Saudi Refinery Attack Plotted in Yemeni Prison – Prior to the al Qaeda Tunnel Jailbreak
A day and a night after the failed Feb. 24 suicide attack on the big Abuqayq oil processing center in the east Saudi oil region of Dammam, al Qaeda operatives were handed fresh guidelines for a total offensive on Saudi and Gulf emirates oil installations.
In contrast to the cursory, cut-and-dried style of a Western military directive, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources describe the document as running to 140 pages. Transmitted to al Qaeda’s operational cells in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other Middle East centers by Internet, it was intercepted by our monitors.
Al Qaeda directives are typically voluminous because each operation calls for more than field deployment, logistical support and tactics. As a jihadist operation, specific doctrinal injunctions and prohibitions must be folded into the military guidelines.
This one, entitled Canon for Striking Saudi Oil Installations, reads as much like a religious manifesto as a military plan of campaign.
That this weighty, lengthy document could be circulated so soon after the Abuqayq attack offers two lessons:
1. The raid was planned well in advance.
2. It was only the first action in a broad campaign planned in great detail to partially cripple the Saudi oil industry. The Iraqi industry is the model; 60-70 % of its capacity has been cut down by sabotage, but it has not been completely knocked out.
A telling feature of the newly-issued blueprint for attacking the Saudi oil industry is its author’s name: Abdulaziz bin Rashid al-Anaiza, a member of the Anaiza tribe whose lands are located in central Saudi Najd province, who languishes in a Saudi prison.
Al Qaeda experts identify Al-Anaiza as former information and propaganda chief of the Saudi cell.
This post is comparable to operations chief of a Western military command – again because all al Qaeda operations must fit into a strict ideological mold inseparable from military tactics. It is not certain that al-Anaiza actually penned the document. His name may have been affixed as a ploy to demonstrate al Qaeda’s control deep inside Saudi prisons and the efficiency of the underground communications system linking its members – whether detained in Saudi Arabia or outside. Using the name of a prisoner would also prove that incarceration does not inhibit his or the movement’s operational capabilities.
Yemen mastermind Abdullah al-Rimi vanishes
Saudi investigators now know who masterminded the Abuqayq raid. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources, a high-profile group from among the 23 al Qaeda terrorists who broke out of Sanaa jail in Yemen on February 3 executed the planning and logistics. The prime mover was Abdullah Al-Rimi, who is also suspected of engineering the entire group’s escape through a tunnel dug from the prison to the women’s section of a mosque on the outside. After the Yemen jailbreak, his name was added to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.
Al Rimi is not a new face for Saudi security. He is sought as one of the live wires of the devastating raids on Western residential compounds in Riyadh in May 2003.
As one of the key brains behind the Saudi refinery raid, he must have manipulated prison staff to get some prohibitions on his freedom of movement relaxed. This could only have been approved on the authority of officers from the Yemen Political Security Organization, which is directly answerable to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
After the escape, Al-Rimi and his accomplices were traced by Saudi investigators to a farm in the village of Dagrir in the Saudi Jizan province just across the border with Yemen. The farm turned out to have been used as a rear base where the al Qaeda plotters rigged the bomb cars for the suicide terrorists to crash the installation’s gates. It is a two-day drive from the farm at the southwest corner of the kingdom to the oil terminal in the east.
At the farm, Saudi security officers picked up 12 Yemeni national al Qaeda adherents who helped set up the operation. Under interrogation, they disclosed Al Rimi’s role in the oil refinery attack, but not his whereabouts. He, like the rest of the Sanaa prison escapees, had vanished, together with an important accomplice, a Saudi Arabian called Khaled Hajj. Under his al Qaeda nom de guerre of Abu Hazem, the Poet, Hajj emerged as the connecting link in the chain from the Abuqayq planning team in Sanaa jail to the strike team in Saudi Arabia.
Clearly, if an important terrorist strike can be put together behind bars in Yemen, it stands to reason that so can a book-sized collection of operational guidelines in a Saudi jail.
The Anaiza Document opens with a treatise on the strategic ideology for attacking Saudi oil installations.
Economic warfare is charted as the short cut to a jihad victory. It entails striking at the American Crusader’s economic interests. So far, al Qaeda has avoided direct targeting. He provides two examples of indirect al Qaeda operations in the past: the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers quarters of US Air Force units protecting the Saudi oil fields, which left 19 dead and more than 500 injured (the final death toll was never published), and the May 2004 attack on the Yanbou oil company offices, where at least 5 Western civilians were killed (no definitive figure was ever released).
Neither, says the writer, went far enough; American interests stayed in place. Still the Sharia enjoins the holy fighters to stay this path.
Oil is targeted, he maintains, not just as an Arab resource but as a font of Muslim wealth. This wealth causes the West to place its foot on Arab necks, making it a liability rather than an asset for the Arabs. Therefore, notwithstanding the colossal revenues generated from the production and export of oil, there is no option but to disrupt the industry, because it has degenerated into a Western lever of domination activated from within the Muslim world.
The dos and don’ts of the jihad against oil resources are carefully defined:
The Saudi crown has no right to land or oil
1. Targeting oil is now the highest priority of the economic Jihad.
2. Muslim tenets assign the ownership of oil fields to the masters of the land from which it is drawn. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Islamic experts note that al Qaeda does not view the Saudi crown as the proper masters of the land; therefore they are not the rightful beneficiaries of its oil riches but thieves and robbers who are fair game for terrorist targeting.
3. This point reinforces Point 2 by affirming that non-believers warrant no title to any resource they may confiscate on Muslim soil.
4. Damaging the properties of non-believers in time of war is a virtuous deed. Since oil ranks as such property, it is incumbent on holy warriors to attack it.
5. It is permissible and obligatory to target Muslim properties which benefit non-believers, especially those which are predetermined for repossession by Muslims.
Our experts note that this point refers to the future as envisioned by al Qaeda.
It is a way of urging the attacks on Saudi oil installations to persist as the means of assuring al Qaeda's recovery of the black gold for the true Muslims after it takes over the rule of Saudi Arabia.
6. Saudi oil targets are divided into four categories by the doctrinal rationale running through the document:
A. The actual oil wells must remain inviolate as long as the sacred cause is served by disrupting other parts of the oil industry. If not, they may be struck – provided a special dispensation is granted by Qaeda’s Supreme Shura Council. Our Islamic experts translate this as meaning that the oil wells are just about untouchable.
B. Preferred targets are oil and gas pipelines because they are easiest to hit for the greatest disruptive damage to exports.
C. Also terminals, pumping stations, processing plants and oil tankers.
But there are important exceptions.
Al Qaeda exempts from attack installations and maritime and overland fuel transport companies owned by private Muslim owners, including Saudi tycoons and wealthy sheiks. No such immunity is enjoyed by enterprises owned by members of the Saudi royal family or American proprietors. They are legitimate targets.
D. The same distinction applies to oil production and marketing enterprises. They are fair targets as the holdings of non-believers, crusaders or members of the Saudi royal family, but exempted when owned by the faithful (Muslims).
The final chapter of the document deals with offshore wells and terminals.
The same rules apply to oil drawn from the seabed as oil produced on land.
Barring a special dispensation, offshore wells must be kept safe from attack, so too oil ports which benefit the community as a whole – especially if privately owned by Muslims.
But all other oil ports, terminals, refineries and pipelines are legitimate targets.
Anxious to set the record straight, Qaeda in Saudi Arabia issued a special statement on Feb. 26, accusing the Saudi media of falsely depicting the network’s first strike against a Saudi oil installation as a failure. The statement claimed that, ahead of the two suicide car bombers, a “cell of mujahedeen” first entered the refinery compound, killing and injuring guards and opening the entry gate for the bombers to enter “after the guards fled.”
This communique reiterates the Saudi al Qaeda’s determination to “stop the exploitation of the Muslims’ resources” and continue the raids until “the polytheists” leave Muslim lands.