Al-Qaeda ‘moderates’ seek breakaway state in Mali

Radio France International (RFI) and French newspaper Libération claim that their reporters discovered, in the ransacked offices of the ORTM national TV station in Timbuktu, a document in which AQIM commander Abdel Malek Droukdel outlines his strategy for Mali. The news website Algérie 1 also publishes excerpts from the 79-page hand-written document dated July 20, 2012, entitled "Roadmap Relating to Islamic Jihad in Azawad." The document is portrayed as revealing a moderated vision of an Islamic state that could win the support of the Tuaregs while hiding the actual role of AQIM.

In an admonishment to MUJAO and Ansar Dine commanders, Droukdel condemns the destruction of Sufi srhines and the stonings carried out by his fellow jihadists. "You have made a serious mistake," he writes. "The population could turn against us, and we cannot fight against a whole people. You are in danger of destroying our experiment, of killing off our baby, our beautiful tree."

"We must avoid general solutions, which do not take the local environment into account," Droukdel supposedly wrote. "Sharia law allows lashings of the whip as a punishment for adulterers, but first of all we must get people used to the idea and educate them in Islam, only then can we envisage using such punishments." He calls for Ansar Dine commander Iyad Ag Ghali to lead a transition government and draw up a constitution for the Islamic State of Azawad.

Droukdel laments the split with the MNLA, the secular Tuareg separatist army, which was briefly allied with the Islamists last year before being usurped by them as the power in northern Mali. "What more can we ask of them? We can't ask MNLA members to become Salafists and join the ranks of Ansar Dine overnight."

"Alliances are essential," the document states, according to a perhaps stilted translation from Algérie 1 provided by al-Arabiya News. "This gives us three advantages. If we are attacked, we will not be alone. Also, the international community does not focus its pressure solely on us, but also on our allies. Finally, we will not only take responsibility for any failure."