An al-Qaeda document listing 22 ways for avoiding drones has been found inside a manila envelope in a building in Mali.
The associated press found the document in Timbuktu after Islamists fled from a French military assault. The document reveals that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghbreb saw that drones would eventually be used against them, and also reveals that information has been passed from al-Qaeda elements in one area of the world to another somewhere else.
Bruce Riedel, the director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institute, said, “This new document… shows we are no longer dealing with an isolated local problem, but with an enemy which is reaching across continents to share advice.” Col Cedric Leighton, who helped in the effort to find Osama Bin Laden by creating the Predator drone program, said, “These are not dumb techniques. It shows that they are acting pretty astutely. What it does is, it buys them a little bit more time – and in this conflict, time is key. And they will use it to move away from an area, from a bombing raid, and do it very quickly.”
Among the techniques outlined was the idea of stretching a mat over a car, which would deceive a drone into thinking the mat was lying on the ground, as well as deceiving heat sensors by keeping a car it covered overnight the same temperature as the ground.
The author of the document is Abdallah bin Muhammad, the pseudonym for a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. After the U.S. killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in September 2011 and al-Qaeda second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan in June 2012, the document was printed three times in Arabic on various jihadist sites. The latest publication of it was only two weeks ago.
Osama Bin Laden wrote some of the guidelines, including the admonition to hide under trees: “I want the brothers in the Islamic Maghreb to know that planting trees helps the mujahedeen and gives them cover. Trees will give the mujahedeen the freedom to move around especially if the enemy sends spying aircrafts to the area.”
The al-Qaeda fighters did just that in Mali, fleeing to houses with large mango trees where they could hide their vehicles under the trees’ leaves. Another technique was to cover their cars in mud.