Al-Qaeda leaders have called on Mujahideen fighters to launch attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Gibraltar and other choke points, strategic waterways through which 75 percent of all global trade passes every year in a mission which strongly resembles the M/V Limburg attack of 2002.
Resurgence Magazine, Al-Qaeda’s (AQ) new English-language recruiting publication incites followers to “talk the language [NATO] understands” by engaging in violence. An article in the first issue entitled ‘On Targeting The Achilles Heel Of Western Economies’ returns to familiar ground for Al-Qaeda, which has encouraged attacks on visible signs of Western affluence and power for decades.
Choke points such as the Straits of Gibraltar, through which over 100,000 ships pass a year are defended passively by a coalition of European nations which exert sea-control over the Mediterranean. The most active force in the Straits is the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar squadron, which is equipped with two small fibreglass patrol boats and three rigid inflatable boats, reports The Express. While the squadron is adept in deterring incursions by patriotic Spanish fishermen, they are not a sufficiently large, nor sophisticated force to keep constant watch over the near nine miles of water between the Rock and Africa.
Oil, described by AQ propaganda as “the lifeblood of the west”, and oil-tankers, the delicate “achilles heel” or “umbilical cord” that carries it to energy-rich nations have long been a core elements of this strategy. The problem AQ overlooks in calling on the faithful, known as Mujahideen to attack the sea-lines of communication that the West depends upon is that previous attempts of this nature have been dismal failures.
Al-Qaeda fighters launched an attack, exactly as described by the new article in Resurgence in 2002 against the tanker M/V Limburg, which was sailing along the Yemeni coast while carrying oil from Iran to Malaysia. Then as now, striking at a highly visible symbol in a strategic waterway, the Gulf of Aden, was calculated to destabilise world markets and cause damage to Western economies.
A dinghy, loaded with TNT was rammed into the side of the ship and exploded, causing a fire that burned for days before being put out. Despite the powerful images of a burning tanker that were flashed around the world media, the attack achieved none of its aims. The only death was by drowning, after a crewman jumped overboard in fear, and because of it’s modern design, the ship didn’t sink. In fact, it was repaired and returned to service, and still delivers oil to this day.
We cannot even say that the AQ suicide boat bombers were unlucky in choosing a modern, compartmentalised tanker. Thanks to international maritime law, all ships that carry oil to Western nations are of this design, double hulled and compartmentalised so any oil spillage is minimal.
The attack also failed to achieve it’s primary goal of causing economic harm to the West, by way of an oil scare or stock market crash. The only economic damage was to Yemen’s Islamic Republic, which had hundreds of millions of dollars wiped from it’s GDP, as ships of all kinds avoided the nation.
Despite past failures, the chance of the faithful answering the call in Morocco, or Somalia, or Yemen and learning from past mistakes, then successfully blocking a strategic choke point remains a significant threat.
The release of Al-Qaeda’s glossy magazine follows in the footsteps in the regular periodical Dabiq, released by the Islamic state, and former AQ magazine Inspire, which inspired the Boston marathon bomber. The publications, now written in plain, relatively sophisticated English are an attempt to normalise Jihad in the west, to make it seem less foreign to western-born potential radicals. Resurgence, aside its call to arms against the shipping industry also provides helpful tips to ‘try at home’, including boycotting McDonalds, Nestlé, and Microsoft.
Remarkably, the magazine also calls on the faithful to reject Western money, and to engage in barter with Gold and Silver instead, all in the name of confounding the “Jews and Crusaders” who they perceive to control the global supply of money.