Risk Intel Report

Comparison between 9/11, 3/11, and 7/7

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the London Underground and a double-decker bus on July 7, 2005 , British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw declared that the attacks bore the ?hallmarks of an Al Qaida [Group Profile] related attack.? In an effort to investigate Straw?s assertion, the following analysis will seek to highlight the strategic and tactical similarities between 9/11 (Terrorist Attack) and 3/11 (Terrorist Attack) — two known al-Qaida planned and al-Qaida inspired attacks — and the London bombings. At the strategic level, all three attacks targeted major components of critical infrastructure. In particular, the attacks focused specifically on transportation networks ? airways, railways, subways, and buses ? as both a delivery vehicle and a target. Due to their requirement to deliver a large volume of passengers in a timely manner, it is readily apparent that these transportation networks are extremely vulnerable. It should also come as no surprise that al-Qaeda, and its ideologically inspired offspring, have migrated their target of choice, as evidenced by 3/11 and London, from airways to railways. Railways and underground subways are exponentially more difficult to secure because there is no single entry chokepoint in the system. Not only does a railway have many stops along its routes, but passengers must also board and depart in a timely manner to ensure the train or subway stays on its schedule and thus meets the objectives of an efficient transit system. In contrast, airways have a single entry chokepoint; thus, they are relatively easier to secure than railways and subways. It will be no great surprise if al-Qaeda and its offspring continue to target railway, subway, and bus networks. There are also similarities in the goals achieved via the targeting of mass transportation networks. In the case of 9/11, all the airlines in the US or headed to the US were grounded for three days in the aftermath of the attacks, thereby causing significant damage to the US economy. While al-Qaeda might not have planned on causing that much economic damage, it appears that the leadership and its followers embraced the idea of designing attacks that would have the greatest economic damage as a result of 9/11?s success (Intel Report). The Madrid attacks and the London attacks continued this theme by targeting critical components of the transportation network that if disabled for long periods of time could cripple the underlying economy of the targeted state. Moreover, each of the attacks appears to have been designed to communicate a sophisticated political message. Arguably, the 9/11 attacks were designed to provoke an over-aggressive US-led response that would support bin Laden?s argument that the US and the West hate Islam and are engaged in a war to destroy it (Terror Web Watch). The jihadist strategy paper entitled, ?Iraqi Jihad ? Hopes and Dangers,? posted to jihadist Web sites in December 2003, outlined the strategy of attacking those countries that supported the US-led invasion of Iraq . The author believed that a terrorist campaign directed against Spain would likely increase public pressure on the ruling government to reverse its policies in Iraq and to withdraw its troops. The London attacks, building off the success of the Madrid attacks, may also have been designed as a means of punishing Britain for its involvement in Iraq, in the hopes that an extended campaign of violence might also bring about a change in policy. From a tactical perspective, 9/11 is an outlier. While the goals and resultant effects of 9/11, 3/11, and 7/7 appear to be similar, the tactics required to hijack an airline are vastly different from the tactics required to

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