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Monday, December 12, 2005

An assessment of piracy and maritime terrorism

Excellent pair of reports consisting of piece 1 on 'The Malacca Straits and the Threat of Maritime Terrorism'' - with a sensible 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 crewmembers. 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 presented above, the threat from maritime terrorism is a clear possibility in the Straits of Malacca.
Piece 2 is dated 12 Dec 2005 and is more global, ''How Real is the Threat from Maritime Terrorism?'':
Although at present the probability of a large-scale maritime attack is low, the threat of maritime terrorism must not be ignored altogether. There is evidence that preliminary steps have been made by the al-Qaeda network in particular to develop some competency in this area... In addition, J.I. and a number of other jihadist groups based in Indonesia already fully exploit the maritime domain for the purposes of transporting people and arms to and from the Philippines.
It is the combination of the use of the sea and threat from the sea by these groups that is worrisome. the author of the reports lists some interesting historical examples of at sea terrorist events. However, she does not mention the relatively recent arrest of an alleged al Qaeda agent in Turkey who says he was going after cruise ships off Antalya or the rocket attack on US ships inport Jordan in August. Being prepared against attacks by sea-borne terrorists (or land-based terrorists attacking ships in port or off the coast as was done in Jordan) just makes sense. Those of us who go to sea worry about the remote possibilities of fire and flooding and train accordingly. The threat of an attack by terrorists (or pirates, for that matter) needs to be maintained on the "worry" list.

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