The Associated Press recently found an interesting document in Timubktu, Mali. The document, written by a senior commander of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, was a tipsheet on how to avoid drone attacks by the US. The building in Mali where the document was found had been occupied by members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghbreb (AQIM) before they were driven out by French forces earlier this month.
As AP notes, this document is interesting for several reasons.
For one thing, it indicates that AQIM expected a military intervention in Mali and the use of drones. According to Mathieu Guidere, a professor at the University of Toulouse, the existence of the document “supports the fact that they knew there are secret US bases for drones, and were preparing themselves” and that they “were thinking about this issue for a long time.”
The document also “shows we are no longer dealing with an isolated local problem, but with an enemy which is reaching across continents to share advice,” observed Bruce Riedel, a director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institute .
And the document demonstrates that jihadists in Mali are responding to the drone threat by taking sensible precautions. “These are not dumb techniques. It shows that they are acting pretty astutely,” Colonel Cedric Leighton, who assisted with the establishment of the drone program, told AP.
The AP article also describes specific instances of jihadists following the advice, as for example, with respect to Tip #10, “Hide under thick trees because they are the best cover against the planes”:
Hiding under trees is exactly what the Al Qaeda fighters did in Mali, according to residents in Diabaly, the last town they took before the French stemmed their advance last month. Just after French warplanes incinerated rebel cars that had been left outside, the fighters began to commandeer houses with large mango trees and park their four-by-fours in the shade of their rubbery leaves.
Hamidou Sissouma, a schoolteacher, said the Islamists chose his house because of its generous trees, and rammed their trucks through his earthen wall to drive right into his courtyard. Another resident showed the gash the occupiers had made in his mango tree by parking their pickup too close to the trunk.
According to Guidere, the tipsheet was first published on June 2, 2011, when it appeared on an extremist website in Arabic. It has subsequently been republished in Arabic on several occasions but was not well known in English.
The Telegraph provides the following translation of all 22 tips:
1. It is possible to know the intention and the mission of the drone by using the Russianmade “sky grabber” device to infiltrate the drone’s waves and the frequencies. The device is available in the market for $2,595 and the one who operates it should be a computer know-how.
2. Using devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone. The Mujahideen have had successful experiments using the Russian-made “Racal.”
3. Spreading the reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building.
4. Placing a group of skilled snipers to hunt the drone, especially the reconnaissance ones because they fly low, about six kilometres or less.
5. Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using the ordinary water-lifting dynamo fitted with a 30-metre copper pole.
6. Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using old equipment and keeping them 24-hour running because of their strong frequencies and it is possible using simple ideas of deception of equipment to attract the electronic waves devices similar to that used by the Yugoslav army when they used the microwave (oven) in attracting and confusing the Nato missiles fitted with electromagnetic searching devices.
7. Using general confusion methods and not to use permanent headquarters.
8. Discovering the presence of a drone through well-placed reconnaissance networks and to warn all the formations to halt any movement in the area.
9. To hide from being directly or indirectly spotted, especially at night.
10. To hide under thick trees because they are the best cover against the planes.
11. To stay in places unlit by the sun such as the shadows of the buildings or the trees.
12. Maintain complete silence of all wireless contacts.
13. Disembark of vehicles and keep away from them especially when being chased or during combat.
14. To deceive the drone by entering places of multiple entrances and exits.
15. Using underground shelters because the missiles fired by these planes are usually of the fragmented anti-personnel and not anti-buildings type.
16. To avoid gathering in open areas and in urgent cases, use building of multiple doors or exits.
17. Forming anti-spies groups to look for spies and agents.
18. Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy.
19. When discovering that a drone is after a car, leave the car immediately and everyone should go in different direction because the planes are unable to get after everyone.
20. Using natural barricades like forests and caves when there is an urgent need for training or gathering.
21. In frequently targeted areas, use smoke as cover by burning tires.
22. As for the leaders or those sought after, they should not use communications equipment because the enemy usually keeps a voice tag through which they can identify the speaking person and then locate him.