The names furthermore confirm that the top leaders of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were based in Timbuktu. Among them is Abou Zeid, probably the most feared of al-Qaida's local commanders who orchestrated the kidnappings of dozens of Westerners until his death this spring.
"In the name of Allah, the most merciful," begins a request for funds dated Dec. 29, 2012, and addressed to Abou Zeid. "We are writing to inform you that we need rockets for our camp — a total of 4 is needed. May God protect you."
The extent of the documentation found here, as well as in the other theaters where al-Qaida operates, does not mean the terror group runs as a well-oiled machine, cautions Jason Burke, author of the book "Al-Qaida."
"Bureaucracy, as we know, gives senior managers the illusion they are in control of distant subordinates," Burke said. "But that influence is much, much less than they would like."
Al-Qaida's accounting practices left a strong impression on at least one person in Timbuktu: Djitteye, the convenience store manager.
The al-Qaida commander who came in for mustard was Nabil Alqama, the head of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb's "Southern Command." He became a regular. One day, he asked the store employee to get a receipt book printed so he could provide more official-looking invoices.
The green receipt book with neat boxes now sits under his cash register. These days, whenever customers come in, he always asks if they would like a receipt.
No one ever does.