Muslims urged to launch attack from Mexico and Canada
B.C.'s energy sector is on heightened alert after an al-Qaida-affiliated Internet blog message called on Canadian and U.S. jihadists to attack an Alaskan oil pipeline.
The 12-page posting targets the Trans-Alaska Pipeline specifically and energy infrastructure in California and Mexico in general. It was discovered and translated from Arabic Dec. 30 by the Washington-based SITE Institute.
The posting advocates riddling the iconic pipeline with bullets, blowing it up and causing large fires to complicate repair efforts, and attacking ocean-going tankers or fuel depots in Valdez.
"The most suitable candidates for these operations are our American Muslim brothers who live on the land of trash . . . Also, we can add to this jihad group any other groups who can reach the American terrorist regime, either directly or through neighbouring countries, like Canada or Mexico," the posting says.
While refusing to confirm or deny any investigations that may or may not be under way, Canadian Security Intelligence Service spokeswoman Barbara Campion said the threat has been noted.
"ITAC [the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre] is well aware of the Internet posting," she said.
The FBI has also confirmed the posting and is communicating with relevant American agencies affected by it. FBI officers say the pipeline information and maps included in the posting are readily available online.
All B.C. Hydro facilities have been advised of the threat and security has been escalated to "a guarded state," said spokeswoman Elisha Moreno.
"It's one step above where we operate normally," Moreno said, adding that employees at 30 hydroelectric dams, two gas-powered thermal plants and one combustion turbine station have been asked to be more vigilant.
Scott Webb of Terasen Gas said the utility regularly conducts air, ground and marine patrols of its rights of way where 43,000 kilometres of pipeline (including 3,000 km of high-pressure pipeline) is buried in B.C.
Terasen is aware of the posting and is reacting, Webb said.
"We obviously take security very seriously, monitoring threat levels on an ongoing basis," he said. Terasen maintains 24-hour pipeline surveillance from its Surrey headquarters and "knows immediately if there are any problems" with the system, Webb added.
That the U.S. and Canadian energy sector are vulnerable is fairly obvious, said a former special security advisor on counter-terrorism in Ontario.
"You've got exposed critical infrastructure in remote locations. Therefore, it is vulnerable," said Scott Newark. "The point of this is to look at the nature of the asset we're talking about."
Access to pipeline infrastructure is relatively easy in Canada and the impact of a major energy disruption would be significant, Newark noted. A single bullet hole in the Alaska pipeline in 2001 saw 300,000 gallons of crude oil leaking out.
Al-Qaida has threatened energy installations and infrastructure in North America in the past, added Dr. Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University.
"The real question is: Does the adversary declare the intention to attack the pipeline?" Rudner said. "If it's serious, it's very serious. If it's fraudulent . . . there is [still] no question our energy sector is under threat.
"Terrorists intend to hurt us. They don't intend to play games."