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Al-Qaida Strategy in North Africa Revealed in Document Found in Mali

After Islamist rebels were driven back into the mountains of northern Mali by combined French and African forces, a fascinating trove of documents the rebels left behind paint a picture of the rigid Islamist court they instituted to oversee the lives of Malians. One recovered letter  from an Islamist leader scolds the rebels for the haste and lack of grace in which they tried to push Sharia law on Malians.

While Mali was under the influence of al-Qaida and its local ally, Ansar Dine, from April 2012 to January 2013, the leaders tried to establish a theocracy in places like Timbuktu in the north. Among the hundreds of documents found in the hastily abandoned offices of the Islamic police and the Sharia court are rulings and decisions that illustrate how extremely restrictive the laws were — and how much women are treated as second-class citizens.

One document found by The Associated Press at the ministry of finance’s regional audit department in Timbuktu was signed by Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, also known as Abdelmalek Droukdel, a senior commander of the insurrection in Mali. In language that times sounds critical and condemning, Droukdel scolds the locals for the manner in which they tried to impose Sharia law.

“One of the wrong policies that we think you carried out is the extreme speed with which you applied Sharia, not taking into consideration the gradual evolution that should be applied in an environment that is ignorant of religion,” he wrote. “Our previous experience proved that applying Sharia this way, without taking the environment into consideration, will lead to people rejecting the religion, and engender hatred toward the mujahideen, and will consequently lead to the failure of our experiment.”

Droukdel criticized the rebels for destroying the World Heritage-listed shrines in Timbuktu, and says he disapproves of their religious punishment for adulterers, which is stoning to death.

“And the fact that you prevented women from going out, and prevented children from playing, and searched the houses of the population,” he wrote. “Your officials need to control themselves.”

In the court sessions chronicled in the documents, a man who the court found guilty of rape was sentenced to “100 lashes because he is not married but single, and banishment for one year (that will take place in prison). The girl is not to be punished as she was forced.”

Another man is sentenced to 40 lashes and fined the equivalent of $100 because he admitted to drinking wine and selling it in his shop, which the Islamic police would temporarily close down.

A woman in another case was sentenced to 60 lashes for “mixing with men and the usage of foul words.”

In a marriage case, where a husband wanted to have sex with his wife, the court ruled that the woman had to submit to him.

In nearly every case, the court ruled in favor of the man, in accordance with the Islamist radicals’ view of women as second-class citizens.

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