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.
Terror experts are beginning to examine worst-case scenarios should al-Qaida use any or all of its 15-ship armada to conduct terror attacks on Western targets.
As WorldNetDaily reported last week, based on an exclusive dispatch from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, there are increasing warnings the next dramatic al-Qaida attack will not be in the air a la Sept. 11, but in the sea.
Al-Qaida has reportedly taken possession of 15 ships, forming what could loosely be described as the first international terrorist navy. The ships were purchased from a Greek shipping magnate with a direct relationship with Osama bin Laden.
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 enter 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. 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.
But what could such attacks really accomplish? Could they really be as dramatic and devastating as the Sept. 11 attacks?
One scenario that sends shivers down the spines of homeland security officials is what happened in Texas City, April 16, 1947.
In one of the worst disasters in the history of Texas, the ship SS Grandcamp exploded at 9:12 a.m. at the docks in Texas City. The French-owned vessel, carrying explosive ammonium nitrate produced during wartime for explosives and later recycled as fertilizer, caught fire early in the morning, and while attempts were being made to extinguish the fire, the ship exploded.
Disaster struck Texas City in 1947
The entire dock area was destroyed, along with the nearby Monsanto Chemical Company, other smaller companies, grain warehouses, and numerous oil and chemical storage tanks. Smaller explosions and fires were ignited by flying debris, not only along the industrial area, but throughout the city.
Fragments of iron, parts of the ship’s cargo, and dock equipment were hurled into businesses, houses, and public buildings. A 15-foot tidal wave caused by the force swept the dock area. The concussion of the explosion, felt as far away as Port Arthur, damaged or destroyed at least 1,000 residences and buildings throughout Texas City. The ship SS High Flyer, in dock for repairs and also carrying ammonium nitrate, was ignited by the first explosion; it was towed 100 feet from the docks before it exploded about 16 hours later, at 1:10 a.m. the next day.
The first explosion killed 26 Texas City firemen and destroyed all of the city’s fire-fighting equipment, including four trucks, leaving the city helpless in the wake of the second explosion. No central disaster organization had been established by the city, but most of the chemical and oil plants had disaster plans that were quickly activated. Although power and water were cut off, hundreds of local volunteers began fighting the fires and doing rescue work. Red Cross personnel and other volunteers from surrounding cities responded with assistance until almost 4,000 workers were operating; temporary hospitals, morgues, and shelters were set up.
The exact number of people killed will never be known, although the ship’s anchor monument records 576 persons known dead, 398 of whom were identified, and 178 listed as missing. All records of personnel and payrolls of the Monsanto Company were destroyed, and many of the dock workers were itinerants and thus difficult to identify. Almost all persons in the dock area – firemen, ships’ crews, and spectators – were killed, and most of the bodies were never recovered; 63 bodies were buried unidentified. The number of injured ranged in the thousands, and loss of property totaled about $67 million.
But keep in mind – this was an accident.
What would be the potential damage in a deliberate attack with a ship laden with chemicals, explosives – even, perhaps, a nuclear weapon?
That’s the nightmare consideration for some officials as al-Qaida continues to hide from international authorities 15 ships it has purchased.
G2 Bulletin sources say there are reports al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations have been practicing high-seas terror attacks by hijacking ships, kidnapping crews and studying diving – much as the Sept. 11 skyjackers learned to fly airliners.
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.
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.