Al Qaeda was planning to blow up oil tankers to provoke an 'extreme economic crisis' in the West
Al Qaeda wanted to hijack and blow up oil tankers to provoke an 'extreme economic crisis' in the West, it has been revealed.
According to documents seized from Osama Bin Laden's Pakistan compound, the terror group sought information on the size and construction of oil tankers.
It determined that blowing them up from the inside would be easiest due to the strength of the tankers' hulls.
Target: Al Qaeda wre planning pirate-style attacks on oil tankers to spark a financial crisis in the West
U.S. government officials say there was no specific or imminent threat, and that they didn't know whether Al Qaeda had continued plotting since last year.
But the group headed by Osama Bin Laden had recommended test runs of the plot, it was revealed.
Department for Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said: 'We are not aware of indications of any specific or imminent terrorist attack plotting against the oil and natural gas sector overseas or in the United States.
'However, in 2010 there was continuing interest by members of Al Qaeda in targeting oil tankers and commercial oil infrastructure at sea.'
The government warning went to federal, state and local law enforcement and companies in the oil and gas industries.
The DHS said it was not raising the U.S. terror alert level.
Discovery: Documents revealing Al Qaeda plans to attack oil tankers were found in Bin Laden's Pakistan compound
The threat to oil tankers was especially notable because it suggested that Al Qaeda was adopting the practices of Somali pirates, who have had remarkable success in recent years using small boats to race alongside and board large commercial ships off the East African coast.
Somali pirates then hold the cargo and crew for ecomonic reasons.
Al Qaeda successfully attacked the USS Cole in October 2000, killing 17 sailors, using a small boat loaded with explosives when the warship was docked in the port of Aden in Yemen, which is just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia.
The U.S. government said terrorists recognized that the period from mid-spring to late summer would represent the best weather to approach oil tankers.
Similarities: A 'skiff' boat is frequently used by Somali pirates. It is thought Al Qaeda was planning to adopt similar tactics to take oil tankers
Al Qaeda determined that sinking tankers from the outside would require too many explosive charges, and instead focused on detonating the fuel storage areas aboard tankers.
In 2007 the Japanese tanker the Golden Nori was hijacked carrying 40,000 tons of benzene.
Initially, American intelligence agents worried that terrorists from Somalia's Islamic extremist insurgency could be involved and might try to crash the boat into an offshore oil platform or use it as a gigantic bomb in a Middle Eastern port.
When the Japanese vessel was towed back into Somali waters and ransom demanded, the coalition was relieved to discover it was a pirate attack.