The Associated Press found something amazing: a note from al-Qaeda, addressed to an underperforming jihadist, berating him for a laundry list of failures, including his negligence of required monthly expense reports. But the letter, as beautifully passive-agressive as it is, ended up having deadly consequences when its recipient struck out on his own.
The employee in question is Moktar Belmoktar, who later took credit for carrying out the BP gas plant hostage situation in Algeria, and last week's attacks in Niger, killing 101 in all. Essentially, as the AP explained, Belmoktar's attacks appear to be motivated by the terrorist's disgruntlement with al-Qaeda, who repeatedly "sidelined" him. Here's what the group's North Africa chapter said to make Belmoktar snap:
"Your letter ... contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering...We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means. ... But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it."
The letter mixes the deadly with the banal: a lot of the group's complaints are about money and personality, like the worst middle manager imaginable. Belmoktar didn't file his expense reports, for instance, nor did he play nicely with his peers. And when given responsibility, the chapter's leaders didn't think he performed well (he's referred to under a pseudonym, "Abu Abbas," in the letter):
"(The chapter) gave Abu Abbas a considerable amount of money to buy military material, despite its own great need for money at the time. ... Abu Abbas didn't participate in stepping up to buy weapons...So whose performance deserves to be called poor in this case, I wonder?"
It sounds like the chapter behind the letter had a number of other complaints. Belmoktar apparently stopped taking their phone calls, griped about his employers in jihadist forums, and refused to attend meetings that he found "useless," too.
Belmoktar, rather than wanting to leave al-Qaeda altogether, apparently decided to bypass his local chapter and try to work directly with the group's leaders. As the Associated Press explains, Belmoktar's story actually predates a new development in the group's organization, where "charismatic jihadists can carry out attacks directly in al-Qaida's name, regardless of whether they are under its command." The letter, notably, was just one of thousands of documents found by the AP in Mali months ago.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.