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Al Qaeda’s business sense

Al Qaeda’s business sense

The terrorist network aims to ‘bleed’ the enemy with attacks that cost a few thousand to launch, and billions to defend. What’s the strategy, and what will the economic impact be?

November 22, 2010 9:52 by

Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing vowed to “bleed” U.S. resources with inexpensive, small-scale attacks that cost militants just thousands of dollars to mount but billions for the West to guard against.

In the third edition of its online Inspire magazine, released on militant websites, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said it had cost just $4,200 to mail two parcel bombs from Yemen to the United States last month.

The bombs were intercepted in Britain and Dubai, sparking a worldwide security alert.

Here are the main points from the edition, a special issue intended to explain the plot and the thinking behind it.


  • Bleed the enemy – “This strategy of attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations is what some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts. The aim is to bleed the enemy to death.”
  • Low risk, low cost – “It is such a good bargain for us to spread fear amongst the enemy and keep him on his toes in exchange of a few months of work and a few thousand bucks.”
  • Security worries – “In such an environment of security phobia that is sweeping America it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve less players and less time to launch and thus we may circumvent the security barriers American worked so hard to erect.”


  • Equipment – “Two Nokia mobiles, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200.”
  • Time – “It took us three months to plan and execute the operation from beginning to end.”
  • People – “A team of less than six.”

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew on November 22, 2010 11:04 am

    AQAP, that doesn’t have much of a ring to it I’m afraid. Perhaps they’ll adopt social media and start logging into foursquare.


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