HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

al-Qaeda Submarine Threat to Ras Tanura?

As al-Qaeda warns Canada of a Canadian 9/11 attack if the American ally does not withdraw its heavily engaged (and extremely effective) troops from Afghanistan, intelligence suggests that an increased threat to Saudi Arabian oil facilities exists. The reaction to the intelligence has been primarily to marshal allied naval assets to protect the world's largest offshore oil export facility, the Ras Tanura terminal, as well as Bahrain's Bapco refinery.

The potential methods of an al-Qaeda attack on the offshore Ras Tanura terminal are numerous, including an explosives-laden small craft such as that used against the USS Cole or a rocket or missile attack from a small craft or even an attack from al-Qaeda operatives that may have infiltrated the Saudi Arabian military or the terminal and/or refinery staff.

In an MSNBC interview with Dr. Walid Phares early Saturday, there was mention of intelligence that the threat to the Saudi offshore facility may have included the use of a submarine. Dr. Phares posited that such equipment may, if in fact accurate, be provided by Iran for such an attack.

At first glance, the use of a submarine in such an attack seems a remote possibility. Yet, in contemplating possible attack tactics and equipment and the MSNBC mention of submarines, it brings to mind the attempts in the late 1990’s of a Philippine terrorist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to purchase a mini-submarine from North Korea. The equipment was never delivered, but that was not due to any North Korean reluctance to sell arms – including the mini-submarine - to terrorist organizations.

A January 2005 article appearing in the World Tribune detailed the extent to which North Korea armed the Islamic group MILF in Philippines. The MILF had ordered and partially paid for the mini-submarine (US$1 million of $2.2 million), with North Korea ultimately aborting the sale only under American pressure after US intelligence learned of the deal.

In addition, investigations by Southeast Asian nations' security authorities show that the MILF told North Korea in June 1999 that it wanted to buy a North Korean mini-submarine, the Yomiuri Shimbun said in a dispatch from Jakarta.

Quoting sources among the security authorities of unidentified Southeastern Asian nations, the daily said the arms deals — mostly taking place in Malaysia — came to light as a result of documents the authorities confiscated from the MILF in November 2004.

The deal was engineered by Rim Kyu-Do, a North Korean authorized to negotiate contracts on behalf of his government, and Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs. The MILF paid $1 million but still owes another $1.2 million in the deal.
Yomiuri said North Korea had also said it would send at least one mini-submarine to the MILF, but has yet to deliver.

The submarine was to have been of the same type that was caught in the nets of a South Korean fisherman off South Korea's east coast in July 1998 and then dragged into port, where South Korean navy investigators found the bodies of nine North Koreans inside. North Korean agents had apparently killed the sailors on the sub before shooting themselves.

Such a submarine would have been ideal for carrying MILF special troops into remote harbors and inlets, where they could have ambushed Philippine government troops and officials. The North held off on delivering the submarine, though, after U.S. and Philippine intelligence sources got wind of the deal.

The terrorists’ mini-submarine order was only a small part of the arms deals between North Korea and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (among other groups supplied with North Korean arms). The article cited the Japanese newspaper report that “North Korea sold 10,000 M16 rifles and other arms and ammunition, including grenades.” The arms were said to have been shipped in 1999 and 2000.

There are links abound between al-Qaeda and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has become virtually indistinguishable from al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian arm, Jemaah Islamiyah. For more information on the Philippine terrorist group and its al-Qaeda connections, see the following: