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Venezuela bolsters oil security after threat

Venezuela’s defense minister on Thursday said the nation would reinforce security measures after a branch of al-Qaida called for attacks on suppliers of oil to the United States.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Venezuela’s defense minister on Thursday said the nation would reinforce security measures after a branch of al-Qaida called for attacks on suppliers of oil to the United States.

A Saudi wing of al-Qaida, in a statement posted on a Web site on Wednesday, called for attacks on suppliers of oil to the United States to cut off vital oil supplies. The faction urged Muslim militants to attack oil facilities all over the world, including Canada, Mexico and Venezuela, according to an article by the group posted on the Internet.

Venezuela provides about 11 percent of U.S. oil imports despite diplomatic tensions between Caracas and Washington over leftist President Hugo Chavez’s self-styled socialist revolution.

Gen. Raul Baduel told reporters that security and intelligence agencies would “take actions and implement previously established security plans, but reinforce them with the goal of guaranteeing security.”

He called for calm and said Chavez would provide further instructions about how to deal with the threat.

Call to cut U.S. oil imports
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said in its monthly magazine posted on an Islamic Web site that “cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.” The group said it was making the statements as part of Osama bin Laden’s declared policy. It was not possible to verify independently that the posting was from the terror faction.

Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for last year’s attacks on oil installations in Saudi Arabia and Yemen after bin Laden called on militants to stop the flow of oil to the West. The group also was behind the 2002 attack on a French oil tanker that killed one person in the Gulf of Aden.

The article in the online magazine Sawt al-Jihad, or Voice of the Holy War, said the United States would always need more oil.

“In the long run, America might be able to lessen its dependence on Middle East oil and would be satisfied with oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and other new customers or double its dependence on alternative energy resources; therefore, oil interests in all regions that serve the U.S. and not only in the Middle East, should be attacked,” said the article.

The online magazine said the aim of the attacks was to “cut its (U.S.) oil imports or reduce them by all means.”

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service declined to comment on the report.

Ray Lord, a spokesman for Chevron Corp., told the Canadian media company CanWest News the company was not aware of the threat but it takes security threats seriously. “It is a top priority for us. Ever since 9/11 our entire company has been on an elevated alert,” he said.

Al-Qaida, in a statement claiming responsibility for attacks in November on oil installations in Yemen, said, “These operations were carried out upon the directive of our emir (leader) Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, in which he ordered Muslims to strike at the Western economy and drain it, and to halt the robbing of Muslims’ wealth.”

Latest al-Qaida threat
The call for attacks on Western oil facilities is the latest in a series of threats by al-Qaida leadership aimed at hurting the U.S. economy by driving the price of oil higher.

For years, al-Qaida refused to call for such attacks, considering the Arab states' oil wealth an Islamic asset. In December 2004, bin Laden changed course, issuing an audio statement that called for such attacks, particularly in Iraq:

"One of the main causes for our enemies' gaining hegemony over our country is their stealing our oil; therefore, you should make every effort in your power to stop the greatest theft in history of the natural resources of both present and future generations, which is being carried out through collaboration between foreigners and [native] agents,” bin Laden said. “Focus your operations on [oil production], especially in Iraq and the gulf area, since this [lack of oil] will cause them to die off [on their own]."

Others take up the call
Others in bin Laden's organization have issued similar calls, and with increasing frequency.

In December 2005, al-Qaida deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri stated on an audiotape: "I call on the holy warriors to concentrate their campaigns on the stolen oil of the Muslims, most of the revenues of which go to the enemies of Islam.”

But thus far, there has only been one reported attack, and it didn't succeed.

Al-Qaida launched a failed suicide attack on the world’s largest oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia in February 2006 in which officials said two tons of explosives were used.

In 2003, al-Qaida militants launched a violent campaign to topple the U.S.-allied Saudi royal family with suicide attacks on compounds housing Westerners and on government buildings.