SECURITY chiefs are exploring counter-terrorism methods to prevent a new threat posed by Islamic terrorists, it has been revealed; one that has seen major dams and water works at risk, with dyer potential consequences should an attack be successful.
In 2014, after losing a number of Somalian cities it had captured to African Union and Somali troops, the terrorist group Al-Shabaab changed its tactics. To demonstrate its continued power and presence, Al-Shabaab cut off water supplies to its formerly held cities. Residents from these cut-off cities were forced to fetch water from nearby towns, many of which Al-Shabaab controlled. But the terror group prevented anyone living in government-controlled territory from entering, which increased people’s frustration with the government.
Attacking water is not a new terror tactic. Three decades earlier, in the midst of Peru’s economic crisis and failed agrarian reforms, the leftist group Shining Path destroyed precious water infrastructure, along with bridges and electrical systems.
More recently, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took control of the Tabqa and Mosul water dams, spurring fears the dams would fail and disrupt water flows and hydropower generation.
But terrorists have recently been developing the idea that such tactics could be employed in the west – in America, Europe, and even Britain, with national security organisations now considering the plots as serious possible threats.
Terrorist attacks on water infrastructure pose a particular threat to highly developed rivers and waterways, where computer systems control the flow of water through dams and other water infrastructure. For example, in 2016, the U.S. Justice Department announced that an Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had hacked into the control system of a small dam north of New York City. While this attack was not successful (and even if it had been, the consequences would’ve been limited), a cyberattack on the dams along the Columbia or Missouri rivers, for example, could wipe out millions of people downstream.