Al-Qaeda attack at sea on the cards

Date: 1/6/2004

Al-Qaeda may have developed a terrorist naval force of 15-30 vessels, a terrorism expert says. Evidence included the attacks on the

USS Cole

in Aden in 2000 and the French tanker

Limburg

off Yemen in 2002, reconnaissance activities and attempts to obtain maritime strike capabilities. These indicators raise serious concerns that what we may be observing is the pre-operational phase of a future maritime 9/11. Attacks could include bombing naval or merchant shipping, sea-based attacks on land and the use of private aircraft loaded with explosives. Containers could be used to transport chemical, biological or nuclear devices. Intelligence experts believe ships were far more vulnerable to an al-Qaeda attack than commercial airlines. The al-Qaeda fleet was believed to include small fishing trawlers and large freighters. Of particular concern was an attack by suicide scuba divers. Ports around the world are scrambling to meet a 1July deadline to introduce a new international security system that will include ship security officers and details of a ship’s last 10 ports of call.

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