In Timbuktu, al-Qaeda left behind a manifesto spelling out strategy for conquering northern Mali

Al Qaida

"The current baby is in its first days, crawling on its knees, and has not yet stood on its two legs,'' he writes. "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 scolds his fighters for being too forceful and warns that if they don't ease off, their entire project could be thrown into jeopardy: "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.''

The letter is divided into six chapters, three of which the AP recovered, along with loose pages, on the floor of the Ministry of Finance's Regional Audit Department. Residents say the building, one of several the Islamic extremists took over in this ancient city of sundried, mud-brick homes, was particularly well-guarded with two checkpoints, and a zigzag of barriers at the entrance.

Droukdel's letter is one of only a few internal documents between commanders of al-Qaeda's African wing that have been found, and possibly the first to be made public, according to University of Toulouse Islamic scholar Mathieu Guidere. It is numbered 33/234, a system reserved for al-Qaida's internal communications, said Guidere, who helps oversee a database of documents generated by extremists, including Droukdel.

"This is a document between the Islamists that has never been put before the public eye,'' said Guidere, who authenticated the letter after being sent a two-page sample. "It confirms something very important, which is the divisions about the strategic conception of the organization. There was a debate on how to establish an Islamic state in North Mali and how to apply Shariah.''

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