1. Last year, Rukmini Callimachi found thousands of al-Qaida documents in Timbuktu in northern Mali when she was the West Africa bureau chief for the Associated Press.
Al-Qaida left behind the pages just after a French-led military intervention drove the jihadi fighters out of the area, where they had imposed a harsh version of Islamic law. The documents include directives and letters from al-Qaida commanders.
In the interview, Callimachi tells Terry Gross about al-Qaida’s highly detailed record-keeping:

"When I came back with these receipts, and we started translating them, these thousands and thousands of receipts for things like onions and a kilo of tomatoes and a receipt for a 60-cent piece of cake that somebody ate — it made us laugh. And I guess it made us laugh because we assumed that terrorists are these bad guys with guns — and violent, et cetera — and we have assumed that’s divorced from these bureaucratic procedures that we see at play here.
In fact, people that have covered al-Qaida and studied the group longer than me, say they’ve found the exact same thing in Afghanistan. It’s partly the DNA of Osama bin Laden, who started out life as a businessman. He was the son of a very wealthy entrepreneur, and he started out as a young man trying to run his own companies. … Even when he ran his own companies, he was obsessed with bureaucracy. People that worked for him in Sidon [in Lebanon] remember having to turn in triplicate receipts with carbon copies for things like replacing bicycle tires or car tires.”


Photo: A road sign written by Islamist rebels is seen at the entrance into Timbuktu January 31, 2013. File photo Image by: BENOIT TESSIER / REUTERS
Sign says, “Timbuktu is founded on Islam and will be judged by Islamic Laws (Charia)” View in High-Res

    Last year, Rukmini Callimachi found thousands of al-Qaida documents in Timbuktu in northern Mali when she was the West Africa bureau chief for the Associated Press.

    Al-Qaida left behind the pages just after a French-led military intervention drove the jihadi fighters out of the area, where they had imposed a harsh version of Islamic law. The documents include directives and letters from al-Qaida commanders.

    In the interview, Callimachi tells Terry Gross about al-Qaida’s highly detailed record-keeping:

    "When I came back with these receipts, and we started translating them, these thousands and thousands of receipts for things like onions and a kilo of tomatoes and a receipt for a 60-cent piece of cake that somebody ate — it made us laugh. And I guess it made us laugh because we assumed that terrorists are these bad guys with guns — and violent, et cetera — and we have assumed that’s divorced from these bureaucratic procedures that we see at play here.

    In fact, people that have covered al-Qaida and studied the group longer than me, say they’ve found the exact same thing in Afghanistan. It’s partly the DNA of Osama bin Laden, who started out life as a businessman. He was the son of a very wealthy entrepreneur, and he started out as a young man trying to run his own companies. … Even when he ran his own companies, he was obsessed with bureaucracy. People that worked for him in Sidon [in Lebanon] remember having to turn in triplicate receipts with carbon copies for things like replacing bicycle tires or car tires.”

    Photo: A road sign written by Islamist rebels is seen at the entrance into Timbuktu January 31, 2013. File photo
    Image by: BENOIT TESSIER / REUTERS

    Sign says, “Timbuktu is founded on Islam and will be judged by Islamic Laws (Charia)”

  2. al-qaida

    terrorism

    mali

    timbuktu

    rukmini callimachi

    interview

    fresh air

  1. Fresh Air music reviewer Milo Miles did a piece on the 2012 soundtrack to the Festival au Desert, the world music festival that usually takes place near Timbuktu in Mali.

    The violence and unrest in Mali (due to Islamic radicals in the northern part of the country) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and, inevitably, the cancellation of this year’s lineup.  So now, instead, some of the artists are performing at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors, a long way from West Africa, performing as refugees.  Singer guitarist Mamadou Kelly referred to the nomadic show as "a ‘caravan for peace’ and a ‘festival in exile.’"

    The video above is Toureg rock band Tinariwen singing one of their most popular songs, “Amassakoul.”

  2. fresh air

    reviews

    milo miles

    festival au desert

    mali

    tinariwen

    toureg

    music festival

  1. Milo Miles on the new album Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu:

Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like and have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.

Image of the Festival au Desert via the Imaginative Traveller View in High-Res

    Milo Miles on the new album Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu:

    Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like and have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.

    Image of the Festival au Desert via the Imaginative Traveller

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Milo Miles

    Festival Au Desert

    Music

    Mali

    Timbuktu

  1. Islamist insurgents retreating from the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu have set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts, some dating back to the 13th century, in what the town’s mayor described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage.

    Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings where the manuscripts were being kept. They also burned down the town hall and governor’s office, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.

    French troops and the Malian army reached the gates of Timbuktu on Saturday and secured the town’s airport. But they appear to have got there too late to save the leather-bound manuscripts, which were a unique record of sub-Saharan Africa’s medieval history.

    "It’s true. They have burned them," Ciffe said, in a phone interview from Mali’s capital, Bamako.

    — 

    "Mali Rebels Fleeing Timbuktu Burn Library Full of Ancient Manuscripts," by Luke Harding in The Guardian.

    Listen to our interview with Adam Nossiter of the New York Times about the situation in Mali.

  2. Mali

    Fresh Air

    Interviews

    Adam Nossiter

  1. France carried out new airstrikes overnight against Islamist fighters in central Mali, as Paris pledged on Tuesday to commit more troops to a potentially protracted campaign against extremists pressing south from a jihadist state they have forged in the desert north of the country.

    — 

    The New York Times, “French Pledge More Troops for Mali As Air Strikes Continue” by Steven Erlanger, Alan Cowell and Adam Nossiter.

    Our interview about the situation in Mali with Adam Nossiter from a couple weeks ago.

  2. Fresh Air

    Adam Nossiter

    Mali

    New York Times

    Interviews

  1. Adam Nossiter on some of the steps Al Qaeda in Mali has taken to repress culture:








The Al Qaeda group, especially in Timbuktu … has set about the systematic destruction of the above-ground mausoleums, some of them centuries-old, that the local people … venerate because they contain the remains of people considered saints in the Sufi religion. And so they’ve systematically taken pickaxes and hammers to these monuments and leveled them, and this has been very, very shocking for the people in Timbuktu. They’ve expressed their horror to me over the phone shortly after having witnessed this. They’ve also banned any kind of music — and, of course, Mali has a very rich musical culture — but even so far as banning musical ring tones on cell phones. If they catch you with a cell phone that plays a tune, they’ll confiscate it and they’ll punish you. The only thing you can have on your cell phone is a verse from The Koran.








Image of Timbuktu by Emilio Labrador via Flickr Commons

    Adam Nossiter on some of the steps Al Qaeda in Mali has taken to repress culture:

    The Al Qaeda group, especially in Timbuktu … has set about the systematic destruction of the above-ground mausoleums, some of them centuries-old, that the local people … venerate because they contain the remains of people considered saints in the Sufi religion. And so they’ve systematically taken pickaxes and hammers to these monuments and leveled them, and this has been very, very shocking for the people in Timbuktu. They’ve expressed their horror to me over the phone shortly after having witnessed this. They’ve also banned any kind of music — and, of course, Mali has a very rich musical culture — but even so far as banning musical ring tones on cell phones. If they catch you with a cell phone that plays a tune, they’ll confiscate it and they’ll punish you. The only thing you can have on your cell phone is a verse from The Koran.

    Image of Timbuktu by Emilio Labrador via Flickr Commons



  2. Fresh Air

    Interviews

    Adam Nossiter

    New York Times

    Mali

    West Africa

  1. The transformation of northern Mali into a sanctuary for terrorists and the subjection of its people to medieval cruelties are a threat to the entire West African region. But even with the Security Council vote, it seems unrealistic to expect an effective solution anytime soon.

    — 

    "No Easy Answers In Mali," The New York Times Opinion Pages, December 30, 2012

    Coming up today on the show, Adam Nossiter, West Africa bureau chief for the Times, talks about the current crisis in Mali.

  2. Mali

    The New York Times

    Editorial