The latest issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language Inspire magazine names Amtrak’s D.C. to Boston Acela Express and several other specific passenger rail lines in the United States as prime targets for their new focus on train derailment operations that the group says has been more than a year in the planning stages.
Inspire, which contains vivid picture instructions on how to build devices used for jihad, has served as an instructional guide for American jihadists who don’t necessarily claim allegiance to al-Qaeda, including Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The article focuses on metro trains operating within cities, regional routes serving population-dense corridors, and long-distance trains with remote tracks that are impossible to fully police. Trains can be attacked by targeting the cars, the stations or the tracks; the article focuses on the last, stressing that the method makes suicide operations unnecessary and the same person can return to strike more lines if not captured.
“America’s railroads are estimated to be a 1/3 of the world’s railway. So how can they protect 240,000 km of railroad … it is practically impossible. The same goes to Britain, with 18,500 km and France, with 29,473 km. It is a daunting and almost impossible task to protect the long railroad length, and yet one of the easiest to target. That may result to great damage and destruction on different levels,” al-Qaeda’s “Lone Jihad Guidance Team” wrote, adding that “it is time that we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with their Air transportation.”
“We have to expose more of their vulnerabilities in their security. And when they spend millions of dollars to tackle a vulnerability we should be ready to open a new [front]… we expect that there will be no effective solution to the security gaps that may be caused by these types of operations that target the train system.”
The magazine includes 17 pages of step-by-step, pictorial instructions to make a “derailment tool” of rebar, reinforced concrete, rubber and sheet metal to clamp onto a track a suggested 10 minutes before a train is scheduled to pass.
The Acela is singled out as a high-speed route that the terror group anticipates would see higher casualties and damage from the use of the derailment tool.
“This is the most suited condition for a successful train derail operation. When a train reaches high speed then it has to be reduced to around 100 km/h. This is because a train at a very high speed is hard to control or manage using brakes. For example America’s high-speed train ‘Acela’ requires a whole mile so that it can come to a halt, this is because of the train’s very high speed. Another reason is that the train losses weight and stability when it is at high speeds,” the article states. “Therefore a Mujahid must be aware of areas where the train increases its speed and places where the train moves at a high speed.”
The Inspire issue details, in photos, the specific types of derailments that jihadists can aim for, including a train coming off the tracks and striking a mountain to “attain the desired result,” striking man-made structures including buildings and bridges, and falling from elevated tracks.
“Dual operations” are also emphasized, in which a train carrying hazardous materials can derail in a populated area — “an issue that makes the different security agencies sleepless.”
“The transportation committee in America drafted a report after the events of 9/11 , in which they mentioned the reality of this breach and how difficult it is to control. They declared that 83 million tons of hazardous materials is annually transported by trains in America. And that these trains pass through major U.S. cities and thousands of small towns which are located across the railroad tracks,” the article continued. “Information concerning the transportation of these hazardous materials can always be found on the public domain; or by observing and surveilling the movements of these Hazmat trains.”
The article includes a map of rail lines from the U.S. Department of Transportation, including Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF and CSX.
Specific U.S. passenger lines discussed in addition to the Acela Express are the Amtrak Cascades in the Pacific Northwest, the Cardinal from New York to Chicago, the Carolinian from Charlotte to New York City, the City of New Orleans from Louisiana to Chicago, the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles, the Crescent from New York City to New Orleans, the Empire Builder from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, Calif., the Palmetto from New York City to Savannah, Ga., the Silver Meteor and Silver Star from New York City to Miami, the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and the Texas Eagle running from Chicago to San Antonio to L.A.
Editor Yahya Ibrahim’s note at the beginning of the Inspire issue says the development of the derailment ops was “extensively researched” by the terror group for more than a year before releasing the DIY instructions. Ibrahim said the terror group considers it “to be among the most important issues of the magazine.”
Chief AQAP bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, a 35-year-old Saudi, wrote an extensive article for the magazine issue on targeting transportation in general and giving lone jihadists “the ability to carry out a large scale operation using these types of small resourced operations.”
“The U.S. laid a fifteen-year plan in which it raised the debt, lowered interest rates and reduced military expenditure, which will continue for many years to come. America today is refreshing its efforts to revive its economy,” he wrote. “And we should continue to focus our efforts against it until the world gets rid of this international system led by America.”