Al-Qaeda Targets the Navy

In August 1996, Osama bin Laden published his fatwa, or declaration of war, in the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. “Bring down their airliners. Prevent safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and banks,” he wrote.

Five years later, al-Qaeda’s commander had succeed in three areas. In 1998, al Qaeda struck America on land, at two U.S. embassies in East Africa. In 2000, they struck at sea, bombing the USS Cole at a port in Yemen. But it wasn’t until the air attacks on 9/11 that America declared war against al-Qaeda and began to fight back. In the eight years since, there have been many attacks and attempted attacks by al-Qaeda on American soil and aimed at our airliners. But the seas have remained calm (the Somali pirates are not yet an official al-Qaeda proxy). Until now.

Just last month, only days after almost bringing down an airliner over Detroit, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula made a bold threat against the safe passage of America’s ships. A jihadist website posted the message: “The lions of al-Qaeda flirted with the American Navy several years ago when they targeted the destroyer Cole! Now, with the help of God, every American naval vessel in the seas and oceans: aircraft carriers, submarines, and all of its war machines within range of al Qaeda -- will be destroyed, God willing."

Bill Gertz at the Washington Times broke the story after MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, posted a translation of the jihadists’ threats online. Gertz explained:

An al-Qaeda Web site last week announced that in response to U.S. targeting of al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen it would launch a campaign against U.S. Navy interests, including seeking data on naval nuclear weapons and Navy personnel and their families.

Navy spokesman Lt. Nate Christensen confirmed the threat and says that the Navy has been put on alert. All Navy personnel and their families have been told not to tell their family members their whereabouts, harking back to the World War II adage “loose lips sinks ships.”

This is in part because the jihadist forum Al-Falluja has called for specific information about Navy ships’ whereabouts, including “name of the particular naval unit to be targeted, its exact location, the number of troops on board the warship and their ranks, familial status, where their families live, the type of weapons the warship carries … and the number of nuclear bombs onboard.”