The Oddest Expenses from al Qaeda's Obsessive Receipt-Keeping

We already knew that Al Qaeda fighters filed expense reports and followed corporate-style rules. But a new report from the Associated Press shows that the terrorists keep detailed, almost obsessive receipts for all expenses, even for items as small as a single lightbulb or a jar of mustard.

"For the smallest thing, they wanted a receipt," said Mohamed Djitteye, who runs a market in Timbuktu. "Even for a tin of Nescafe."

The Associated Press found the receipts, along with other documents tracking Al Qaeda's corporate structure, in Timbuktu earlier this year. The fighters kept receipts for small items and expenses like:

  • a $1.80 bar of soap
  • $14 worth of super glue
  • a $0.60 piece of cake
  • a $3 broom
  • a bottle of bleach for $3.60

They also kept receipts for larger purchases, like $3,720 for fuel, $330 for ammunition, $200 for a "trip for spreading propaganda," and $5,400 for an advance to a commander.

Because of the informal nature of transactions in Timbuktu's markets, many of the receipts were written by hand, often on post-it notes, on the backs of envelopes, or in notebooks. Some were typed, probably as part of more formal expense reports to be sent to their superiors.

"It surprised me at first," Timbuktu pharmacist Ibrahim Djitteye told the Associated Press. "But I came to the conclusion that they are here for a very specific mission.... And when you are on assignment, you need to give a report. They have their own higher-ups, who are expecting them to account for what they spent."

Between the strict financial records and a willingness to apologize for their mistakes, Al Qaeda really has—aside from all the mass murder—become a sort of corporate model citizen.

[Photo via AP]