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SITE In The News
Web site encourages attacks on pipeline
By Wesley Loy
Published in: Anchorage Daily News
January 18, 2006

A recent posting on a Web site purportedly affiliated with al-Qaida urges attacks against the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and Valdez tanker dock, calling on jihadists to either shower the pipe with bullets or hide and detonate explosives along its length.

The unknown author encourages small cells of four or five mujahideen, or Muslim guerrillas, living in the United States or in Canada or Mexico to mount the attacks.

The 10-page posting includes numerous links to Web sites providing maps and other, basic information about the pipeline.

Attacking oil and gas targets in the United States and other countries is key to bringing down the economy of the "American devils," the author writes, saying the message was posted in response to calls from Osama bin Laden and his top al-Qaida deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The Arabic posting was discovered and translated in late December by the SITE Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that tracks international terrorists.

The "presentation of targets" essentially was a posting to a Web log, or blog, known to be affiliated with al-Qaida, and there's no way to identify the author or know whether it could inspire an actual attack, said SITE director Rita Katz.

However, she said the posting was unusual and alarming in its length and detail.

Spokesmen for the FBI and other law enforcement and security agencies said Tuesday they were aware of the posting, but none would say whether it had prompted any extra security measures in Alaska.

Curtis Thomas, a spokesman for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the Anchorage-based oil company consortium that runs the 800-mile-long pipeline, said his company also was aware of the posting, but that "we're not aware at this time of any imminent threat" to the system. He said company policy is not to discuss security issues.

"We're in communications with state, federal and local law enforcement and private entities that would be affected by this," said Eric Gonzalez, the FBI's Alaska spokesman.

He added that the posting did not seem to contain information beyond what is readily available to anyone with a little digging.

"I don't think it's a secret to anyone that the trans-Alaska pipeline, the terminal at Valdez, is a critical asset not only to the state but the country," Gonzalez said. "It's stating the obvious - that this pipeline plays a critical role in this nation's economy."

The Alaska pipeline carries more than 800,000 barrels of crude a day from the North Slope oil fields to the Valdez tanker port. That's about one-eighth of U.S. production.

The posting suggests mujahideen hit pipelines and other oil and gas assets in the United States, as well as in Iraq and the Caspian Sea region, as a way to hurt the U.S. economy and to gain payback for the war in Iraq.

"The bloody trash tore our children and dishonored us," it says. "This is our time to teach them a lesson in how to deal with Muslims."

It singles out the Alaska pipeline as a particularly valuable, and vulnerable, target for terror.

The author notes that 300,000 gallons of crude oil spewed out of a bullet hole in 2001, and that the pipeline is largely above ground, exposed and close to a highway.

The writer suggests attackers hit the pipeline with "piercing bullets," or better yet, place explosives alongside the pipeline, especially in rural and wooded places to slow response and create fires.

Mujahideen should detonate the hidden explosives "from time to time until they can receive news of the American devils' defeat," the posting says.

It also suggests attacks on the pipeline's pump stations, the oil tankers that carry the oil to the West Coast, and the storage tanks at the Valdez tanker dock, which are "considered an ideal target."

The posting includes links to an eclectic collection of Web sites, including Alyeska and U.S. Department of Energy sites and that of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.

It also includes numerous errors, including a sentence saying the pipeline starts at the North Pole and ends at Valdez "on the Atlantic Ocean."

Katz, the SITE director, said her organization has analyzed and translated many terrorism-related Web postings for its clients, including oil companies, and this one stood out.

"When I saw this message, I was shocked," Katz said. It was much longer, more thoughtful and more fully researched than the normal posting, she said.

The posting might have come from anyone, she said, an individual or even from within the bin Laden camp. What's more important than the source is the influence it might have as it likely spreads through the Internet from forum to forum.

"Once there's an idea there, then you don't know who saw that idea and might take the initiative and go forward," she said.

"We take all of these matters quite seriously," said John Madden, state Homeland Security director. However, the posting was "not any great, analytical document," but rather a collection of information available open sources.

Last month, federal pipeline regulators ordered Alyeska to develop new spill cleanup drills with "terrorist attack scenarios" in mind.


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