In Timbuktu, al-Qaeda left behind a manifesto spelling out strategy for conquering northern Mali
According to his own online biography, Droukdel was born 44 years ago into a religious family in the Algerian locality of Zayan. He says he enrolled into the technology department of a local university before turning to jihad, and his first job was making explosives for Algerian mujahedeen. In 2006, the group to which he belonged, known as the GSPC, became an arm of al-Qaeda, after negotiations with Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's lieutenant.
As Droukdel rose through the ranks, he came into direct contact with bin Laden, Guidere said.
In the document found in Timbuktu, he cites a letter he received from bin Laden about the al-Hudaybiyah deal, a treaty signed circa 628 by the Prophet Muhammad and the Quraish tribe of Mecca, an agreement with non-Muslims that paved the way for Muslims to return to Mecca.
"The smart Muslim leader would do these kinds of concessions in order to achieve the word of God eventually and to support the religion,'' he says.
Perhaps the biggest concession Droukdel urges is for his fighters to slow down in implementing Shariah.
When the Islamic extremists took over northern Mali 10 months ago, they restored order in a time of chaos, much as the Taliban did in Afghanistan, and even created a hotline number for people to report crimes. But whatever goodwill they had built up evaporated when they started to destroy the city's historic monuments, whip women for not covering up and amputate the limbs of suspected thieves.
"One of the wrong policies that we think you carried out is the extreme speed with which you applied Shariah, not taking into consideration the gradual evolution that should be applied in an environment that is ignorant of religion,'' Droukdel writes. "Our previous experience proved that applying Shariah this way, without taking the environment into consideration, will lead to people rejecting the religion, and engender hatred toward the mujahedeen, and will consequently lead to the failure of our experiment.''
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