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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/15/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Letter was found on the floor of former rebel headquarters in Timbuktu.

The Associated Press has found a secret letter from Al Qaeda's commander-in-chief in Africa to Islamic fighters in Mali. The letter details the group's long-term strategy for carving out an Islamic state in northern Africa, as well as pointing out mistakes and how to improve.

A softer approach is being suggested for Al Qaeda operatives in Mali.

A softer approach is being suggested for Al Qaeda operatives in Mali.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

2/15/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Africa

Keywords: Al Qaeda, Mali, terrorists, letter, strategy, Africa

TIMBUKTU, MALI (Catholic Online) - The secret document was discovered by an AP reporter combing through papers left behind at the groups former headquarters in Timbuktu. The letter is incomplete and part of a larger document, but the nine recovered pages provide a treasure trove of information about the group.

The letter is signed by Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, which is the pen name of Abdelmalek Droukdel, the commander appointed by Osama bin Laden to supervise Al Qaeda operations in Africa.

Perhaps the most shocking admission found in the letter is that the organization needs to compromise on their strict Sharia standards to gain acceptance and victory. 

Droukdel compares the movement to a baby, saying that they must be more gentle with the people they conquer, much like a parent with an infant.

"The current baby is in its first days, crawling on its knees, and has not yet stood on its two legs. If we really want it to stand on its own two feet in this world full of enemies waiting to pounce, we must ease its burden, take it by the hand, help it and support it until its stands," he wrote.

He chided the fighters by adding, "Every mistake in this important stage of the life of the baby will be a heavy burden on his shoulders. The larger the mistake, the heavier the burden on his back, and we could end up suffocating him suddenly and causing his death."

What Droukdel was criticizing was the swift imposition of Sharia law on the populace. Following the Islamic occupation of northern Mali and Timbuktu in particular, stories quickly emerged about stoning and  beatings for those who infracted Sharia rules.

The letter suggests fighters should take a softer approach, at least at first. The letter also indicates that Al Qaeda is willing to accept some temporary setbacks and losses in order to preserve forces for future success.

Perhaps that is the most alarming bit of information extracted from the letter. Al Qaeda clearly plans to fight a very long-term conflict, grounded in ideology. Such conflicts can last for decades, or even generations.

The war on terror and the effort to dismantle Al Qaeda will not be easily won anytime soon. Any commitment to fighting Al Qaeda is likely going to be a lifelong commitment filled with difficult struggles and sacrifice.

Still, the letter also acknowledges that Al Qaeda is vulnerable to organized military intervention. In the face of sophisticated and disciplined military force, the organization is at a distinct disadvantage. However, the fact they recognize this is part of the reason Al Qaeda will be around for a very long time to come.


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