The US and British navies have captured 14 wooden boats carrying some 125 suspected Al Qaeda militants and arms in the Gulf so far this year, a security expert said yesterday.
Experts say the small ships, called dhows in the Gulf, are increasingly used for smuggling drugs, weapons and fighters linked to Al Qaeda, but are regularly intercepted by a US-led international task force patrolling the Gulf.
“The last count for this year was 14 (dhows) intercepted in the Gulf region,” said Bob Newman, director of international security and counter-terrorism services at the Denver-based GeoScope Group. He said 125 suspects were detained.
“They were moving personnel and to a lesser degree weapons and a little bit of money. They were not held for (planning) attacks,” he said on the sidelines of a global conference on security at airports and ports. The US Navy said it would not comment on its operations.
Dhows are the vessels of choice for moving small merchandise between Gulf states, Iran, the Indian subcontinent and East Africa. Newman said most suspects detained by the navies were handed back to their governments and only a few were being held by the United States.
He said Al Qaeda has increasingly been resorting to drug smuggling from Pakistan and Afghanistan to fund its activities. Saudi Arabia has been the main regional target for attacks by Al Qaeda.
Glad someone is watching the sea. During ODS we observes lots of small boat activity which we assumed was smuggling booze. drugs and porno into Saudi Arabia, since the borders were otherwise pretty tightly watched.
As I said, interesting.
Hat tip: The Counterterrorism Blog