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.
It’s been nearly a year since the first intelligence reports revealed Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network al-Qaida had purchased an armada of ships for the purpose of bringing terror to the high seas.
Now the international alarm over the possibilities of attacks on cruise ships, on military supply vessels, on oil tankers and even on critical seaports is reaching a fever pitch.
In the latest development, South Korea put its shipping companies on alert after an Islamic militant group threatened to destroy vessels carrying U.S. military goods in the Middle East.
The government’s National Intelligence Service said it found an Arabic language website carrying a threat to “attack ships carrying strategic materials for the U.S. military.” It cited a South Korean shipping company and eight other shipping firms from the United States, the Netherlands and Hong Kong as its targets.
“We have told the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry, maritime police and other related agencies to take measures to guard against terrorism,” a spokesman for the intelligence agency said on condition of anonymity.
South Korean media, citing intelligence sources, reported Saturday that a militant group identifying itself as “Supreme Headquarters of Islamic Militants in Iraq” posted its terror threat on a website July 3.
Meanwhile, the discovery in the port of Montreal in Canada of materials used in the production of chemical weapons has raised new concerns about the terror threat from the high seas.
A French source in Quebec told the local TVA Network, the substance, altogether packed into 60 cases, was discovered last February by Canadian agents.
The cases were destined for Britain, and sources privy to the international investigation said the material, of unspecified description, was probably part of an international terror-distribution plot.
Earlier this year, British law-enforcement agencies were put on high alert due to terror threats for a mega-attack on London.
Similar concerns were reported earlier this year also from Amman in Jordan where an international investigation led to the discovery of a jihadi terrorist attempt to attack Amman, the Jordanian capital, with chemicals.
At that time, King Abdullah II had no choice but to postpone his planned visit to Washington. Jordanian officials evaluated the chemicals were probably planned to be smuggled into Jordan through the port of Aqaba and said 80,000 people could have been seriously affected by such an attack.
Some experts say there is no way, under the new threats, to avoid the need to equip supertanker and sensitive cargo ships with weapon systems, including anti-aircraft weapons. Others demand the presence of soldiers or policemen on board. A Greek company was reported to be considering the need to arm its tankers with multiple sophisticated defense systems.
A Greek captain, commenting on the situation in the Mediterranean, said there is no assurance terrorists will by shy of undertaking an airborne Kamikaze attack on a tanker. This can be done with a small aircraft loaded with explosives.
He suggested to completely seal off air routes over sensitive harbors and to conduct more air surveillance over docked or incoming tankers. An Israeli captain said the air space over the main Israeli port of Ashdod is constantly monitored by unmanned aircraft reporting in real time on the overall situation of the port and its vicinity. He stated his full agreement to the Greek captain’s remarks on the need to add more protective measures.
In recent months, Singapore has been trying to blow the whistle on the global threat posed by jihadists taking their terror tactics to the sea.
Minister for Security Tony Tan said attacks on ships by sea pirates in Southeast Asia are resembling military operations – growing bolder, more violent and fuelling fears of an attack that would cripple world trade.
He said the risk of a devastating attack is growing.
“We have been alarmed not only by the increase in the number of pirate attacks in the sea lanes of communication in this part of the world, but also in the nature of the piracy attacks,” said Tan.
The U.S. is considering a plan for a Regional Maritime Security Initiative to tighten surveillance of Southeast Asia’s busy Malacca Strait, through which a third of world trade passes. But, as WND first reported based on information gathered by the premium online intelligence newsletter Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the threat of Islamist terrorism on the high seas is worldwide – not limited to one region.
“In previous years when you had a piracy attack, what it meant is that you have a sampan or a boat coming up to a cargo ship, pirates throwing up some ropes, scrambling on board, ransacking the ship for valuables, stealing money and then running away,” Tan told an Asian security forum, according to a report in the Khaleej Times. “But the last piracy attack that took place in the Straits of Malacca showed a different pattern,” he added. The pirates were well armed, operating sophisticated weapons and commanding high-speed boats. “They conducted the operation almost with military precision.”
Tan added: “Instead of just ransacking the ship for valuables, they took command of the ship, and steered the ship for about an hour, and then eventually left with the captain in their captivity. To all of us, this is reminiscent of the pattern by which terrorists mount an attack.”
The International Maritime Bureau says one-third of the 445 cases of recorded pirate attacks last year happened in Indonesian waters, including the Malacca Strait linking trading and oil centers in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
Singapore has repeatedly warned of the potential link between pirates and religious militant networks such as Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the deadly 2002 bomb blasts in the Indonesian island of Bali and widely linked to bin Laden’s al-Qaida.
“We are concerned that terrorists may seize control of a tanker with a cargo of lethal materials, LNG (liquefied natural gas) perhaps, chemicals, and use it as a floating bomb against our port,” Tan said. “This would cause catastrophic damage, not only to the port but also for people, because our port is located very near to a highly dense residential area. Thousands of people would be killed.”
Malaysia has rejected the use of foreign forces to patrol the area.
“If terrorists were to seize a tanker, a large ship, and sink it into a narrow part of the Straits it will cripple world trade,” Tan said. “It would have the iconic large impact which terrorists seek.”
WorldNetDaily exclusively reported Sept. 29, 2003, based on intelligence obtained by Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, that al-Qaida has purchased at least 15 ships in the last two years, creating a veritable terror armada.
G2 Bulletin’s sources said potential targets of the al-Qaida armada include civilian ports, oil rigs and cruise liners.
Lloyds of London reportedly helped Britain’s MI6 and the U.S. CIA trace the sales of the “terror ships” 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, according to G2B sources.
The freighters left their home ports in the Horn of Africa in early September, some were believed destined for ports in Asia.
WorldNetDaily reported Oct. 13, 2003, on growing warnings around the world that the next dramatic terror attack is more likely to come at sea than in the air.
U.S. intelligence services also believe scores of acoustic sea-mines, found to have disappeared from a naval base in North Korea by a U2 spy plane, could be aboard bin Laden’s “terror ships,” estimated by some sources to number as many as 28.