December 9, 2004: Bombing of Russian pipeline

Suspected Islamist terrorists may have used an artillery shell to damage a Russian gas pipeline in December 2004, injuring 22 people

MAKHACHKALA, RUSSIA – If you are a terrorist group and want to make a splash what better way than to undermine critical infrastructure?

Imagine that you are a terrorist cell, or perhaps a terrorist. You subscribe to a violent ideology, you have identified those you see as your enemies and you spend a lot of time thinking about what to attack.

Depending on your capabilities, attack planning can range from the realistic to the fanciful. Walking into a food court and opening fire with a gun or slashing wildly with a knife can be done by anyone. More complicated assaults are, well, more complicated.

In my time in security intelligence working on counter terrorism, I came across some real doozies. The Victoria Canada Day pair mused about attacking a Canadian naval base in 2013 (as if!). The Toronto 18 said their goal was to occupy the Canadian Parliament and behead the Prime Minister in 2006 (double as if!).

Still, what terrorists want to do is to have as much an impact as possible without having expended too much time and effort. The 2002 Washington sniper killings, albeit carried out by two guys who were probably NOT terrorists, come to mind: the cost to the local economy was huge, all for the cost of a gun and some shells.

Today’s featured attack fits into this latter category. On this day in 2004 extremists believed to be from Shariat Jamaat lobbed an artillery shell at the Mozdok-Gazimagomed pipeline near the city of Makhachkala, injuring 22 people (mostly burned). The attack led to a natural gas outage for 148,000 customers. As this was December in Russia – i.e. winter – this disruption would have been serious.

Luckily for us, most terrorists are not very capable. The incident in Russia was an unfortunate exception.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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