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MEAN ACTS OF ISLAMIC TERRORISM ON MIGHTY OCEANS

By Sujit Das In todays scenario, the invaluable service provided by Commercial Shipping to the society and to the nations across the globe cannot be overlooked. It is the main artery that advances the world commerce. Modern economies cannot exist without a well organized and efficient merchant cargo fleet, because it is the cheapest mode of transport. From the early beginning shipping is a risky venture. In addition to the long monotonous sailing for months together, there are threats of typhoon, piracy, sinking etc. Piracy has existed almost as long as shipping and trade. Along the way, piracy came to be seen as an interesting historical problem associated with skull and crossbones flag, galleons of gold and villains carrying cutlasses. It was even perceived with a dash of excitement and even romance as depicted in the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. Since last few decades, the Muslim terrorists are slowly taking over the roles of the historical pirates with same coarseness but with modern weaponry and deep hatred for the mankind in their mind. The Islamic terrorism acts are increasing in number and brutality day by day. Today no corner of the world is safe from Muslim terrorists. Several recent acts brought to light the renewed intensity of danger faced by the ships and people on board. Few major terrorism incidents on high seas are as follows, 1. Attack on Achille Lauro (7th October, 1985) The brave Israeli commandos carried out a raid on the head quarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Tunisia on 1st October, 1985 and killed 73 Arab terrorists. PLO wanted revenge of this shameful defeat and planned for a terrorist attack on the cruise ship Achille Lauro. To execute the attack successfully, a member of PLO, using a fake Greek passport, took a voyage on Achille Lauro to examine the security arrangements on board. He reported that the ship is going to call at the Israeli tourist resort Ashdod, and when the ship is docked it will be possible to kill many Jews as they lay on the beach sunbathing. He also reported that it should be relatively easy to smuggle weapons on board.

For PLO, it was an extremely attractive plan for a successful terrorist attack. Faced with highly developed defensive measures instituted by the Israelis, this would be an ideal way of getting into Israel with weapons. If the operation is successful, it will kill many innocent Jews, and, by taking many rich American hostages, there would be world-wide publicity. For PLO it was a golden opportunity. Four Muslim terrorists were selected and tickets were purchased with fake Norwegian passports for them for the lowest grade cabin. The terrorists carried folded Machine guns, revolvers and hand grenades in their baggage. During the voyage, they kept very much to themselves and mainly used room service for their meals. At about 1330 hrs on the fateful day, shortly after leaving Alexandria, a steward entered the cabin unexpectedly thinking that occupants had gone for lunch and, to his horror, in stead of an empty cabin found four men busily cleaning automatic weapons. The terrorists were equally shocked but immediately agreed to implement an alternative plan and instead of going to Ashdod to kill Israelis, they decided to seize the ship and exploit the situation as it develops. The four terrorists ran towards the restaurants where majority of the passengers were having lunch and started firing shots in the air. At gunpoint, the Captain made a public announcement stating that everyone should Go to the restaurant, be calm and no one will be shot. No one was allowed to go to the toilets; passengers were ordered to make their natures call on the carpet. To maintain the pressure, the terrorists claimed to have placed explosive charges throughout the ship and forced the crew to bring plastic containers of fuel which they placed around the passengers. During afternoon, Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly crippled wheel chair bound Jew passenger was shot dead and his body with wheel chair were thrown overboard. Klinghoffer was celebrating together with his wife, Marilyn, their thirty-eighth marriage anniversary. The terrorists informed Captain of the killing and said that another American passenger Mrs. Hodes, would be the next to be shot. Captain offered himself in place of Mrs. Hodes, suggesting that his death would have greater international impact, but the offer was refused. After two days, the cruise ship arrived near Port Said (Egypt) under order of the terrorists. The terrorists commander Abu Abbas then negotiated an agreement and the four terrorists left the ship as free men. They would have remained free, if it had not been for the bravery and the skill of the US armed forces, who successfully identified the Egyptian aircraft carrying

the terrorists and their supporters, and forced it to land in Sardinia, where special forces captured all involved. For the terrorists point of view, it had been a well executed operation which achieved wide publicity for their cause. But they did not believe that the US Government would ever deliberately break international law and force down the Airplane of another country in international airspace. The terrorists forgot President Ragons statement You can run but you cannot hide. The Achille Lauro hijacking incident and murder of one old crippled man had a major impact on cruise industry. In the Mediterranean, cruise industry come to a total and abrupt halt. The official Greek Government figures revealed a direct loss of US $ 300 million; $ 200 million from tourism and $ 100 million from cruise ships booking. Several cruise ships owners found themselves out of business and thousands of sea farers lost their jobs. 2. Attack on ferry City of Poros (11th July, 1988) City of Poros was the name of a Greek ferry. On the fateful day, while the ferry was berthed at passenger jetty inside the port of Piraeus (Greece), suddenly a large car bomb exploded on the jetty and very near to the ship. But, fortunately due to the isolated location of the jetty and the lack of tourists waiting on it (as the ship was at sea) there were no casualties. Inside were found the badly dismembered bodies of an Arab man and an Arab woman. The bomb's intended target was almost certainly the ship, but the plan was not successful due to the premature detonation. However, the terrorists did not give up and a "Plan B" was prepared immediately after the failure of the car bomb project. Three Arab terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization (Abu Nidal was founder of Fatah) boarded the ferry as part of its normal intake of passengers and then waited until the ship had left the port and was three miles into its journey. At approximately 8.30 pm on the same day, the three suddenly opened fire at random to the passengers without any provocation using automatic weapons and hand grenades. Within few minutes nine tourists were dead and ninety-eight others were injured out of 540 passengers (mainly tourists on vacation) on board. The grenade explosion started a fierce fire, which terrified the tourists further. Many jumped overboard and lost forever. The terrorists disappeared with a speedboat immediately after the operation. A year later, two of them were arrested and convicted of involvement in the attack, but the mastermind still managed to escape official justice.

3. Bombing on Superferry - 14 (27th February, 2004) This is the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea, which caused sinking of a passenger ferry, named Superferry - 14, off the port of Manila, Philippines. A television set containing an 8-pound (4 kilograms) TNT bomb was placed on board by Abu Sayyaf guerrilla group. When the bomb exploded, there were about 900 passengers on board. The blast caused instant death of 63 people and 53 were missing and presumed dead. It was believed that Abu Sayyaf bombed Superferry - 14 because the company, that owned it, did not comply with a letter demanding protection money. 4. Ramming attack on Limburg (6th October, 2002) Al Qaeda carried out this suicide terrorist attack on French registered crude oil tanker Limburg. During the attack, the tanker was carrying 397,000 barrels of crude oil from Iran to Malaysia. An explosives-laden dinghy rammed the starboard side (right side) of the tanker and detonated. Limburg caught on fire and approximately 90,000 barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Aden. One crew died and 12 others were injured. The fire was put out and the tanker was towed to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The repair cost was about forty-five million US$. The Al Qaeda member, Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeiee masterminds the attack, and was sentenced to death for this. But unfortunately, this terrorist along with 22 other suspected or convicted Al-Qaeda members escaped from jail. Later on he was shot dead in police encounter. Possibilities of future maritime terrorist attacks From the above four case studies, it is very clear that the threat of Islamic terrorism on commercial ships, particularly the cruise liners and ferries cannot be underestimated any more. There is a proven psychological benefit in attacking wealthy rather than poor human beings, and of all peoples; unfortunately, the members of Jewish faith are most vulnerable, followed by Christians. A cruise ship or a ferry, which is known to be carrying large numbers of rich American Jews, must therefore be placed in a higher risk category. Other types of commercial ships are more or less equally vulnerable too.

IMB (International Maritime Bureau) recognizes the fact that Maritime terrorism cannot be prevented by ships crew alone, and commented; No shipboard response can protect the ship in those circumstances. In other words, the ship is just a sitting duck ready to be targeted. The possible future threats are divided into following four categories Hijacking, Sabotage, Environmental terrorism and Container crime. Hijacking on high seas Today a large merchant ship is operated by hardly twenty-five people on board. Almost all the commercial ships carry no fire arms. Hence, hypothetically it is possible for one armed man to take control of the ship and force the captain to follow his order. Unlike planes, ships move slowly and terrorists can board with high speed crafts while underway. The hijacked ship can be used as follows, A cruise ship with large number of passengers on board can be seized for purely political reasons, such as; in order to destabilize a government or to cause unrest and terror with the view to blackmailing a government or for religious or ethnic grounds, which is a typical attitude of Islamic terrorists. The ship can be sunk by explosion. If life saving appliances (as example, lifeboats, life rafts etc) are destroyed before the explosion, then it is inevitable that everyone will surely die. The easiest way of sinking a ship is to rapture the outer shell plating of the engine room area by explosion. An oil tanker, LNG / LNG (Liquefied Natural / Petroleum Gas) tanker can be used as a floating bomb. The ship can be rammed against any offshore installation (as example, coastal oil refineries), sea-port or coastal areas of importance similar to the airplanes used on 11th September 2001 against the twin towers. This will cause immediate fire and the whole ship will be a huge fireball. Here the ship itself can be used as a weapon of mass destruction. A more sinister scenario is that a small but lethal biological weapon could be smuggled into a seaport city by ship and released, which will cause tremendous loss of lives. The open decks of a large cargo ship can be used as missile launching pad. Huge cargo spaces can be used to store the missiles. A ship carrying valuable cargo (as example; Palm oil, Gas oil etc) can be hijacked to sell its cargo in illegal market to finance terrorism. A hijacked ship can be used to carry weapons and terrorists, or can be used as a means of providing logistic support for terrorist activities under a new name and false registration.

A special attention is required for those ships which carry Ammonium Nitrate. This chemical, Ammonium nitrate, is a common agricultural fertilizer, which is widely traded around the world by sea. It can, when mixed with fuel oil, be turned into a powerful explosive. Packed into trucks, cars and vans, it has been used so far in many terrorist bombings. Sabotage A terrorist can destroy a ship without even coming on board. It is not much difficult to place explosive inside the cargo space of the ship, while the ship is in port. Explosives can be smuggled on board with provisions, stores and even with the luggage of a passenger or crew. In many highly corrupted Muslim countries, like Bangladesh, Sudan and Pakistan; the port officials, being Government employees, are often extremely dishonest. Anybody without identity proof can roam freely inside the restricted port areas by paying a bribe as low as one US $. For a commercial shipping company handling hundreds of passengers, identifying the potential suspects is not an easy task. It costs not only money, but manpower and time also. In countries like Norway, Italy, France and UK; the ferries are used like buses. Loss of time for security checks causes customer dissatisfaction. Sadly, for many ship owners; safety and commerce are often in competition and commerce always wins. Delayed action sea mines (explosive devices placed on the seabed or under the sea surface) can be laid at the busy sea routes and at the entrances of busy sea ports. If a ship can be sunk at the narrow entrance of a busy seaport; the wreck will block the entrance channel for several months, causing the port totally inactive. This will cause huge financial loss for the port. Underwater attacks can be carried out by divers or suicide demolition teams, using limpet mines (delayed action sea mines attached to a ships hull). For small geographical nations like Singapore, whose economy greatly depends on shipping and transshipment of cargo, this type of sabotage will have severe negative impact on economy. A terrorist can take control of a ship without even using a gun. It is not much difficult for a terrorist to join a ship as crew member with fake certificates and identity. He needs not to clamber over the railing to board a ship if he is already part of the crew. In Philippines, fake certificates can be purchased for few thousands of US$. All crew on board can be killed or paralyzed by poisoning the only drinking water source of the ship. Environmental terrorism Environmental terrorism is the unlawful destruction of resources in order to deprive others of its use and deliberate pollution to damage the environment. Over the years, the coastal states have become concerned

about the possible increased threat of environmental terrorism, in which the environmental conditions and resources may be tools or targets of Muslim terrorists. Present discussion is limited to marine environment only. Very large crude carriers (VLCC) and Chemical tankers are most exposed to Islamic terrorism for environmental damage. Is it really very difficult for terrorists to take control of a loaded VLCC out at sea and navigate the ship closer to environmentally sensitive sea areas or sea beaches of prominent tourist attraction and cause severe environmental damage by spilling its cargo by making a hole in the cargo tanks ? In fact, ramming an explosive laden boat against a loaded tanker in Limburg style is enough. This will have severe impact on local economy, particularly for those nations, whose economy depends on international tourism, as example Maldives, Mauritius and Thailand etc. In the same way, a loaded Chemical tanker can be used to damage the local fishing industry of a coastal state. If an attack is carried out successfully, not only thousands of local poor fishermen will be beaten in their jobs and livelihood, but also hundreds of thousands of sea-birds and sea-animals will die instantly and large area of seabed vegetation will be ruined completely for several decades. Container crime Today, millions of uniform steel containers are used to carry general cargo by ships. These containers are a security nightmare, because once they are loaded and sealed, inspection is a problem. The contents inside a container can be misrepresented and undeclared items can be hidden inside easily. Even when sealed, containers can be secretly opened and then closed again without great difficulty to remove or add contents. This is a made-to-order method of transport for terrorists same for drug and other contraband smugglers. As per one estimation, there are as many as 15 million containers in circulation and that over 230 million containers move through the worlds ports each year, seven million containers arrive by sea in US ports alone each year. They carry goods worth more than $US 730 billion. Checks of containers reaching American ports by sea increased to 5.2% of total arrivals by September 2003, from 2% two years earlier. But worldwide, less than 1% of shipped cargo is screened. Container trade is growing tremendously and predictions indicate that the container cargo will quadruple in the next 20 years. Container ships could be the next terrorist vehicle. One serious worry is that terrorists might use one of these ships to transport and then explode a nuclear device in a major U.S. port. The recent exposure of an extensive and long-running

nuclear black market that let Iran, Libya and North Korea get weapons technology from Pakistan has heightened such fears. Already, the U.S. Coast Guard is employing highly sensitive equipment to check ships for radioactive material. But such checks are not foolproof. Also, Coast Guard cannot scan all ships for the potentially lethal material. Conclusion It is beyond any doubt that, Islamic terrorism will continue as long as Islam survives, because terrorism is an integral part of Islam. In todays scenario, the threat of Maritime terrorism is serious and perhaps not as remote as one would like to believe. A well-planned and executed attack could cause considerable damage to the world economy perhaps even more than was inflicted by the attacks on September 11. Maritime nations have every reason to believe that Al Qaeda and like-minded Islamic terrorist groups desire such an outcome, and the possible future attacks discussed in this paper do not appear to be far beyond their capability. Many of the steps that can be taken to minimize the likelihood of a successful attack will require international cooperation to a degree that seems unlikely, given the current complicated state of international maritime law. Soon after the Limburg attack incident, Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he said, By God, the youths of God are preparing for you things that would fill your hearts with terror and target your economic lifeline. If we take a closer look on the above statement and think critically, it is not difficult to understand that economic lifeline is nothing but commercial shipping. Recently there have been reports of ships being hijacked for sailing practice in the Straits of Malacca with an uncanny similarity to the pre-September 11 use of flight schools, the hijackers questioned crews on how to operate the ships but [showed] little interest in how to dock them. Whether these hijackings are indeed trial runs for a spectacular attack is unknown, but they plainly illustrate such potentials. Today, worlds busiest commercial sea route is through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Pacific Ocean to the east with the Indian Ocean to the west. More than 50,000 large vessels transit the Straits each year, carrying over 35 percent of the worlds maritime trade and half its oil including more than 80 percent of the oil imported by China, Japan and South Korea. If Strait of Malacca is closed by a terrorist attack, the shipping would necessarily be diverted along other routes. The increased travel times would not only raise shipping costs and disrupt energy supplies; they would also strain a global fleet that is already operating at capacity. Insurance costs will also skyrocket and rising insurance rates

would drive oil prices to heights previously unseen, with catastrophic effects for the global economy. As per one statistics, that market loss resulting from the September 11 attacks was close to $2 trillion. It seems likely that an attack closing the Straits of Malacca would cause losses of a similar magnitude. This is not only due to the resulting economic disturbance, but also because such an attack would plainly demonstrate both the fragility of the world economy and Al Qaedas desire and ability to prey upon it. The sudden and unforeseen fall of global economy will take several years, if not decades, to recover. This downfall will be further aggravated by a drastic increase in security costs. As per one study conducted by New York Federal Reserve Bank, the property damage and cleanup costs caused by September 11 amounted to about $21.6 billion, while the projected increase in security costs for 2003 alone was $72.1 billion. The latter figure only includes expenses incurred in the United States; certainly other countries and foreign corporations have also increased their security spending in response to the attacks. If the Strait of Malacca is closed, the global economy will face the same fate. After 9/11 tragedy, many actions had been taken for air security. Passenger safety on the air has been enhanced, but nothing remarkable has been done so far for shipping, except implementation of International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. But the irony is that ISPS Code does not address the cause of the threat; instead it regulates the victim of the threat. ISPS Code is not meant to eradicate the security threat but just to ensure that measures are implemented in order to have standard procedures in case a security threat existed. The sad part is that in doing so, it puts an extra burden and paperwork on the already limited resources of ships and ports. It would be more reasonable to eradicate the threat of terrorism instead of regulating the victims, in this case the ships crew and port employees. The question is, who is going to take the responsibility? Who is going to bear the cost? Safety, environmental protection and security are three most important factors in commercial shipping from the very early beginning. After the sinking of unsinkable Titanic during 1912, Maritime nations became more concerned about safety and Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention was adopted by International Maritime Organization (IMO). Similarly, the crude oil tanker ship Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967 in which 120,000 tonnes of oil was spilled causing massive damage to the environment, International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was developed.

Probably, we shall have to wait for another 9/11 coming up from the deep horizon of the mighty blue oceans, for the Maritime nations to wake up once more, and be concerned on the third issue.

Bibliography
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Author can be contacted at counter.jihad@rediffmail.com