Al-Qaeda manual on how to deceive unmanned drones found in Mali

AQIM forces in Mali
A detailed manual with instructions on how to defeat the surveillance capabilities of unmanned drones has been found in a former al-Qaeda hideout in northern Mali. International news agency The Associated Press said the photocopied document, which is written in Arabic, had been left behind in a building previously occupied by members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The militants abandoned the document while fleeing into the Sahara desert, ahead of a French military advance on the town of Timbuktu. The document is believed to have been authored by Abdallah bin Muhammad, the operational name of a Yemeni militant serving as a senior commander in the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Its earliest known date of publication is June 2, 2011, on an online Islamist forum. Since that time, it has reappeared at least three times, all in Arabic, according to The Associated Press. The version of the manual found in Mali contains nearly two dozen detailed tips on how to deceive unmanned drones. One tip advises covering the tops of vehicles with floor mats made of hay or other natural-looking material, in an effort to confuse aerial surveillance systems. Another tip proposes camouflaging the roofs of buildings with the use of reflective glass, so as to render them invisible to aerial surveillance. A third suggestion is to mix sugar with water and dirt and apply the sticky mixture onto the body of vehicles, in order to confuse the imagery sensors of unmanned drones. The manual also urges al-Qaeda units to use poles and cloth to form natural-looking carports for hiding vehicles at night and prevent their metallic surfaces from reflecting the light of the moon. Associated Press reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who authored the story, said local sources confirmed that AQIM forces employed several of the manual’s instructions as they were fleeing into northern Mali. They included use of floor mats and the application of mud mixed with sugar to camouflage vehicles. She added that the discovery of the manual in the West African country shows that AQIM forces “anticipated a military intervention that would make use of drones”. Furthermore, it points to a degree of coordination between various al-Qaeda branches around the Muslim world, which ought to be a source of concern, she wrote.

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