Editor’s note: Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin is an online, subscription intelligence news service from the creator of WorldNetDaily.com – a journalist who has been developing sources around the world for the last 25 years.
While al-Qaida continues to hide from international authorities 15 ships it has purchased, there are growing warnings around the world the next dramatic terror attack is more likely to come at sea than in the air.
Earlier this year, a chemical tanker, the Dewi Madrim, was hijacked by machinegun-bearing pirates in speedboats off the coast of Sumatra. But these weren’t ordinary pirates looking for booty. These were terrorists learning how to drive a ship. They also kidnapped officers in an effort to acquire expertise on conducting a maritime attack, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
This attack, reports G2 Bulletin was the equivalent of the al-Qaida hijackers who attended Florida flight schools before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
There is also evidence terrorists are learning about diving, with a view to attacking ships from below. The Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines kidnapped a maintenance engineer in a Sabah holiday resort in 2000. On his release in June this year, the engineer said his kidnappers knew he was a diving instructor – they wanted instruction. The owner of a diving school near Kuala Lumpur has recently reported a number of ethnic Malays wanting to learn about diving, but being strangely uninterested in learning about decompression.
Aegis’ intelligence has turned up links between big criminal gangs in the area and terrorists, driven by the need for the latter to finance their operations. There have been at least 10 cases of pirates stealing tugs for no apparent reason. The concern is that they are to tow a hijacked tanker into a busy international port. On Sept. 16, 2001, the United States closed the port of Boston, fearing terrorists would attack the gas terminal in the port. To this day, gas tankers bound for Boston have to be escorted by the Coast Guard from hundreds of miles outside port.
G2B reported two weeks ago that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network has purchased at least 15 ships in the last two years.
Lloyds of London has reportedly helped Britain’s MI6 and the U.S. CIA to trace the sales made through a Greek shipping agent suspected of having direct contacts with bin Laden.
The ships fly the flags of Yemen and Somalia – where they are registered – and are capable of carrying cargoes of lethal chemicals, a “dirty bomb” or even a nuclear weapon.
British and U.S. officials worry that one or more of these ships could attack civilian ports on a suicide mission.
The freighters are believed to be somewhere in the Indian or Pacific oceans. When the ships left their home ports in the Horn of Africa weeks ago, some were destined for ports in Asia.
The U.S. Department of State Friday warned citizens overseas that the threat of terror attacks did not end with the passing of the September 11 anniversary – specifically mentioning the threat of maritime terrorism.
“We are seeing increasing indications that al-Qaida is preparing to strike U.S. interests abroad,” said the State Department’s “Worldwide Caution.”
“It is being issued to remind U.S. citizens of the continuing threat that they may be a target of terrorist actions, even after the anniversary date of the September 11 attacks and to add the potential for threats to maritime interests.”
“Looking at the last few months, al-Qaida and its associated organizations have struck in the Middle East in Riyadh, in North Africa in Casablanca and in East Asia in Indonesia,” the State Department said.
The report continued: “We expect al-Qaida will strive for new attacks that will be more devastating than the September 11 attack, possibly involving non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents. We also cannot rule out the potential for al-Qaida to attempt a second catastrophic attack within the US. US citizens are cautioned to maintain a high level of vigilance, to remain alert and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness,” the warning said.
G2B sources say other potential targets of the al-Qaida armada, besides civilian ports, include oil rigs. Another threat is the ramming of a cruise liner.
Some British navy officials have expressed concerns about not being able to patrol its coasts adequately against such a threat.
If a maritime terror attack comes, it won’t be the first. In October 2000, the USS Cole, a heavily armed ship protected with the latest radar defenses, was hit by an al-Qaida suicide crew. Seventeen American soldiers died. Two years later, following the attacks on the Twin Towers, a similar attack was carried out against a French supertanker off the coast of Yemen.
The military’s U.S. Pacific Command is trying to convince friendly nations in Asia to share intelligence on terrorism as part of a new regional maritime security policy.
The policy envisions sharing information on ships’ cargos and passengers as they travel the vast Pacific to help narrow the search for terrorists or dangerous or forbidden cargo.
“The global war on terrorism is like watching water running downhill. Water always goes to the place of least resistance,” explained U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Walter F. Doran.
As terrorists are flushed out of Afghanistan and Iraq from two successive U.S.-led wars “they tend to find themselves in Southeast Asia,” Doran said.
He acknowledged it would be impossible to track the contents and intentions of every ship in the region but said the regional security policy would allow participating countries to better define the “gray” areas where they don’t know what they don’t know.
In December 2001 the Singapore government arrested nearly a dozen people with ties to al-Qaida allegedly planning to attack western targets, including a U.S. aircraft carrier that was scheduled for a port visit.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Ports Authority has raised the alert level at all Mindanao ports because of a supposed intelligence report indicating an alleged plot to bomb Manila-bound ships.
The PPA ordered port officials in Mindanao to implement the heightened alert in the wake of a threat allegedly issued by Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani.
The Abu Sayyaf is on the U.S. government’s list of international terrorist groups and is believed to be linked to the al-Qaida network.
In addition, a Rand Corp. study released last month in London warns terrorists might use container ships in terror attacks meant to cause massive casualties.
The report warns cargo ships or shipping containers could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction for terror groups such as al-Qaida.
The report, produced in cooperation with the European Commission, said: “The potential threat of terrorists using containers poses a large risk to our economies and to our societies. Ultimately, this means that the marine sector – and specifically the container transport sector – remains wide open to the terrorist threat.”
Rand says the international community has not become sufficiently aware of al-Qaida’s threat at sea, with most counter-insurgency efforts being focused on stopping an attack from the air.
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