Thursday, February 25, 2010

Al Qaida Wants to Close the Bab el-Mandeb

The world tends to focus on Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, potentially impacting a quarter of the world's oil production.

But there are growing concerns that another key choke point could be closed and also disrupt the flow of oil and other goods.

The Bab el-Mandeb connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.  Terrorists are on both sides of the waterway, and the Islamic Somalis are already operating their piracy business virtually unmolested in the Gulf of Aden .

Click on the map for a larger version.

Excerpts from

Said al-Shihri, the deputy commander of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], recently outlined a radical strategy: joining forces with Islamist militants in Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, to take control of the Bab el-Mandeb, a narrow waterway between Yemen and Eritrea that links the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean via the Red Sea.

Al-Shihri, a former Guantanamo detainee from Saudi Arabia, said in a 12-minute audiotape released Feb. 8 that controlling the Bab al-Mandeb -- Arabic for "Gate of Tears" because of the navigational hazards ancient seafarers faced there -- would "bring it back under the protection of Islam."

He urged Somali jihadists, who have links to al-Qaida, to join with AQAP to "create a great victory and international power for us.  Then the strait will be closed and the grip of will be tightened around the throat of the Jews, because the U.S. supports them through (the strait), by means of the Red Sea in particular."

That is in line with Osama bin Laden's recent call for an economic jihad to bleed the West.

Following an offer by the al-Shebab militants in Somalia, who are fighting a U.S.-backed transitional federal government, to join forces with AQAP, al-Shihri declared they would wage war on the Americans on two fronts.

The Red Sea, which is linked to the Mediterranean at its northern end via the Suez Canal, is one of the most critical maritime routes in the world.

Thirty percent of world trade runs through the Bab al-Mandeb.

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