New Qaeda threats to the UAE

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 15

Additional threats from the mujahideen against the United Arab Emirates emerged at the end of July, with a renewed warning from a group calling itself the “al-Qaeda Organization in the Emirates and Oman”. It called for the dismantling of all U.S. military installations within ten days, failing which the UAE rulers would “endure the first of the mujahideen in your faces.”

This warning follows (and indeed refers back to) a similar warning issued on the forums in March this year (see Focus, Volume 2, Issue 7) which focused on the issue of Jewish and Christian presence, the U.S. military installations and the role of the country in training the Iraqi police. As with the last posting, which illustrated the ‘offences’ committed by the government with a photograph of the USS Kitty Hawk arriving at Jebel Ali for supplies, the statement highlighted how scouting missions had found the vessels USS Harry S Truman and USS John F. Kennedy at Dubai, ships which had been used to “bombard the Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Since the March posting, the earlier message had been recently reposted, and interest in the Gulf state continues on the forums. On May 22 a posting on the jihadi forum Tajdeed highlighted the ongoing talks with Canada on the ‘secret base’ out in the desert near Dubai, which has been used as a forwarding base for troops “since the time of the dispatch of Canadian forces participating with international forces to maintain security in Afghanistan.” [] Some shrill comments were also voiced at the time of the earlier warning on the al-Sahwa jihadi forum, where the visit by a Dubai official to Israel to discuss the purchase of settler homes to be vacated in Gaza caused outrage. It also noted with disapproval how “Dubai is being rapidly changed into a secular state” with the “profound use of unIslamic ways.” []

The UAE has mainly been active in the War on Terror on the financial front, through tightening up its banking procedures. After the Sept. 11 2001 attacks on the United States, the UAE was identified as a major center used by al-Qaeda in transferring money to the hijackers. The Emirates quickly put into place new measures to freeze accounts tied to suspected terrorists and clamped down on money laundering. But more cogent for the mujahideen is the stationing of U.S. troops in the Gulf state during the 2003 war to oust Saddam Hussein. It has also made some high profile arrests and extraditions of al-Qaeda members. Last August UAE security authorities detained Qari Saifullah Akhtar, a senior al-Qaeda operative who had trained thousands of militants for combat in Afghanistan and who was believed to have been involved in two attempts to assassinate Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. Akhtar was subsequently turned over to Pakistan. Probably more directly linked to the present threats was the extradition announced on December 24 of al-Qaeda’s top Gulf operative, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, to the United States. Al-Nashiri was suspected of planning to blow up vital installations in the Gulf state. The al-Qaeda chief was one of the most dangerous on a list of 20 al Qaeda members prepared by the U.S. and one of the main suspects for the 1998 attacks on U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Mombasa, the bombing on the USS Cole and the October 2002 attack on French oil Tanker Limburg [].

The question is whether this latest warning is a considered response, or simply more saber-rattling. The new group claims that it has been massing brigades throughout the Emirates, and gave a list of potential targets: Jebel Ali port, the airports at Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Investment Collective Center. Unlike the previous posting, this time the threat is staking its credibility on a deadline.