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How to avoid becoming a drone target: Al Qaeda’s 22 tips

Tip 18 is most entertaining to imagine: "Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy."

Al Qaeda . . . setting up a tea party for their dolls in the desert . . .  as drones buzz overhead. Thanks to documents found by fleeing militants in Timbuktu, we now know that Al Qaeda had 22 helpful hints like this on how to avoid becoming a drone target. 

Not all involved teddy bears and Raggedy Ann, as Associated Press journalist Rukmini Callimachi explains from Timbuktu. Islamic militants reportedly bought bundles of $1.40 grass-woven mats to cover their cars as they fled the ancient city, she writes. Guess glass was harder to come by as Tip 3 recommends: "Spreading the reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building."

Of course nothing about Mali's conflict or the controversial drone issue is funny. But the tip sheet, apparently left behind in the hasty retreat last month from the French military intervention, does provide some fodder for Terrorism's Theatre of the Absurd.

Recall the salacious details that trickled out selectively after Osama bin Laden was killed - the most feared man in the world was in fact a vainglorious sissy who dyed his beard, downloaded porno and watched reruns of himself while wrapped in a ratty blanket, like a former football star reliving a playoff touchdown.

Or the Somali-based jihadi, Alabama-born Omar Hammami, who sometimes tweets like a 13-year-old girl and confesses to missing Tim Hortons. On Friday, Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman wrote about rumours that Hammami, known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki (the American), plagerized his jihadi raps. Yes, he's a "rapper."

Counterterrorism analysts and journalists (mea culpa) had a field day with Inspire Magazine, the English magazine of Yemen's Al Qaeda branch until a drone attack killed its American Editorial Board. The terrorist's Cosmopolitan provided environmental tips from bin Laden and "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom," by Al Qaeda's "chef."

Too glib? Perhaps. But there's a growing school of thought in the counterterrorism field that one of the ways to fight Al Qaeda's narrative and appeal is to ridicule the movement. No one has done this better than Chris Morris in his dark, dark comedy, Four Lions (trailer below). Sadly, there may be a real life "Four Lions gang" according to reports of this Birmingham case: http://metro.co.uk/2013/02/21/birmingham-terror-plot-the-shambolic-planning-of-the-four-lions-gang-3509308/



Drones, Al Qaeda's counterintelligence methods and the ongoing conflict in Mali are not amusing. Jihadi Raggedy Andy is. 


Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recepient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm




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