Islamist forums and jihadi media have been promoting and threatening to perpetrate naval terrorism as an important strategic trend in the jihadi path. Jihad Press, an e-journal affiliated with al-Qaeda, issued a statement entitled “Naval Terrorism, a Strategic Necessity,” which was carried by several different jihadi forums (hanein.info, April 30). The Jihad Press article was re-published by other pro-jihadi media outlets attributing it to al-Qaeda, some of which added further comments intended to instigate naval terror attacks in Yemen (asrarpress.net, April 30).
The Jihad Press report praises air, ground and underground retaliatory terror attacks against the Zionist/Crusader campaign against Muslims, including the 9/11 attack, the Madrid bombings of March 2004, the 2005 attack on the London transit system and the bombing of the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Shaykh in July 2005. The next phase of the struggle, according to the report, should be naval terrorism to control the sea and sea passageways, beginning with maritime passages around the Arabian Peninsula. In Yemen, al-Qaeda succeeded in striking at “Crusader targets” twice: The first attack, carried out by a small boat full of explosives, was on the USS Cole in October 2000; a second “naval” suicide attack by an explosives-laden boat ruptured both hulls of the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen in 2002.
The Jihad Press deems it essential to take the battle to the sea now that the final fight to subdue the enemy is closing in. When the mujahideen have won the final battle they will impose on the Crusaders and Zionists an unconditional withdrawal from Muslim countries, leaving behind the weapons they brought to kill Muslims. Similar to jihadi ground formations, the maritime mujahideen must commence marine training programs to prepare naval units capable of controlling the sea and restoring the Islamic caliphate. According to the author of the article, the mujahideen should start the naval jihad operations along the Yemeni coastal area because it is the junction for the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, commanding as well the Red Sea and the Mandab Strait opening into the Indian Ocean. The Jihad Press maintains that the Crusaders bought a number of Yemeni islands because they acknowledge the significance and the seriousness of the mujahideen threat in and around the Yemeni coastal areas (this purchase appears to be a total fabrication of the authors).
The Jihad Press article was republished by asrarpress.net, another jihadi media outlet, adding in its version that al-Qaeda in Yemen is responsible for many recent attacks in Yemen and is threatening to strike at Yemeni seaports, contrary to many analysts’ suggestions that al-Qaeda’s main targets in Yemen are tourists and oil facilities.
Jihadi forum contributors hailed the new strategy as appropriate and necessary, especially for jihadis desiring to redeploy in Somalia. “The subject is timely. Many brothers from Yemen, Southern Saudi [Arabia] and beyond want to troop out to Somalia, but fear the enemy’s control of the sea, which is one of the important points jihadis must control,” says one forum participant.
Although jihadis are encouraging naval terrorism as a new phase in their targeting agenda, jihadi ideologues have long talked about the return of naval jihad. Jihadis believe that free navigation has critical importance for the U.S. economy and has to be disrupted. The fact that many significant sea passages, such as the Suez Canal and the Bosphorus, Mandab and Gibraltar Straits, are surrounded by, or in the vicinity of, Islamic countries and the low cost of perpetrating naval attacks—jihadis had to spend only a few thousand dollars to attack the multi-million dollar USS Cole—makes “naval jihad” a potentially serious terror threat. As Somalia’s pirates have shown, shipping in the region can be easily disrupted by lightly-armed groups in small motorboats.