s gone. Napoleon’s legendary “Description de l’Egypte” is also lost (in 1822 Jean-François Champollion used this document to unveil the mistery of the hierogliphycs). Unesco, again, stood silent. As it stood silent when Egypt’s former cultural minister, Farouk Hosni, said he “would burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries”.

Like in Mao’s China, Islamic salafists are trying to ban ancient statues that dot Egypt and suggested that the pagan treasures “could be covered with wax”. The sirens that embellish the fountain of Zeus in Alexandria have already been deemed “inappropriate” by the Salafist party, which decided to “veil” them completely with a sheet. Salafi leaders are also terrifying liberal intellectuals by calling for banning the novels written by Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab Nobel Prize laureate for Literature who has been called “Egypt’s Balzac”, because his works “encourage drinking alcohol and using drugs”. Mahfouz’s novel “Awlad Haretna” is labelled as “atheistic”. Islamists also want to ban the greatest masterpiece of oriental literature, “One thousand and one arabian nights”, because it’s “depravity” and “offensive to the public good”.

In Israel, Palestinian Muslims are erasing any Jewishh trace on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most holy site. In 2005 thousands of Arabs torched the synagogues in Gaza’s Katif Bloc. It was an orgy of hate, like that of the Red Guards. Twelve years ago, Arabs destroyed Joseph’s tomb, Judaism’s fourth holy site, smashing the stone structure and ripping it apart, brick by brick, as the Red Guards did with Tao’s temples. The arson attack on the Shalom al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho and the continuing gunfire at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are two other examples that come to mind in the Israelo-Palestinian conflict.

Islam’s cultural revolution began when the Taliban destroyed the two wonderful Buddhas in Bamyan, Afghanistan. It was a turning point for a proto-Nazi ideology bent on the physical eradication of its enemies and their religious symbols. If Mao’s Red Guards destroyed the imperial Chinese heritage, Islam’s Red Guards want to cancel any non-Muslim trace in the Middle East. It’s a Koranic Inquisition.