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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Good summary of the piracy/terorist threat in the Malacca Strait

Nice summary of the terrorism and piracy situation in the Malacca Strait presented here.

I do, however, disagree with the distinction attempted to be drawn in the following paragraph between terrorism and the use of piracy to fund terrorism.
GAM has been fighting a separatist war against the Indonesian government since the 1970s with the aim of creating an independent Islamic kingdom in the province of Aceh. The group is said to finance its terrorist activities partly through sea piracy and smuggling. These are not, strictly speaking, acts of maritime terrorism. It has been well documented that terrorist groups have resorted to criminal activities in order to generate funds for their political campaigns. However, these criminal acts are not in themselves acts of terrorism. Therefore, the threat of maritime piracy must not be labeled as a terrorism risk.(E1 note: GAM is, if it is not clear to you, the separatist movement based in Aceh on which Indonesia has atttempted to pin much of the blame for piracy at the north end of the Strait. A recent treaty may ease that situation.)
As the US has stated in the War on Terrorism, those who fund terrorists are as culpable for the damage terror inflicts as are the actual terrorists performing their the acts of terrorism. It seems to me me to be too fine a distinction to try and differentiate between the act of a person who, say robs banks, and then uses those ill-gotten gains to buy explosives to blow up a ferry boat. His motive for the bank robbery was to fund his terrorism. Why call him a bank robber and then a terrorist - he's simply a terrorist. And so are the terrorist groups who use kidnapping to collect ransom to pay for their operations. In addition, such a distinction provides cover for those who fund terrorists - no matter how they got their money. Such cover is unjustified and unsupportable in light of legal precedent regarding aiding and abetting criminal activity.

I do agree whole-heartedly with the article's conclusion:
While it is important to distinguish between the pirate attacks taking place in the straits and acts of terrorism, what these pirate attacks demonstrate is that the vessels transiting the straits are highly vulnerable to a breach in their security. Pirates regularly hijack tankers in order to steal the cargo or kidnap crew members. If terrorists were able to take over a tanker carrying highly hazardous chemical cargo, the implications could be disastrous. The unpredictability of terrorism makes it hard to carry out accurate risk assessments. However, as can be seen from the evidence that the threat from maritime terrorism is a clear possibility in the Straits of Malacca.

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