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Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle East


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Energy security plays an increasingly important role in the common security of NATO Allies. Energy facilities such as pipelines, oil and gas terminals, and even oil fields have become targets of attacks by various terrorist groups. By taking over energy-sector infrastructure, terrorists can manipulate state actors and obtain significant revenues to develop their military capabilities. In such circumstances, NATO countries and their troops must consider the harmful activities of terrorist groups to protect NATO’s energy resources and ensure future supplies to Alliance members.
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Critical Infrastructure
Security and Resiliency
Handbook 2
Critical Infrastructure
Security and Resiliency
Handbook 2
Sarah J. Lohmann
Countering Terrorism on Tomorrow’s Battlefield:
US Army War College US Army War College
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US Army War College
Countering Terrorism on Tomorrow’s Battlefield:
Critical Infrastructure Security and Resiliency
NATO COE-DAT Handbook 2
Sarah J. Lohmann
Lucas M. Cox, Denise Feldner, Trevor P. Helmy,
Frank J. Kuzminski, Sarah J. Lohmann, Marcus Mohlin,
Aleksander Olech, Wuraola Oyewusi, Gabriel T. Raicu,
Silke Ruhl, Sabrina Schulz, Máté Tóth, Megan A. Ward
December 2022
Strategic Studies Institute
US Army War College
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US Army War College
Table of Contents
Preface .......................................................................................................... iii
Acknowledgments .........................................................................................vii
Executive Summary ....................................................................................... ix
Section 1 – Countering the Terrorist reat to Technology .............................. 1
Chapter 1: Mission-dependent Critical Infrastructure ................................. 3
Chapter 2: Emerging and Disruptive Technologies Used
in Counterterrorism: e Future of Big Data, Drones, and
Hypersonic Weapons ................................................................................... 23
Chapter 3: NATO Space Critical Infrastucture ..........................................45
Chapter 4: Terrorism, Disinformation, and Information Critical
Infrastructure ................................................................................................71
Chapter 5: Critical Election Infrastructure: Backbone of Democracy
with Relevance to NATO? .......................................................................... 97
Section 2 – Countering the Terrorist reat to Medical Resilience ............... 121
Chapter 6: Medical Resilience and Pandemics ......................................... 123
Chapter 7: Military Health Surveillance Systems Supporting
Resilience and Critical Infrastructure .........................................................137
Section 3 – Countering the Terrorist reat to Energy, Climate Change,
and Supply Chains ....................................................................................... 159
Chapter 8: Terrorist reats to the Energy Sector
in Africa and the Middle East .................................................................... 161
Chapter 9: Climate Change as a Dening Factor in Allied
Military and Counterterrorism Operations ................................................189
Chapter 10: Terrorist reats to Supply Chain
and Logistical Resilience ............................................................................221
About the Contributors ...............................................................................253
— 8 —
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector
in Africa and the Middle East
Aleksander Olech
©2022 Aleksander Olech
ABSTRACT: Energy security plays an increasingly important role in the
common security of NATO Allies. Energy facilities such as pipelines,
oil and gas terminals, and even oil fields have become targets of attacks
by various terrorist groups. By taking over energy-sector infrastructure,
terrorists can manipulate state actors and obtain significant revenues
to develop their military capabilities. In such circumstances, NATO
countries and their troops must consider the harmful activities of terrorist
groups to protect NATO’s energy resources and ensure future supplies
to Alliance members.
Keywords: terrorism, energy, fuel, Africa, oil
Energy security plays a critical role in the common security of the NATO
Alliance. NATO’s role in energy security was first defined in 2008 at the
Bucharest Summit and has since been strengthened.
Disruption of energy
supplies has a significant impact on the safety of NATO members and
partner countries and may affect the implementation of military operations.
While these topics are primarily the responsibility of the member states,
NATO member countries regularly hold consultations on energy security
to increase their strategic awareness of energy security and provide the military
1. “NATO’s Role in Energy Security,” NATO (website), n.d., accessed October 12, 2021,
with a reliable energy supply. Crude oil, as well as gas, are currently the main
sources for the production of goods, health care, transport, and investment
in new technologies. Moreover, fuel is indispensable for the sustainment
of military operations. The high fuel demand of combat forces must be fulfilled
to ensure the effectiveness and safety of the alliance.
This chapter will discuss the increasing number of terrorist groups
and rebel cells that interfere with global energy supplies and carry out
terrorist attacks on energy facilities. As many European countries strongly
rely on imports from Africa and the Middle East and at the same time aim
to reduce energy dependence on Russia, it is crucial to indicate the main
pillars and actions that jeopardize the extraction and transport
of natural resources.
In this chapter, the author initially indicates threats to the energy sector
that have evolved since 2003 because of terrorist attacks. Afterward, the most
significant strikes on energy infrastructure in the last decade are distinguished.
Subsequently, the emphasis is put on terrorist organizations that are acquiring
and transporting energy resources. Finally, the author offers recommendations
that NATO could implement due to the current terrorist threats to the energy
sector in Africa and the Middle East. Fundamental sources include reports
from think tanks, national authorities, press releases, scientific articles, and
historical analyses.
Research on this scale, focused on terrorist threats to the energy sector,
has been conducted to a very limited extent. This study will show that primarily
terrorist organizations from Africa and the Middle East impede supplies
to NATO members.
The following chapter is vital for NATO military and policy practitioners
due to several factors. Energy supplies are crucial to any military activity.
The majority of NATO countries are partially dependent on Russian supplies
and therefore need diversification. Many regions in Africa and the Middle
East are many rich in energy resources but vulnerable to terrorist threats.
This vulnerability will need to be considered regarding future NATO missions
in the region. In order to sustain current technological development, it is crucial
to provide vital energy from a secure and constant source. The involvement
of terrorists in seizing energy supplies, the international crisis, and
the increasing role of Russia and China in the energy market should
be a cornerstone for future research on threats to the energy sector.
Notable drivers that impact the energy supplies to NATO include the
outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, an unstable internal situation
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
of many states in Africa and the Middle East, aggressive Russian energy policy,
and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These phenomena have led governments
to introduce numerous measures affecting the economic situation and fuel
demand and supply worldwide. Complicated relations between the elements
influencing fuel supply make it necessary to pursue the efficient use of fuels
to ensure an uninterrupted supply chain.
The energy sector is a fundamental part of every baseline requirement
defined by NATO as crucial to sustaining the resilience of the Alliance.
Energy supplies and their use are strongly connected with supporting the
continuous work of critical government services, maintaining the supply
of raw materials, controlling the inflow of people, providing water and food,
sustaining the electricity to deal with mass casualties, offering constant
communication, and maintaining means of transport.2
The energy sector is vital on the civilian and military levels.
Without energy supplies, no NATO members could use tanks or planes.
The disruption of energy supplies would cause insecurity in the societies of
member and partner countries of the Alliance and adversely affect NATO
military operations. Energy security is a key resilience factor and has
become more important since the emergence of cyber and hybrid threats
to infrastructure. As the energy transition has begun globally, armed forces must
adapt to new challenges and maintain operational efficiency by diversifying
sources of supplies. Moreover, combat forces have significant fuel needs,
and this dependence can affect their performance, increase their
vulnerability, and force them to reassign part of their personnel to the
protection of supply lines.3
The operability of NATO and allied states’ troops in Africa and the
Middle East using the energy infrastructure of states in the region requires
access to the deposits, pipelines, and transmission routes. To fulfill its
potential, NATO needs energy for standard mobility. Using local resources,
NATO can carry out operations more easily in a sustained and
efficient manner.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is also triggering true NATO
cohesion and demonstrating reliance of the Alliance on energy imported
from Russia. However, differing approaches toward sanctioning and boycotting
2. Jamie Shea, “Resilience: A Core Element of Collective Defence,” NATO Review (website),
March 30, 2016,
3. “Energy Security,” NATO (website), updated July 11, 2022,
energy supplies undermine the internal cooperation of NATO and show
its vulnerabilities. Although some countries decided to ban gas and oil
from Russia, others are unwilling to cut the supplies. Moreover, Russian
actions, such as attacks on nuclear power plants and the destruction of pipelines
in Ukraine, must be considered as such war tactics could be used by terrorists
and other malign actors. Adding to their gray warfare tactics of plausible
denial, during the period when Russia halted energy exports to some countries,
the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were sabotaged, causing the single largest
release of methane in history.4
Russia holds leverage over some European countries because it produces
roughly 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas supply. Notwithstanding,
in 2019, there were 12 countries exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG)
to NATO (including Alliance members Norway and the United States).
Qatar, the largest trader of LNG to European NATO members, is responsible
for over a quarter of LNG imports, which means more than 25 percent
of LNG imports are transported through the important straits of Hormuz
and Bab el-Mandeb and the dangerous waters of the Gulf of Aden.5
Other important exporters are Algeria, accounting for 13.5 percent,
and Nigeria, constituting 13 percent; both countries are struggling
with terrorist organizations that want to control energy supplies.6
Furthermore, some LNG that could be rerouted to Europe is exported
from Africa and then sold to Asia, the main importer. In December 2021,
as much as 2.73 metric tons of LNG was delivered from Africa to Europe
in comparison with Russia, which supplied 1.44 metric tons to Europe.7
Some NATO countries mainly rely on the imports of Russian gas
(for example, the Czech Republic and Hungary). At the same time,
other countries (such as Belgium, the United Kingdom, and France) are only
4. Richard Valdmanis, “Nord Stream Rupture May Mark the Biggest Single Methane Release Ever
Recorded, U.N. Says” Reuters (website), September 30, 2022,
5. From Where Do We Import Energy?,” Eurostat (website), n.d.,
6. International Group of Liqueed Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL), GIIGNL Annual Report 2020:
e LNG Industry,
.pdf; and Nina Howell and Adam Quigley, “LNG in Europe 2020: Current Trends, e European LNG
Landscape and Country Focus” (New York: Bracewell, 2020),
7. Nikos Tasafos (@ntsafos), “LNG ows in December 2021,” Twitter, January 23, 2022, 4:34 PM,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
dependent on the Russian supplies for about 15 percent or less of their supply,
and the Baltic States stopped importing gas from Russia.8
Therefore, the maintenance and protection of energy supplies are crucial
to the Alliance and its development. The Alliance’s dependency on fossil
fuels and its continuous search for diversification will continue to pose
a significant challenge.
Defining the Phenomenon of Terrorist Attacks
on Energy Infrastructure
From 1970–2018, there were almost 2,000 terrorist incidents in which
gas or oil facilities were the primary targets.
Various African and Middle
Eastern countries rely economically on the extraction and processing of crude
oil and natural gas. However, production and distribution depend on critical
infrastructures such as pipelines, refineries, processing plants, terminals,
oil rig substations, pumping stations, ships, and tankers. At the same time,
several countries struggle with internal wars and terrorist organizations that
attempt to destroy critical infrastructure, threaten to make it their target,
or seize it for their purposes and benefits. Between 1999–2012, more than
200 attacks on critical infrastructure related to Africa’s oil and gas industry
Between 2014–16, al-Qaeda and Daesh alone were responsible
for over 70 attacks on the energy sector in North Africa (Algeria, Libya,
and Egypt).11
Despite being significantly enfeebled in recent years, Daesh has persisted
in striking oil and gas industry-related facilities. Instances include attacks
on Libya’s al-Ghani oil field in 2015, in which 11 guards were killed,
and the Zillah oil facility in 2019, which caused the death of five people.
Similarly, energy facilities in the Middle East have also been frequent targets
8. “Russia ‘Earned’ $98bn in Fuel Exports in 100 Days of Ukraine War,” Al Jazeera (website),
June 13, 2022,
-100-days-of-ukraine-war; and “Baltic States Become First in Europe to Stop Russian Gas Imports,”
Euractiv (website), April 4, 2022,
9. Chia-yi Lee, “Why Do Terrorists Target the Energy Industry? A Review of Kidnapping, Violence and
Attacks against Energy Infrastructure,” Energy Research & Social Science 87 (May 2022): 5.
10. Lord Aikins Adusei, “Terrorism, Insurgency, Kidnapping, and Security in Africa’s Energy Sector,”
African Security Review 24, no. 3 (2015): 332–59,
11. Lukáš Tichý and Jan Eichler, “Terrorist Attacks on the Energy Sector: e Case of Al Qaeda
and the Islamic State,” Studies in Conict & Terrorism 41, no. 6 (2018): 450–73,
610 X . 2 017.1 3234 69.
of terrorist organizations. Analogous incidents have occurred with the gas
and oil pipeline in Yemen and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq.
One meaningful example would be the failed al-Qaeda attack on the Saudi
giant Abqaiq oil processing plant in February 2006, the first incident of this
type in the world’s top oil provider country.12
Terrorism targeting the energy sector is a growing worldwide
phenomenon. In 2003, such strikes accounted for 25 percent of terrorist
attacks, rising to 35 percent in 2005.
In 2016, there was a 14 percent increase
in terrorist attacks targeted at the oil and gas industry, which comprised
almost 42 percent of all attacks.14 Not limited to physical attacks on power
plants, refineries, and gas or oil pipelines, they include other illegal activities
(such as theft of oil or gas from pipelines, extortion, or selling raw
materials) to finance and support groups carrying out the physical attacks.15
Nevertheless, funding mechanism characteristics remain unknown, as the only
transparent and reliably verifiable money transfers are those from kidnapping
and extortion.
Refineries, platforms, and factory workers’ abductions are
not uncommon. Such actions are aimed at obtaining a ransom, drawing
attention to terrorist organizations, destabilizing the activities of corporations
from countries considered to be enemies by harming them economically,
or lastly, undermining the credibility of a given country as it becomes unable
to ensure the safety of companies and employees.
Moreover, oil terrorism has been proven to have negative repercussions
on the country’s internal social situation as the related human rights violations
perpetrated by terrorists have amplified popular grievances and multiplied
terrorist and criminal activity as a consequence.17 Furthermore, quantitative
studies have shown that this kind of domestic terrorism is directly responsible
12. Simon Henderson, “Al-Qaeda Attack on Abqaiq: e Vulnerability of Saudi Oil,” Washington Institute
(website), February 28, 2006,
13. Jennifer Giroux, “Targeting Energy Infrastructure: Examining the Terrorist reat in North Africa
and its Broader Implications (ARI)” (Madrid: Elcano Royal Institute, February 13, 2009),
14. “Terrorist Attacks and Political Violence: How Oil Is Impacted,” One Brief (website), n.d.,
accessed November 18, 2021,
15. Lukáš Tichý, “e Islamic State Oil and Gas Strategy in North Africa,” Energy Strategy Reviews 24 (2019):
16. Chia-yi Lee, “Oil and Terrorism: Uncovering the Mechanisms,” Journal of Conict Resolution 62, no. 5
(May 2018): 903–28,
17. James A. Piazza, “Oil and Terrorism: An Investigation of Mediators,” Public Choice 169 (2016): 251–68,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
for the increase in oil prices, which may lead to the worsening of social and
economic instability. Such a scenario becomes even more pressing and alarming
in particularly fragile countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East,
which often must deal with terrorism in the energy industry.18 It is also
a challenge for NATO countries importing from insecure regions. A cessation
of energy supplies could strongly impact the majority of European countries
and create an inability to use military forces that rely on gasoline.
Most Significant Terrorist Attacks
on Energy Infrastructure in the Last Decade
Figure 8-1. The most significant terrorist attacks on energy infrastructure
in the last decade
(Original map by author)
Aramco, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest energy suppliers in the world and
closely cooperates, frequently on a military basis, with many NATO countries
(for example, the United States and France). Aramco is a Saudi Arabian
18. Dillon F. Farrell, “Oil & Terrorism: How Terrorism Aects Oil Rents” (master’s thesis, Ridge College
of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences/Mercyhurst University, 2016).
oil company based in Dhahran and is the biggest oil producer worldwide,
as it is responsible for providing 10 percent of the global supply.19
In 2016, Saudi Arabia ranked as the second country in the world as far
as oil reserves are concerned, constituting 16.2 percent of the global oil
Such conditioning makes this region crucial for NATO energy
security. Moreover, the Saudi economy itself is highly dependent on the oil
industry. Being a critical point of the energy sector, Aramco has been the target
of aggression, including two significant cyberattacks in 2012 and 2017
and a drone attack in 2019.21
The 2012 attack, executed with the Shamoon virus, damaged
10,000 company computers. The virus, malicious malware classified
as a wiper, erases the hard drives of the computers it infects.
According to former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, it was the most
destructive cyberattack on the private sector to that date.
The attack occurred
on August 15, 2012. Consequently, all significant internal networks were
shut down for almost a month. It is acknowledged that the attack aimed
not to seize data but to eliminate the greatest possible number of systems.23
The attack raised concerns regarding the company’s cybersecurity, as there are
claims that it might have been performed by someone who had physical and
direct access to a computer on the Aramco network.24 Following the attack,
the company isolated its electronic systems from the outside world to prevent
the situation from happening again.
Five years later, in August 2017, Aramco faced another attack
performed with a new malware version—namely Shamoon 2.0.
In this case,
the attack aimed at erasing data and sabotaging the company’s functions.
Furthermore, all investigators acknowledged that the attack was meant
to trigger an explosion and cause the loss of lives. According to experts,
19. Dahlia Nehme, “Saudi Aramco: e Oil Colossus,” Reuters (website), November 3, 2019, https://www
20. Saudi Arabia Oil,” Worldometer (website),
21. Marwa Rashad, “Saudi Aramco Sees Increase in Attempted Cyber Attacks,” Reuters (website),
February 6, 2020,
22. Reuters Sta, “ Shamoon’ Virus Most Destructive Yet for Private Sector, Panetta Says,” Reuters
(website), October 11, 2012,
23. Sahar Alshathry, “Cyber Attack on Saudi Aramco,” International Journal of Management & Information
Tec h nolo g y 11, no. 5 (2017): 3037,
24. Rashad, “Saudi Aramco Sees Increase.”
25. Salem Alelyani and Harish Kumar, “Overview of Cyberattack on Saudi Institutions,” Journal of
Information Security and Cybercrimes Research 1, no. 1 (2018): 1–9.
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
the strike’s goal was to keep Saudi Arabia from diversifying its economy
and creating new employment opportunities for the young people of the
The strike raised concerns regarding the global safety of energy
facilities. Furthermore, the incident represented a powerful and unique
example of this emerging threat, as the hackers could cause significant
physical damage.
The most recent physical attack on the Aramco facilities
on September 14, 2019, was a knife in the heart of the Saudi economy.
It targeted Abqaiq and Khurais, the two strategic Aramco facilities
responsible for processing most of the Saudi crude oil. The strike was executed
with 10 drones aimed at the facilities. The incident provoked an increase
in oil prices and caused significant damage and a shortage of more than
5 percent of global oil supply.27 Despite Yemeni Houthis claiming
responsibility for the attack, Saudi Arabia, along with Western powers,
accused Tehran.28 A 2020 UN report ruled out the possibility that the drones
could have been launched from Yemeni territory.29
The economic damage caused by the 2019 drone strike was significant,
followed by an upsurge in oil prices. The Saudi petrochemical industry
recovered due to its oil reserves and met the requirement for oil exports
with a slight delay. Moreover, the drone attack prompted Aramco to reconsider
its comprehensive security measures.
Strikes against the energy industry continue to raise concerns in the
international community. Saudi Arabia has long been considered a great
stabilizer of the oil market. However, recent incidents have revealed the
inner vulnerability of systems and structures, evidenced by the inexpensive
access to technology relative to the extent of the damage they caused.
Although the country reacted immediately, its apparent vulnerability
may discourage purchasers from relying on Saudi oil to a certain extent.
Furthermore, there is no conclusive reason to believe comparable attacks
26. Nicole Perlroth and Cliord Krauss, “A Cyberattack in Saudi Arabia Had a Deadly Goal. Experts Fear
Another Try,” New York Times (website), March 15, 2018,
27. “Aramco Attack: Worst Disruption Ever Sends Oil Prices Soaring,” Al Jazeera (website),
September 16, 2019,
28. Bill Chappell, “Saudi Arabia Says Iran ‘Unquestionably Sponsored’ Attack On Oil Facilities,”
NPR (website), September 18, 2019,
29. Final Report of the Panel of Experts on Yemen (New York: UN Security Council, April 28, 2020),les/resources/S_2020_326_E.pdf.
will not recur in the future, as terrorists have shown interest in developing
new techniques and technologies between attacks. Shortly after the latest
strike, and not coincidentally, the United States, European countries,
the UN, and the International Energy Agency sent experts to Saudi
Arabia to investigate the attack. Thus, they showed a common interest
in obtaining additional information and developing joint preventive measures
for the future.30
Ras Lanuf and As Sidra, Libya
In 2011, a NATO-led coalition initiated a military intervention in Libya.
However, the Alliance’s involvement was insufficient, and the country is still
suffering, unable to recover after the civil war. Libya’s rich natural resources
make its economy strictly dependent on gas and oil sales. This branch makes
up 94.4 percent of Libya’s total income from export.
In particular, Ras Lanuf
and As Sidra, located in the Gulf of Sirte, are the two most substantial oil
terminals, with a combined export capacity of around 600,000 barrels per day.
Numerous groups have targeted both locations to acquire control of Libya’s
largest economic branch.32 Terrorists understand that the region’s economy
is strictly dependent on energy production. Therefore, this sector constitutes
a significant target of their activities and provides a chance to attain political
influence. Moreover, attacking pipelines and other energy facilities allows
them to gain additional income to fund their operations.
One of the most significant attacks occurred in January 2016,
when four oil storage tanks at the Ras Lanuf terminal were set on fire.
Moreover, the assaulters targeted the pipeline, the biggest one on the Libyan
coast, leading to the As Sidra terminal. The Islamic State executed the
attack. The aftermath of the strike was considerably worse than the previous
ones. Military actions have targeted both terminals since 2011, as affected
facilities were equipped with the infrastructure necessary for oil refinement and
30. Michelle Nichols and Humeyra Pamuk, “Saudi Arabia Consults Allies on Oil Attack, Awaits Result
of Investigation: Ocial,” Reuters (website), September 25, 2019,
31. Lukas Tichy, “e Islamic State Oil and Gas Strategy in North Africa,” Energy Strategy Reviews 24
(2019): 254–60, https://doi:10.1016/j.esr.2019.04.001.
32. Mahmoud Barakat, “Libya Resumes Oil Exports at Sidra, Ras Lanuf Ports,” Anadolu Agency (website),
September 16, 2019,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
export. Also, terminals remained closed for a longer period. Overall, Daesh’s
energy-related attacks have continued.33
The financial loss was immense. The attack caused a significant shortage
in oil production, which fell to nearly 325,000 barrels per day in 2016,
which was previously about 1.7 million barrels per day. It directly affected
gas and oil exports, decreasing to 260,000 barrels per day in 2016 alone.34
The terminals remained closed for a longer period. In May 2019, for example,
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Zella oilfield, belonging
to the Zueitina Oil Company, which did not result in significant physical
damages to the infrastructure but constituted another significant demonstration
of the actual threat of terrorist organizations on the Libyan energy sector.35
Regardless of the internal situation in Libya, Western countries,
including the EU, whose energy security is dependent on imports from Libya
for about 3.4 percent of oil and 2 percent of gas, have also been affected.36
Moreover, being a country rich in natural resources, Libya remains essential
for the European market. Any incident concerning oil security in Libya
affects NATO countries, given the country’s immense reserves. NATO,
particularly France, the United States, and Italy, were actively engaged in the
country’s transformations, surfacing during the Arab Spring, to secure their
interests regarding the energy sector.37
In Salah, Krechba Oil Fields, Algeria
Algeria, a vital NATO partner, joined the Mediterranean Dialogue in 2000
and can help reduce NATO’s dependence on Russian oil and gas. Salah Gas,
a joint venture formed by Sonatrach, BP, and Equinor, began gas production
in the three northern fields of Krechba, Teguentour, and Reg in 2004.
In 2016, the other four southern gas fields of Gour Mahmoud, In Salah,
Garet el Befinat, and Hassi Moumene were included.
33. “Islamic State Militants Attack Lybia’s Ras Lanuf Oil Terminal,” Africa News (website),
January 21, 2016, https://ww
34. Tichý, “Islamic State Oil and Gas Strategy,” 258.
35. Ayman al-Warfalli, Ahmed Elumami, and Ahmed Eljechtimi, “ree Killed in Suspected Islamic
State Attack outside Libyan Oileld,” Reuters (website), May 18, 2019,
36. “Trade – Libya: EU Trade Relations with Libya: Facts, Figures and Latest Developments,”
European Commission (website), n.d.,
37. Milad M. Elharathi, “Humanitarian Intervention: Morals versus Realism: e Use of Force
in the Defence of Human Rights in Libya,” World Aairs: e Journal of International Issues 18, no. 1 (2014): 76,
In March 2016, the Krechba oil field was attacked by an explosive
detonated from a long distance. Consequently, it had to be closed for safety
Targeting the Sonatrach facilities could have immense consequences
as it is Africa’s largest oil and natural gas company, making Algeria the seventh
largest natural gas exporter in the world. Any threats to block production
could result in a shortage of supply and a significant increase in prices.
For this reason, Algeria, one of Europe’s leading gas suppliers, represents
a critical point in NATO’s strategy to combat terrorism and cyber threats.39
Figure 8-2. The share of Algerian gas in total gas imports by EU countries
(Original chart by author)
Ashkelon, Israel
Israel has been a crucial NATO partner for more than 20 years and
an active member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. The Trans-Israel
pipeline, also known as Eilat-Ashkelon or the Europe-Asia Pipeline,
was constructed to transport Iran-originated crude oil from Israel to Europe.
The pipeline operator, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC,
also known as Europe Asia Pipeline Company), has main infrastructures
in the cities of Eilat, Beersheva, and Ashkelon. The Ashkelon infrastructure
is the largest and belongs to the EAPC. Additionally, Ashkelon serves
as the base for various other independent oil storage tanks operated by different
international companies.
38. Associated Press, “Gas Facility in Algeria Is Attacked with Rockets,” New York Times (website),
March 18, 2016,
39. James orpe, “NATO and Algeria Strengthen Counter-terror Partnership,” International Security
Journal (website), May 27, 2021,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
On May 11, 2021, Hamas attacked the coastal city of Ashkelon,
and, as a result, the Israeli oil refinery and pipelines, including the
Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, were destroyed. On May 12, after the assault,
which resulted in a fire of the Trans-Israel pipeline, the US public energy
corporation Chevron shut down its platform on the Israeli shore.40
Delta Oil Region, Nigeria
Nigeria is currently an LNG supplier to several NATO countries.
In addition, Abuja has strong ties with Moscow, which the Alliance
should monitor. The Niger Delta region is oil-rich and, at the same time,
concentrates most of the oil production. Therefore, this region is crucial
for the energy security of NATO countries, as both Europe and the
United States are experiencing an increase in demand for imported energy.
However, the instability that has characterized the territory since the
beginning of the twenty-first century resulted in the blocking of a quarter
of Nigeria’s supplies.41
In 2016, the Chevron CVX.N platform in the Niger Delta region
became the target of an attack. According to Chevron, the largest oil
exporter in Africa, the attack was executed on May 4, and the Niger Delta
Avengers (NDA) militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the
incident. In the days following the attack on the platform, the group continued
destructive activities and attacked other significant facilities, such as gas lines
and crucial installations. The NDA operation transformed into a three-month
series of attacks. The motivation behind the aggression was purely economic,
as the group released a statement demanding a more considerable share
of crude oil sales.42
Similar to other groups that emerge in politically unstable countries,
the NDA was created in February 2016 following political tensions in the
country after the 2015 presidential election. Besides the fight for the profit
from oil exports, NDA claims to fight for the people of the Delta region
40. Elza Turner and Eklavya Gupte, “Rocket Hits Crude Oil Storage Tank at Trans-Israel Pipeline:
Reports,” S&A Global (website), May 12, 2021,
41. Jamie Shea, “Energy Security: NATO’s Potential Role,” NATO Review (website), September 1, 2006,
42. Tife Owolabi, “Militants Attack Chevron Platform in Nigeria’s Oil-rich Niger Delta,” Reuters (website),
May 5, 2016,
suffering due to “divisive and exclusive” politics. Simultaneously, the group
aspires to form an independent Niger Delta Republic.43
Indeed, since the discovery of the oil fields in 1950, the Delta region
has struggled with violence and instability. The country’s development and
viability depend on natural resources, whereas control over them belongs
to the government and oil multinationals. Thereby, entire communities
are disregarded due to the lack of social and infrastructural development,
while Nigeria is facing numerous violent clashes and the emergence
of militant groups like NDA.44 Oil terrorism has harmful consequences
for the suppliers and affects the country’s internal situation at the same
time. For example, terrorist attacks on Nigerian pipelines in 2016 resulted
in a 36 percent decrease in oil production, resulting in a 50 percent reduction
in government revenue.45
Terrorism in the Energy Sector
as the Instrument of Geopolitical Pressure
Currently, Africa and the Middle East contain the highest number
of terrorist organizations. Several different groups and their affiliates,
which are lethal not the countries in which they operate and to others,
including all NATO member states. The concentration of extremists in the
region is strongly related to the ongoing armed conflicts, unstable situation
in failed states (such as Yemen, Somalia, and Syria), and the competition
of terrorist groups for land, money, and arms and drug trafficking.
All these circumstances allow terrorists to carry out activities and plan
future attacks, often jeopardizing energy stability. Thus, NATO countries
and their troops must consider the harmful activities of terrorist groups,
including their attempts to destroy key energy centers, which have become
one of their main targets.
Based on recent terrorist incidents in Africa and the Middle East strongly
related to energy security, it is essential to know which terrorist groups carry
out operations that could affect NATO allies, armed forces, and energy
43. Resurgence of Militancy in the Niger Delta: Update on the Niger Delta Avengers (Askoro
Abuja, NG: Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta, June 2016),ng-Niger-Delta-Avengers-June-2016.pdf.
44. Mercy Erhi Makpor, “e Niger Delta Avengers: An Assessment of the Causes, Agitation, Major
Challenges for OMNCs and Suggestions for Tackling Insurgency in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria,”
International Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Studies 4, no. 10 (2017): 16–26.
45. “Terrorist Attacks and Political Violence.”
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
supplies. There are at least a dozen significant terrorist groups—with cells
and affiliates in nearby countries—that should be mentioned. The largest
organizations that operate with the intention of destroying or exploiting
energy resources will be emphasized in the following sections.
Daesh has long been considered the wealthiest terrorist organization
in the world. Between 2014–15, oil production in controlled areas constituted
its most important, if not primary, source of revenue. This terrorist organization
controlled 8 out of 114 oil production sites in Iraq, such as the Ajil field,
the oil wells in the Hamrin Mountains, the Qayara and Najma fields,
and the Baiji refinery. In Syria, out of 75 sites in total, there were 34 spots
located in the eastern governorates of Dayr al-Zawr, Hassaka, and Raqqa
under its supervision.
When it comes to Daesh’s approach to the energy
issue, three components can be distinguished.
1. Ecient development of oil and gas elds in Syria and Iraq.
2. Increasing oil and gas production to secure nancing for the
3. Seizure of new oil and gas elds and destruction of critical
infrastructure in the countries Daesh considers hostile to weaken
the economy in those countries.47
The Daesh Shura Council identified oil and gas as key survival
instruments.48 In 2014, Daesh controlled over 60 percent of Syria’s and
nearly 10 percent of Iraq’s oil production. According to the World Bank
Group, the organization was produced up to 86,000 barrels per day in the
first half of 2014 and 56,000 barrel’s per day in the year’s second half.
However, the production level dropped significantly to 35,000 barrels per
day in 2015 and 16,000 barrels per day in 2016. This noticeable production
46. Quy-Toan Do et al., How Much Oil Is the Islamic State Group Producing?: Evidence from
Remote Sensing, Policy Research Working Paper, no. 8231 (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017),
47. Jessica Lewis McFate, The ISIS Defense in Iraq and Syria: Countering an Adaptive Enemy,
Middle East Security Report, no. 27 (Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of War, May 2015),
48. Tichý and Eichler, “Terrorist Attacks on the Energy Sector.”
decrease, reflected in the overall revenue decline, has been accompanied
since 2015 by territorial and financial losses for the organization.49
Moreover, compared with previous production trends, Daesh could not
exploit the seized fields efficiently to use their full production potential.
Nevertheless, Daesh’s appropriation and utilization of any energy facility are
to be treated as a severe threat regardless of whether the terrorists can use
the production potential. The oil production was directly managed by Daesh,
while the oil distribution network in the area under its supervision was not
its immediate concern.50 Oil sold to independent distributors was purchased
either by small local refineries or other intermediaries transferring it further.
According to the official reports, Daesh may have charged from $15 to $45
per barrel, depending on oil quality and local market conditions.
Before the establishment of the Global Coalition against Daesh,
testimony to the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural resources
estimated the organization could have earned between $1 and $1.5 million
US dollars on oil sales.
Moreover, despite the lack of knowledge on the exact
numbers regarding production or revenue, it is estimated that between 2014–15,
weekly revenue generated from oil sales amounted to several million US dollars.
Although the fight against Daesh claimed to be victorious, the organization
still exists and continues operations in the Middle East and Africa. It constantly
exercises physical control over smaller regions, including those producing
crude oil and natural gas. Moreover, Daesh continues to launch attacks
against critical infrastructure. The latest assault on a Syrian gas pipeline
occurred on September 17, 2021.52 Taking the above information
into consideration, terrorist organizations can take over critical infrastructure
and profit from it, making the risk of the occurrence of such situations
possible in the future.
49. “Islamic State Territory Down 60 Percent and Revenue Down 80 Percent on Caliphate’s ird
Anniversary, IHS Says,” IHS Markit (website), June 29, 2017,
50. “How Much Oil Is the Islamic State Group Producing?: Evidence from Remote Sensing,” World Bank
Group (website), n.d.,
51. Testimony before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: Hearing to Examine Terrorism
and the Global Oil Markets, 114th Cong. (2015) (statement of Peter Harrell, adjunct senior fellow, Center
for a New American Security),
52. Daniel Onyango,” ISIS Claims Responsibility for Pipeline Attack and Power Blackout in Syria,”
Pipeline Business (website), September 21, 2021,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
Boko Haram
Boko Haram frequently carries out terrorist activities in the energy sector,
especially in Nigeria. In 2017, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari’s
administration began exploring the northeastern region of Nigeria and the
Lake Chad Basin.53 The discovery of new sources of natural resources would
have allowed the country to diversify its supplies. The pressing menace
of Boko Haram’s entrenched presence in the territory did not initially deter
the state from attempting to create a new source of revenue and boost the
economy of a region whose poverty is also attributable to terrorists’ activities.
However, Boko Haram’s attack on a convoy escorting surveyors in the
northeastern state of Borno hindered these plans. The attack resulted
in dozens of killings, including Civilian Joint Task Force members supporting
armed forces in combating the terrorist group. Moreover, four oil workers
were kidnapped, and at least one was killed, while Boko Haram appeared to
be asking for ransom for the remaining three. Consequently, E. Ibe Kachikwu,
the Nigerian minister of state for petroleum resources, immediately halted the
exploration until security clearance was granted.55 Nevertheless, it has been
made clear that the Nigerian government remains eager to conduct future
exploration activities in the Borno state.
Boko Haram has never ceased targeting energy infrastructure.
In January 2021, it blew up Maiduguri’s power tower, plunging the capital
city of the Borno state into darkness. In February 2021, it launched explosives
toward the same city, killing at least 10 people and injuring about 50.56
The constant presence of Boko Haram makes it impossible to explore the
northern areas for raw materials exploitation. The establishment of new
energy infrastructure in areas under its control may lead to the interception
of extracted oil, providing the group with an additional source of income.
Furthermore, there are more terrorist groups in the Sahel region and Nigeria
53. “Nigeria: du pétrole bientôt exploité sur les terres de Boko Haram?,” France TV Info (website),
July 27, 2017,
54. John Campbell, “Boko Haram Blocks Oil Exploration in Northeast Nigeria,” Council on Foreign
Relations (website), August 1, 2017,
55. Ludovica Iaccino, “Boko Haram’s Fatal Ambush Destroys Hope of Boost to Nigeria’s Economy with
Borno Oil,” International Business Times (website), July 28, 2017,
56. Blessing Tunoh, “Boko Haram Blows Up Power Tower, rows Maiduguri into Darkness Again,”
Channels TV (website), March 27, 2021,
itself that can be directly engaged in attacking energy infrastructure in the
Middle East and North Africa region.57
Nigeria remains the biggest energy producer in Africa, having
immense natural-gas reserves. In 2018, it was the fifth largest exporter
of LNG in the world, producing up to 2 million barrels per day.58
Additionally, Nigeria remains the largest economy and most populous country
in Africa and within OPEC, making the country a truly impactful actor
in the regional security scenario.59 However, Nigeria’s extraction and production
capacity has been affected by the presence of terrorist organizations in its
territory. It was estimated that, in 2014, an average of 75,000 to 150,000 barrels
of crude oil were stolen each day in the Delta region, causing tremendous
economic damage since the Nigerian economy is highly dependent on oil and
gas export.60
Taking into consideration the area of Boko Haram’s activities, which are
concentrated mainly in northeastern Nigeria, this terrorist organization has
not yet posed a regular threat to the state energy sector, given that Nigeria’s
oil and gas fields are located mostly in the south. Nevertheless, the state’s
revenue from natural resources could provide for a more effective fight
against rebels, as it would make it possible to boost investment in developing
military and anti-terrorist capabilities. On the other hand, an economy that
relies on natural resources in energy production and export for 70 percent
of state revenue is a victim of fluctuations in oil prices. Indeed, the poor
economic situation translates into increased uncertainty on the political scene,
which could serve as a crucial factor in the further destabilization
of the country.
There are well-grounded concerns regarding the future of the oil industry
in the Lake Chad region. Boko Haram will regularly attack critical
infrastructure (such as oil pipelines and production sites) and try to seize
57. Alan Lis and Aleksander Ksawery Olech, “e Activity of Jihadist Terrorist Organizations
in the Region of Sahel,” Institute of New Europe (website), June 21, 2021,
58. BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, 68th ed. (London: BP, 2019),
59. “Energy and Security – Nigeria,” Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law (website),
60. “reats and Opportunities for Energy Sector in West Africa,” International Peace Institute (website),
September 9, 2014,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
it to sell oil and generate a steady source of income.61 For this reason,
countries around Lake Chad should strengthen their internal anti-terrorism
policies to protect citizens, secure critical energy installations, and cooperate
on a transnational level to fight terrorists.
Niger Delta Avengers
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which emerged in 2020, is another
group that directly threatens and accounts for most of the attacks on the
Nigerian energy sector. Their actions, including the oil installation bombing
in the Niger Delta, demonstrate opposition to the government’s negligence
toward the region. Moreover, they objected to its alliance with foreign energy
multinationals, who are accused of extracting and exploiting indigenous
natural resources while failing to improve the social and economic conditions
of Nigerian citizens.
Activities of the NDA pushed the president of Nigeria
to initiate an amnesty program for the group members to maintain peace
in the southern regions. Although the program has been in force since 2009,
it failed to dissuade the NDA from launching widespread attacks in 2016,
thus plunging the country into recession.
In the summer of 2016, the NDA threatened to declare the
independence of the southern oil-rich region as an extreme act of defiance
against the Nigerian government. The groups indicated that the region’s
richness in natural resources did not translate into an increase in the
standard of living of its citizens. Between February and August 2016,
the NDA reported at least 14 attacks on oil fields and terminals in the states
of Delta (9 attacks), Bayelsa (three attacks), and Akwa Ibom (two attacks),
reducing the country’s production to merely 1.4/1.5 million barrels per day.
Such a situation was particularly challenging for Nigeria, as the attacks took
place concurrently with the drop in the value of the Naira, the Nigerian
currency. Immediately after the 2016 attacks, Nigeria lost its primacy
as Africa’s largest oil exporter, surpassed by Angola. This scenario
corresponds precisely with the purpose of the terrorist strategy designed and
61. J. Tochukwu Omenma, “Untold Story of Boko Haram Insurgency: e Lake Chad Oil and Gas
Connection,” Politics and Religion 13, no. 1 (2020): 180–213, 0166.
62. Michael Fitzpatrick, “France Creates Agency to Fight Foreign Fake News Aiming to Undermine
the State,” RFI (website), June 5, 2021, https://www.r.fr/fr/afrique/20160526-nigeria-sont-vengeurs-delta
63. “Nigeria: les Vengeurs du Delta du Niger menacent de déclarer l’indépendance de la région pétrolifère,”
Jeune Afrique (website), October 19, 2016,
-menacent-de-declarer-lindependance-delta-niger/; and Eklavya Gupte, “Niger Delta Militants reaten
to Resume Attacks on Nigeria’s Oil Installations,” SP Global (website), June 28, 2021, https://www.spglobal
implemented by the NDA: to destabilize and weaken the Nigerian economy
to such an extent that the country’s central government could no longer
be ignore its claims. The 2016 attack was swiftly followed by negotiations
between the Buhari government and the terrorist group and a ceasefire
in August, which implied the threat was relatively contained.
However, in June 2021, the rebels announced a resumption of attacks
as part of Operation Humble, aimed at “humbling” the Nigerian economy,
driving it into a prolonged recession.64
There is also another danger in the country that needs to be highlighted.
In 2020, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)
launched attacks on gas and oil pipelines in the Bayelsa state.65 This small
rebel group continues operations of a movement that emerged around 2004
and whose activity was based on attempts to stop oil production in the Niger
Delta region and environmental devastation, including polluting gas flaring
and oil spills, deforestation, and desertification. Their methods included
kidnappings of oil workers for ransom, armed attacks on production facilities,
pipeline destruction, and theft of oil that was later sold on the black market.
The MEND activity demonstrates the increase of terrorist threats in Nigeria
and the possible involvement of other rebel groups in the energy sector.
Energy infrastructure components, such as oil pipelines, are easily
accessible and constitute a target that can cause significant economic damage
if attacked. As early as 2002, al-Qaeda began exploring the possibility
of attacks on natural resources when it attacked the French-flagged Limburg
tanker carrying 397,000 barrels of oil off the coast of Yemen. In April 2008,
after the attack on a Japanese tanker that took place in the same place,
oil price soared to a record $117 per barrel. Meanwhile, when al-Qaeda
attempted to attack the Abqaiq refinery in Saudi Arabia in February 2006,
the attempt caused oil prices to rise by $2 per barrel.67
Attacks in Algeria have been less frequent since the civil war ended
in 2002, but groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and
64. Gupte, “Niger Delta Militants.”
65. Rayyan Alhassan, “Niger Delta Militants who Bombed Oil Pipelines in Bayelsa Make 5 Demands
to Nigerian Government,” Daily Nigerian (website), November 27, 2020,
66. “Nigeria’s Shadowy Oil Rebels,” BBC News (website), April 20, 2006,
67. “Saudis Foil Oil Facility Attack,” BBC News (website), February 24, 2006,
/middle_east / m.
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
fighters allied with Daesh remain active. In 2006 and 2007, AQIM militants
bombed a gas pipeline, which was temporarily taken out of service as a result.
Other related attacks involved the bombing of coaches carrying oil workers.
Algerian oil and gas infrastructure has been heavily safeguarded
by the national army, especially since the 2013 attack on the In Amanas gas
plant operated by BP and Statoil, during which 40 workers were killed.
At that time, Algeria could not transport energy supplies and lost almost all
international contracts. Moreover, it demonstrated the strength of terrorist
organizations that may not threaten national security and affect all recipients
of supplies, including many NATO countries.70 In 2016, another attack
on an Algerian gas power plant caused no loss of life or damage.
However, as a precautionary measure, the facility was temporarily shut down,
which negatively affected the importing countries and national interests.
As global demand grows, the Algerian energy sector’s vulnerability
to all threats may increase, which will be reflected in costs.
Furthermore, non-state armed groups (such as AQIM) will continue
to evolve, innovate, and prove their ability to circumvent security measures
by conducting asymmetric attacks. The number of terrorist groups in the
Sahel region, either affiliated with al-Qaeda or Daesh, is growing.
In this case, the risk of new strikes on energy facilities is relatively higher.
State Terror and the Use of Terrorist Groups
in the Energy Sector
Oil and natural gas could also become state governments’ political tools,
especially when they are influenced by organizations recognized as terrorists.
One such example is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
In 2008, the IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari stated that “the
enemies know that we could easily block the Strait of Hormuz indefinitely.71
Hormuz is one of the most important places for transporting natural
68. Giroux, “Targeting Energy Infrastructure.”
69. Joachim Dagenborg and Lamine Chikhi, “Algeria’s In Amenas Gas Plant Returning to Normal
after Attack,” Reuters (website), September 1, 2014,
70. Tomasz Kijewski, “Atak terrorystyczny na kompleks gazowy Tiguentourine w In Amenas w Algierii
w styczniu 2013 r. jako przykład nowych zagrożeń dla energetycznej infrastruktur y krytycznej i bezpieczeństwa
wewnętrznego państwa,” Przegląd Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego 9, no. 13 (2013): 202–23.
71. Keith Crane et al., “Oil Revenues, Rogue States, and Terrorist Groups,” in Imported Oil and U.S. National
Security (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2009): 43–58,
resources worldwide. If Iran did block the strait, oil prices worldwide would
rise significantly. Although Jafari’s statement was delivered 13 years ago,
it is still very relevant.
Indeed, terrorism on energy supplies affects the security of strategic
chokepoints. Four of the routes particularly at risk are located in the
Middle East—the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf,
the Bab el-Mandeb Strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea,
the Suez Canal and the Sumed pipeline connected to the Red Sea of the
Mediterranean, and the Turkish straits linking the Mediterranean and
the Black Sea. These vital energy trade corridors have been repeatedly
targeted by terrorist organizations, especially in the context of the numerous
conflicts in the region. In 2013, for example, al-Qaeda–affiliated groups
damaged two ships using grenades in the Suez Canal. Similarly, in 2014,
Daesh attacked and sabotaged the primary Iraq-Türkiye export line from Kirkuk
to Ceyhan.72 Almost all territories close to the most significant chokepoints
were the aim of attack from terrorist organizations. The possible additional
terror from transit states could heavily affect the situation in the energy
supply market.
Energy security has been a crucial strategic factor since the early
twentieth century. In an era increasingly dominated by hybrid warfare,
it has become one of the main challenges for NATO and the European Union.
Terrorist attacks conducted by extremist groups against energy infrastructure
can have disastrous consequences. To combat the growing threat to the
energy security environment, countries must adopt a multifaceted approach.
NATO and EU countries should undertake joint efforts aimed to diversify
their energy sources, develop national infrastructure, and invest in alternative
energy sources so they are not compelled to rely heavily on oil and gas supplied
from unstable regions.
Oil and gas importing countries could allocate funds to help support
the native communities affected by the oil and gas production in Sudan,
Nigeria, or Algeria. These funds could help provide military training,
police funding, community patrols, and strengthen critical infrastructure.
For instance, in Iraq, the United States helped fund 14,000 security guards,
72. Robin Mills, “Risky Routes: Energy Transit in the Middle East,” Brookings Doha Center Analysis
Paper, no. 17 (Doha: Brookings Institution, April 2016), 1–37,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
who were placed at critical locations along major pipelines. The United States
also supplied monitoring equipment, including electronic motion sensors.
The French Republic also uses its soldiers to protect Africa’s key transit
routes and energy facilities.74
NATO should concentrate on securing the world’s most important
chokepoints to ensure the continued flow of volumes of natural resources.
Moreover, the cooperation between NATO countries, which are recipients
of energy, and their main extractors and exporters should be strengthened.
NATO’s involvement could take various forms—from military presence
for counterterrorism to education. NATO can also assist with education
and training for countries struggling with terrorism and attacks on energy
infrastructure. Securing the supply chain in the most sensitive regions is also
in the interest of NATO countries. It is a NATO duty to develop security
measures to protect the Alliance from physical terrorist attacks and terrorist
cyberspace intrusions that threaten energy supplies.
In addition, the future growth in gas demand should be directed
toward Africa, which will witness a 40 percent growth in production
between 2018–30. In contrast, production is expected to decline in the
EU (-8 percent).
Helping to diversify European energy supplies has been
part of the US response, alongside NATO defense and diplomatic efforts.
For this reason, to diversify and secure energy supplies, NATO should
strengthen counterterrorist cooperation with African and Middle Eastern
countries. The next step is to develop an effective anti-terrorist strategy
to secure energy supplies in Africa and the Middle East to ensure successful
energy delivery, verification of dangers, and tools to eliminate the threats
to energy consumers and suppliers.
Terrorism, cyberattacks, infrastructure sabotage, attacks on oil tankers and
pipeline installations, and attacks and killings of people associated with the
73. “New Technology Can Help Fight Pipeline Sabotage,” Institute for the Analysis of Global Security
(website), March 31, 2004,
74. Aleksander Olech, International Military Involvement of the French Republic (Warsaw: Institute
of New Europe, 2021),
75. Rim Berahab, Global Trends in the Energ y Sector and eir Implication on Energy Security in NATO’s
Southern Neighbourhood (Madrid: Elcano Royal Institute,September 8, 2020), 5, https://media.realinstitutoelcano
energy companies represent a shift in the nature of war. It is not necessarily
the state’s territory that is threatened by military aggression, but critical
infrastructures, such as oil, gas, and pipeline installations. Such activities may
significantly impact the NATO member states importing natural resources
from the Middle Eastern and African countries. The actions mentioned
above might temporarily halt the flow of crude oil and liquefied natural gas.
In the future, one can expect an increased cyber and kinetic attacks.
Special attention should be given to places strategically crucial
for energy supply, such as the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb Strait,
which have become targets of terrorist organizations. In 2018, several
Saudi tankers crossing the Bab el-Mandeb Strait were attacked by the Yemeni
Houthi fighters, resulting in the suspension of supplies. Any blockage
in the flow of goods brings enormous financial losses for numerous
countries and organizations.
In 2018, as many as 6.2 million barrels per day of refined crude oil were
transported through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, to Europe, the United States,
and Asia, accounting for approximately 9 percent of all oil transported by
Meanwhile, in 2020, about 18 million barrels of crude oil and LNG
passed through the Strait of Hormuz daily. With the exploitation of resources
in new maritime areas and tankers traversing uncertain waters, external support
from NATO will remain essential in securing supplies located in unstable
regions. At the same time, transport from Nigeria has been regularly
interrupted for many years, damaging for deliveries from the Gulf of Guinea.
Under the aggressive energy policy pursued by Russia, NATO has a limited
range of maneuver and must concentrate on supplies from other sources.
From 2015–21, African and Middle Eastern countries, led by Saudi Arabia,
were in the top 10 countries supplying oil to NATO members.
In 2020, Nigeria, one of Africa’s important oil producers,
championed oil importation, striking more than 466,000 barrels per day,
followed by Morocco with 240,000 barrels per day. Petroleum imports
accounted for 17 to 20 percent of imports in Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt,
and Ghana in 2019. This ratio tends to increase as the oil price rises.
We expect current account deficits to come under pressure and widen
in oil-importing countries. Africa can turn the Russia-Ukraine war oil price
76. Justine Barden, “e Bab el-Mandeb Strait Is a Strategic Route for Oil and Natural Gas Shipments,”
US Energy Information Administration (website), August 27, 2019,
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
chaos into an opportunity for competitive oil producers (such as Niger, Algeria,
Libya, and Angola) to cash in with more crude oil exports.77
The energy sector is a vital part of critical infrastructure, and its
vulnerabilities must be taken into account. Without a stable energy supply,
health and welfare are threatened, and a country’s economy cannot function.
Critical infrastructure is as complex as it is vulnerable, and terrorist groups
have been able to carry out attacks on its most fragile structural components
in the oil and gas sector. These attacks have often generated significant
losses in human lives, the economy, and national security. Prediction studies
based on game-theory methodology have demonstrated that strategies aimed
at improving the robustness of critical infrastructures may be an instrumental
protection solution.
Interestingly, terrorism in the energy sector does not
seem to target oil and natural gas exclusively. More recently, serious concerns
have been rising in Europe. These concerns include the terrorist threat to the
Desertec renewable energy project for the Middle East North Africa region,
which is expected to become one of Europe’s crucial energy sources.79
Terrorist attacks on the oil and gas infrastructure harm the suppliers
and the country’s internal situation by reducing government revenue.
Such incidents have an immediate impact on local economies, which
in the long term can lead to social unrest and potentially result in more
people willing to join the ranks of hostile groups carrying out attacks.
Furthermore, for any organization involved in oil production, gas, or any
other industry directly linked to energy supply, disruptions can directly impact
the demand for their products and services and the ability to deliver them.
Subsequently, this can affect local inflation, cost of living, employment rates,
and over time the development of terrorism. The need for NATO countries’
involvement may become essential, but most critical infrastructures may
have already been seized or destroyed. NATO members may participate
in many foreign missions in the Middle East and Africa under the
EU or UN mandate and carry out their military and nonmilitary operations.
If countries such as Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia lose capacity
to export energy resources and Russia sustains an aggressive energy policy,
77. Padili Mikomangwa, “Russia Oil Chaos Should Push Africa to Be Energy Self-reliant,” Exchange (website),
March 9, 2022,
78. Xijun Yao et al., “Assessment of Terrorism Risk to Critical Infrastructures: e Case of a
Power-Supply Substation,” Applied Sciences 10, no. 20 (2020): 7162,
79. Karen Smith Stegen, Patrick Gilmartin, and Janetta Carlucci, “Terrorists versus the Sun:
Desertec in North Africa as a Case Study for Assessing Risks to Energ y Infrastructure,” Risk Management 14 ,
no. 1 (February 2012): 3–26.
there will be a breakdown in the market, and NATO will lose capacity
to operate fully.
In the future, terrorists may attack not only regions that are rich
in natural resources but also transport infrastructure. To undermine
NATO countries and their allies carrying out missions in the Middle East
and Africa, terrorists will seek to cut off energy sources. Moreover, by taking
control of the sale of energy resources, they will be able to finance terrorist
activities, manipulate the market through overpricing, and cut off certain
consumers from resources. The provision of training and logistics support
and a gradual move toward cooperation with countries with a smaller share
of the energy market but a large potential is crucial for NATO members.
The main objective is to sustain military activity and ensure the development
of countries that rely on imports. Therefore, eliminating terrorist attacks
in the energy sector should provide the basis for developing anti-terrorist
strategies and increasing the Alliance’s resilience.
Terrorist Threats to the Energy Sector in Africa and the Middle EastChapter 8
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Full-text available
This paper presents a novel approach for estimating the vulnerability level of critical infrastructure confronting potential terrorist threats and assessing the usefulness of various protection strategies for critical infrastructure (CI). A methodology, utilizing a combination of topological network analysis and game theory, is presented to evaluate the effectiveness of protection strategies for certain components in the infrastructure under various attack scenarios. This paper focuses on protective strategies that are based on different attack scenarios as well as on the connectivity of the critical infrastructure components. The methodology proposed allows optimization of protection strategies in terms of investment in critical infrastructure protection in order to reduce expenditures on local infrastructure protection or on a single critical infrastructure for small projects. A case study of a power-supply substation is included to validate the analytical framework. The results indicate that the framework is highly applicable to other types of critical infrastructures facing similar threats. The results suggest that when only terrorist attacks are considered, improving the robustness of CI has a much higher effectiveness and efficiency than improving CI redundancy. The research methodology in this paper can be applied to a wide range of critical infrastructures and systems that may be at risk from manmade extreme events.
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Attacks on energy sectors are an important part of the strategy of Islamist militant and terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (IS). The main aim of this paper is to analyze the importance of oil and gas for the terrorist strategy of the IS. The second goal of the paper is to describe and analyze examples, goals and motives of the IS's terrorist attacks on oil and gas sectors, the accompanying criminal activities conducted by the IS in two selected North African countries – Egypt and Libya - and their possible impacts. At the theoretical level, the paper is based on the concept of terrorist attacks on the energy sector.
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Do states with oil wealth experience more terrorism and, if so, why? Drawing from the intrastate war literature, this study considers several factors that prospectively mediate the relationship between oil wealth and terrorism: state weakness; rentier state authoritarianism; corruption of government officials; income inequality; human rights violations; foreign military intervention; and heightened separatist activity. Based on structural equation modeling on a sample of 130 non-OECD countries for the period 1970–2012, the paper produces two main empirical findings. First, while onshore oil production increases terrorist attacks in countries, on- and offshore production and oil revenues from exports do not increase such attacks. Second, the impact of oil on terrorism is mediated through increased human rights abuses. Exploitation of oil is found to be associated with a worsening of physical integrity rights abuses that, in turn, lead to popular grievances that help to fuel terrorist campaigns.
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As renewable energies gain both in importance and in share of the global energy mix, questions arise as to whether they will face the same energy security challenges -such as terrorist attacks -that have confronted the oil and gas industry. This article addresses the risk of terrorism to the infrastructure associated with renewable energies and electrical power systems and transmission lines. It reviews the capacities of various risk assessment tools and analyzes the potential terrorist threat to the Desertec concept, which envisions meeting 15 per cent of Europe's electricity demand by 2050 with renewable energy sourced from the Middle East North Africa region. Some industry observers have already voiced grave concerns about potential European dependence on this region, specifically because of the presence of terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the 2001 attacks in the United States. The data for the Desertec case study analysis are partly informed by a series of interviews conducted with correspondents located in Europe and in North Africa.
Is there an association between oil and terrorism? If so, how are they linked to each other? While there are literature and anecdotes about oil money financing terrorism, this article identifies three mechanisms through which oil is linked to terrorism: funding, targeting, and motivating. Oil-producing countries are prone to terrorism because they are important targets of terrorists who may attack oil facilities to cause greater impact and to harm powerful countries’ overseas interests and also because oil often generates grievances or greed among local people who may in turn engage in terrorist activities. Using data on terrorist incidents and oil income, this article finds a strong, positive relationship between oil and terrorism. To test the mechanisms, this article uses both large-N and small-N data analyses, and the findings suggest that while all three mechanisms appear to explain the oil–terrorism linkage, the targeting and motivating mechanisms are more likely than the funding mechanism. Oil-producing countries have a higher tendency to sponsor terrorism, but no direct evidence indicates oil money flowing to terrorists except for money from kidnapping or extorting oil workers.
This ARI examines terrorist attacks on energy infrastructures in the current environment, in which tighter supply channels have created a market that is more vulnerable to disruptions. In addition, most new discoveries of oil and gas are made in uncertain neighbourhoods where conflict and instability threaten production. As North Africa is a significant source of natural gas for Western Europe, this analysis will focus on events in the Sudan and Algeria where energy infrastructure �chiefly oil and gas resources� have been targeted. Statements by al-Qaeda regarding the targeting of energy infrastructure will also be discussed as they might point to an emerging strategy in North Africa, where al-Qaeda affiliates operate. Concluding remarks will highlight the short- and long-term strategies needed to protect energy resources and deter groups from making attacks that can either affect key supply channels or, more likely, cause markets to respond by raising energy costs due to the �perceived� vulnerability of supplies.
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