Economic terrorism is the new target for Jihadist terror organizations that want to harm and paralyze Western economies, the United Sates in particular, said Prof. Gabriel Weimann, researcher of terrorism over the Internet at the University of Haifa.
“For the Jihadists, the present economic crisis signifies an ideal opportunity and platform to leverage an economic terrorist campaign,” said Weimann, who monitored websites hosted by terrorist and terrorism-supporting organizations.[private]
In a study carried out over years, Weimann surveyed public and encoded websites run by Islamic terrorist organizations, forums, video clips, and practically all the information related to Islamic Jihad terrorism flowing through the network.
The focus on economic terrorism started with the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers, when Osama bin Laden stated on video these attacks mostly damaged the United States’ economic base and that these attacks, which cost $500,000 to carry out, cost the U.S. $500 billion, Weimann said.
Other publications by bin Laden himself and by other terrorist leaders show they understand that Western and U.S. power lies in their economic strength and the jihad movement should focus on damaging this power by employing various tactics, including: hitting international corporations directly; harming international corporations by means of 1.5 billion Muslims boycotting them, which would pressure the respective governments to adjust their policies; striking at resources “looted” from Muslim countries, such as oil-drilling companies in Iraq; assassinating key personalities in the global economy, most of whom they believe are Jews, and killing anyone who collaborates with these personalities.
Monitoring the Muslim terrorist-related information on the Internet, Weimann also said the armed struggle against the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan should prolonging American expenditure on maintaining forces in these countries, and not necessarily at military defeat. The jihadists believe this would help drain America’s financial resources and eventually critically damage the American economy. Therefore, they aim to make the U.S. open as many military fronts around the world as possible.
Another result of this new focus on Econo-Jihad is an increasing jihadist interest in websites and online information on the American and Western economies, to glean an understanding of how these economies can be hit the hardest. They not only monitor official websites, but they penetrate forums and e-mails of individual surfers as well. By tracking Jihadist forums, Weimann found these surfers are increasingly following Western finance-related publications too, as well as expert and academic analyses of the factors influencing Western economy, such as the war in Iraq, global terrorism, natural disasters, oil prices, unemployment rates, and declines in the stock market.
“One might think that an Econo-Jihad is less violent, but this is not the case,” Weimann said. “Jihadist Internet monitoring alongside terrorist activity in the field, is evidence that the economic turn actually influences the terrorists’ targets, which have included oil-drilling infrastructures, tourism, international economic institutions and more. Indeed, Islamic terrorism’s future devices will focus on targets that will yield the most economic damage.”[/private]