When a French led offensive liberated the major towns and cities of northern Mali recently, they captured a large quantity of al Qaeda documents, which provided insight into what the al Qaeda leadership was planning to do with northern Mali. In short, the al Qaeda plan was to quietly create an Islamic state in northern Mali and do whatever possible to keep it going as long as possible. To that end the terrorist leadership advised their followers to treat the people well and not give the foreign media a lot to complain about. The plan did not work because too many of their followers were undisciplined and, it turned out, some were quite vicious. The French were shocked to discover how brutal the brief occupation had been. There was a lot more going on than what made the headlines (like destroying Islamic holy places al Qaeda deemed not holy enough). The Islamic terrorists were particularly brutal towards black African women. This should not be surprising because the lighter skinned Tuareg, Arabs, and Berbers have long considered the black Africans as inferior. Even after many black Africans converted to Islam, the common religion did not lead to much more respect. In northern Mali that led to rape and slavery by the holy warriors during their eight month occupation.
Although the al Qaeda leadership tried to handle protests by the locals with tact and not much force, too many Islamic radicals were inclined to brutality. These young guys had been inspired by calls to become Holy Warriors. Since they were on a Mission From God, there was a tendency to justify the most brutal tactics as God’s Will. This not only angered the locals but also caused a split with the Tuareg tribal rebels who had invited al Qaeda in to assist in conquering northern Mali. Tuareg rebels had been trying to do this for decades and failed against the more numerous black African troops from the south. Some 90 percent of Malians live in the south, where there is much more water than in the largely desert north.
Some of the Tuareg rebels that had been defeated in the 1990s reorganized as Islamic radicals. This attracted al Qaeda, who proved to be more fanatic and brutal than the Tuareg Islamic radicals. The majority of Tuareg rebels were not Islamic radicals and they split with the Islamic rebels a few months after northern Mail was conquered in early 2012. The Tuareg are now cooperating with the French to drive al Qaeda out of the region.
It’s a common pattern for al Qaeda to anger the people they are trying to liberate. This has happened time and again in the last two decades in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda leaders have recognized this for nearly a decade now but have proven unable to control the fanatical warriors they have created. This has long been a problem with Islamic radicalism, and the inability to control these fanatics has regularly led to the downfall of Islamic radical movements for over a thousand years.
The captured documents also reminded everyone that al Qaeda, and any other terrorist organization, runs on money. The North African al Qaeda has been so active because over the last few years they have taken in over a hundred million dollars from kidnapping Europeans found in the area and providing security for drug shipments to the Mediterranean coast (where it is taken to Europe). The mass media tends to miss how important this income is for the terrorists, but the captured documents made it clear that the money is power if you are an Islamic radical.
While there is public pressure in Europe to pay ransoms, the governments have generally agreed that they should not because they now recognize that the money supports Islamic terrorism and encourages more kidnappings. The African governments oppose paying big ransoms as well because the terrorists do most of their damage locally. To make matters worse, there are multiple Islamic terrorist groups competing to see who can raise the most cash from European captives. Too often, the European nations pay, because of the intense political and media pressure to "do something" to rescue the widely publicized captives. This is nothing new in Europe, especially the south, where there have often been informal deals with Islamic terrorists to provide sanctuary or lenient prosecution and early release in return for immunity from terrorist attacks.