Prêt à porter terrorism

As most Jihadica readers probably know, the jihadi internet is used for many things, but not for operational planning. I have yet to come across online discussions or instructions for concrete operations by professional militants. However, once in a while you see amateurs proposing specific operations – “prêt a porter plots” – for others to carry out.

One such bright idea was posted on Faloja yesterday by a member named Sabir, who proposes that al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula (QAP) fire Katyusha rockets from the Saudi shore of the Gulf of Aqaba toward Sharm al-Sheikh, where international leaders are meeting today to raise money for the reconstruction of Gaza.

Sabir addresses his message “to Abu Basir [Nasir al-Wuhayshi], Emir of al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula” and humbly presents “a small and simple operation for three Islamic lions from the military corps under your command.” He notes that Ras al-Shaykh Hamid on the Saudi coast is only 7-8 kilometers away from Sharm al-Shaykh, while Katyusha rockets have a range of 10-22 kilometers. One could even use medium or heavy mortar shells, which have a range of 4.9-8.2km and 10 km respectively. Having done a certain amount of background research, Sabir includes maps, satellite pictures and photographs from the area to illustrate his point. Unconcerned about Muslim collateral damage, he concedes that one might not succeed in hitting the conference venue directly, but even striking nearby will send a strong signal, as did the failed mortar attack on UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon during the latter’s visit to Baghdad in March 2007. Sabir also admits that “you may not have time to do it today, but you have plenty of time in the coming days to acquire long-range missiles”.

There have been missile plots in Saudi Arabia in the past. In January 1998, Saudi security forces intercepted a shipment of missiles on the Yemeni-Saudi border intended for an al-Qaida attack on the US consulate in Jidda (see p 708 of this article). In May 2002, guards discovered empty missile tubes from a failed attack on planes taking off from the Prince Sultan Airbase. The missiles from the latter attack had been acquired in Yemen, and they were allegedly from the same batch as those used in the Mombasa attack later the same year.

Still, Sabir’s idea is completely off the wall. Katyushas have never been found on the Arabian Peninsula, the QAP is currently holed up in Yemen, and it takes more than a few days to plan an operation like this. Moreover, as other forum members dryly note in their comments, the idea is useless the moment you post it on online for all the intelligence services in the world to see.

The posting is nevertheless interesting, first of all because it is unusually specific and shows that we cannot completely dismiss the Internet’s potential as an arena for operational brainstorming. At the same time, it illustrates the lack of military know-how of many online jihadists. In much of the forum material, there is a spectacular disconnection between intention and capability. Unfortunately, the haute couture of terrorism is prepared behind closed doors.

Document (Arabic): 03-01-09-military-plan-for-qap

Update (6 March): This post not only prompted enthusiastic comments (see below), but was also discussed on Faloja itself. We wish our new readers a warm welcome.
Document (Arabic): 03-05-09-faloja-on-jihadica

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