Terrorism and oil - an explosive mixture? - a survey of terrorist and rebel attacks on petroleum infrastructure 1968-1999

Date Issued
Asymmetrisk krigføring
Kritisk infrastruktur
Project number
Size: 850k
This report presents an overview of terrorist and rebel attacks against petroleum production infrastructure during the past three decades. It aims at providing an empirical basis for the development of scenarios for long-term defence and crisis management planning. The data analysed in this study have been drawn primarily from the ITERATE-database. According to our results, attacks against petroleum infrastructure have represented about 2 % of international terrorism during the past three decades. About half of the world’s producer countries have been spared from serious terrorist strikes against their installations. The most common types of attack are blasting of pipelines and kidnappings of personnel, followed by bombings of offices. Our data suggests that ‘petroleum terrorism’ is a strategy pursued more often by insurgents or rebel groups whose ambitions are to physically weaken the government by striking at targets, vital for the national economy, than by political terrorists whose use of violence is characterised by strikes against highly symbolic but militarily irrelevant targets. Not surprisingly, ‘petroleum terrorism’ is much more widespread in countries at armed conflict. Domestic groups perform the lion’s share of attacks on petroleum production infrastructure, while foreign groups are more rarely involved. Leftist and ethnic-separatist groups are the most active, each being responsible for about one third of the attacks. The most common motives are opposition to the existing political regime in the country and to foreign petroleum companies, followed by economic motives. It should be noted that there have been extremely few attacks against oil platforms and offshore installations, an important observation given the largely offshore-based Norwegian petroleum production facilities. The application of strong security measures at petroleum platforms has probably contributed to the rarity of such strikes.
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