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Jihad At Sea

The recent combination of the Mumbai terror attacks and the huge uptick in piracy off the coast of Somalia got me to thinking -- how long will it be before a luxury cruise ship is commandeered by radical Islamic militants who torture and kill everyone on board, then scuttle the ship?

I'm not speaking about piracy, which is little more than sophisticated robbery. The pirate really is no more than a common thief. He may use terror tactics in order to get what he wants, but in the end he is only after money, either directly from the sale of the cargo he has captured, or in the form of ransom for the safe return of captured crews and/or cargo.

And I'm not speaking about kidnapping or politically-motivated hijackings at sea, such as the infamous Achille Lauro incident in 1985. Again, such actions may involve terror tactics, but their ultimate goal is usually formal recognition of the hijackers or some political undertaking such as a prisoner release.

What I am talking about is pure radical Islamic jihad, centered around the killing of infidels as a means of atonement for the sins of apostate Muslims, and perpetrated by radicalized holy warriors who believe that shedding blood is the only way to earn the blessings of Allah. These killers would have no interest in negotiation, except to buy time. They would never surrender. Their mission would be complete only when everyone aboard their target ship is dead.

According to authorities, the Mumbai attack began with the commandeering of a registered Indian fishing boat, the Kuber, perhaps because Indian Navy patrols had increased in the area. The terrorists slit the throat of the boat's pilot and sailed the boat into Mumbai unnoticed. In the wake of the attack, authorities found the body of the boat's pilot, and a satellite phone that had been linked to the terrorists.

Cruise ships have already come under assault. A month ago, gunmen in two speedboats opened fire on the luxury liner Seabourn Spirit as it sailed off the coast of Somalia. No one was killed, but the boat was hit with machine gun and RPG fire.

It seems to me that an all-out assault on a cruise ship would be relatively straightforward to carry out. A small convoy of boats could intercept a cruise ship after it sailed from port. They would then open fire on the ship, perhaps threatening her with weapons such as Stinger missiles if she does not comply with their demands. Then they would board her and begin their rampage of torture and murder. The fate of the passengers and crew would be grim, simply because there is no way to escape from a ship once it is at sea. Outside intervention by paramilitary forces could be stalled by threats to blow up the ship and sink it, with a loss of all hands. The killers would position themselves throughout the ship, making it impossible for those on the outside to know their numbers or locations. Eventually the ship would be blown up, resulting in the loss of all passengers, crew, and the terrorists, who believe that they are guaranteed eternity in Paradise because they died as holy warriors.

I believe that right now, such attacks are being planned. Can they be thwarted? Perhaps cruise lines could assign teams of highly trained guards to each cruise ship. They would serve as regular members of the ship's crew unless the ship was attacked; if an attack came, an armory would be ready, and they would defend the ship. Of course the best way to stop such an attack would be to destroy the boats full of terrorists before they boarded the ship. But this would require guns and gunnery teams, and being able to lay down 360 degrees of fire around a cruise ship from deck-mounted guns would be difficult. Or we could have navy gunboats escort cruise ships near coastal waters. But seriously -- would you want to vacation in a localized war zone?

And in order for such countermeasures to work, we would first need clear international anti-piracy laws that would give cruise lines the authority to use deadly force against anyone suspected of terrorism or piracy. Such laws would also have to protect against malicious retributive action in the case of an accidental death -- in a heated confrontation, there is a significant likelihood of another "London subway shooting" incident occurring.

Maritime terror attacks would be devastating to the cruise ship industry, and to the nations that rely heavily on sea tourism. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the likelihood of a terror attack by radical Islamists on a luxury liner is not a case of "if," but of "when."

- Michael Laprarie


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Comments (27)

I still think the cruise li... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I still think the cruise lines are missing a good bet. Have a cruise guaranteed to stay in Somali waters baiting the pirates. And when they come close, blow the fuckers out of the water. Customers can bring their own weapons or rent them from the cruise line.

What do you say you volunte... (Below threshold)
JFO:

What do you say you volunteer to be the helmsman?

Wouldn't be the first time ... (Below threshold)

Wouldn't be the first time it'd been done - the Q-Ship (not to be confused with a Q-Tip) was used in wartime. Picture a helpless freighter, far from a convoy, spotted by a submarine. With no warships around, the sub surfaces and proceeds to attack the freighter.

Then the freighter drops false panels and attacks the sub.

I'll not only volunteer to ... (Below threshold)
RFA:

I'll not only volunteer to be the helmsman, I'll bring my own guns and ammo. Woe be unto the poor bastards that get within range.

Excellent idea,#1.An even b... (Below threshold)
irongrampa:

Excellent idea,#1.An even better one would be assigning a Predator to each ship. Tobe serious, the only way to reduce the problem, imho, is to address the pirate's BASE. Rendering their home base unusable is going to do a lot more than individual reprisals, satisfying though they'd be.

"Maritime terror attack... (Below threshold)
Marc:

"Maritime terror attacks would be devastating to the cruise ship industry, and to the nations that rely heavily on sea tourism."

While that would be true, a much more devastating attack would be a hijacked LNG carrier.

Picture 250,000 cubic meters of LNG rigged to go off in Singapore, L.A. or Boston as it sails into port.

Granted, because they are tracked continuously via GPS, they would have to be hijacked fairly close to port, but it is possible.

"What do you say you volunt... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"What do you say you volunteer to be the helmsman?"

JFO:

You out of your freakin' mind? I want to be down on deck with a scoped 30-06! I just pray there's no bag limit.

I agree cruise ships are vu... (Below threshold)
Smiles:

I agree cruise ships are vulnarable and it has happened in the past. In 1985 terrorists representing the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro demanding Israel free some their prisioners.

There is actually a market for anti-terrorism devices for cruise ships. I can't remember the company but I read about an anti-barrior device sold for this purpose.


Excellent article, I enjoye... (Below threshold)
Osama Bin Laden:

Excellent article, I enjoyed reading it very much.

GarandFanGod bless... (Below threshold)
JFO:

GarandFan

God bless you. My dad once told me that many great generals were crazy, but thank god we had them when we needed them.. I'd just say you're crazy and a poster boy for stricter gun control laws.

You can add RFA to your little army.

It's hard to take anyone se... (Below threshold)
yusuf:

It's hard to take anyone seriously when they their object of fear is killing them because they want the blessings of allah for it. If that's the case, the islamists should start of killing the millions of arab christians living in the middle east.

As for the pirates, well no body gave a shit about the somalis whose waters were fished illegaly by foreigners or toxic dumped with impunity since somalia has no government or navy.

The pirates are simply looking for food to feed the family and in some cases revenge at what the international community have done to somalian waters. somalia loses 300 million dollars every year in lost revenue as a result of illegal fishing by europeans and asian companies.

Perhaps the pirates are simply taking that lost money back. I for one appalud them for it.

As a bit of an aside, can w... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

As a bit of an aside, can we not all agree that it's pretty sweet that in the year 2008, frickin' pirates are a big deal? It's pretty damn funny as far as international crime goes. Yarrrrr.

So, Yusuf, what do you sugg... (Below threshold)
Chad:

So, Yusuf, what do you suggest we do about pirates that murder and extort? Shall we give them big hugs, maybe have the children sing the "Obama Song" to them? Maybe we should love and nurture them some more? Can we plant some flowers or perfectly useful hemp plants along the shore? This "poor people, they were wronged first" excuse is a load of garbage. If they weren't all busy killing each other they could've run the european and asian fishing boats out of the area. You don't commit a crime to punish a criminal, you put them in jail, or you put an end to them. These pirates are in it for 1 of 2 reasons, money or Allah. When it comes to the money end, hell, none of them are fishermen, they use the money for Khat or guns, maybe a little to feed the fam, but not much. With what they are getting to ransom those ships, there should be tons of food, and good food at that. Instead, people are still starving. In Mumbai piracy (the taking over of the ship) was strictly for the purpose of furthering Jihad. How is that in any way a good thing?

JFO -I can't see t... (Below threshold)

JFO -

I can't see that gun control's really done any good anywhere. Handgun crime (crime of all sorts, actually) is up in the UK. It's up in Australia. And here in the US, where concealed carry is authorized the crime rate goes down.

Well, your mileage may vary on this, but I don't think the answer to gun violence is disarming the law abiding. The pirates want to hijack a ship? Make it more expensive than they're willing to pay - in lives and boats lost in the attempts. Eventually they'll run out of boats or people willing to try to snag a ship.

The answer to piracy doesn't consist of giving them what they ask for. They'll stop when there's no return for their effor.

While talking about carr... (Below threshold)
Gita:

While talking about carrying arms in the cruise or merchant vessels or flying with Drone with lethal weapons please do remember the sinking of a Thai fishing trawler by the Indian Naval Ship INS Tabar and causing death of 14 out of 15 crew members.

These pirates are ... (Below threshold)
Smiles:
These pirates are in it for 1 of 2 reasons, money or Allah.

Chad,

Many people on this site have a fear of all things Muslim. On what facts do you believe religion plays a role in their motivation. Is this something you made up in your head or is it based on evidence.

hey, chad these pirates don... (Below threshold)
yusuf:

hey, chad these pirates dont kill people. better start reading the news.

and these pirates are former fishermen. fishermen who have seen their livelihoods destroyed because the world took advantage of the anarchy in somalia to loot their seas.

Just recently a thai fishing trawler was sunk by the indian navy who mistook it for a pirate vessel. In fact the vessel was hijacked prior by pirates. These thai bastards have been travelling all the way from thailand to loot somali seas. The pirates in general are doing a commendable job. making sure no boat comes into somali waters to fish or dump toxic waste.

anyone dumb enough to illegally fish in somali waters deserves his fate with the pirates.

by the way, these pirates h... (Below threshold)
yusuf:

by the way, these pirates have distributed their wealth among the local community. these towns have been booming as a result.

the pirates have enriched the local community. money that the world has been stealing from them for 17 years.

JLawsonIt was sarc... (Below threshold)
JFO:

JLawson

It was sarcasm. Some nitwits wants to arm themselves to the teeth and fight off pirates?? Obviously these 2 guys have watched way too many Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

What has Somalia got that's... (Below threshold)

What has Somalia got that's WORTH stealing, yusuf? Sand? Khat? Stupidity? (Wait - there's no shortage of THAT in the world, never mind...)

According to this site - the exports are "livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, scrap metal".

Yeah, the world is just rippin' them off, and they've got no alternative but to turn pirate!

Aaarrrr, well, JFO - seems ... (Below threshold)

Aaarrrr, well, JFO - seems to me a dead pirate's not likely to be out plunderin' an' seeking his share of booty!

You seem quite cheered up a... (Below threshold)
Anne:

You seem quite cheered up at the prospect of thousands of people being threatened/killed by terrorists. Perhaps you were on vacation during 9/1l when thousands of people died horrible deaths?

Those were terrorists, not pirates. First of all Somali pirates have stated over and over that they only want money. They don't kill people, they hold ships until they receive the money they want. And how do you expect a few guys with outboard motor boats to catch up with a modern cruise ship? DUH? Freighters are slow and cumberson.

Before you write such nonsense you should act like a journalist and do a bit of research about pirates.

Anne -They want mo... (Below threshold)

Anne -

They want money, so somehow they DESERVE the right to be pirates?

Screw 'em. No - sink 'em. Piracy IN REAL LIFE isn't romantic, honorable, or justifiable - and they deserve the traditional punishment - hanging.

Yusuf and Anne, you forget ... (Below threshold)
Chad:

Yusuf and Anne, you forget that the Mumbai attacks were started with an act of piracy. The entire purpose of the theft of the boat was to use it to attack innocent people, and kill them. You can say that the pirates off somalia aren't tied in with that attack, and you're probably right. However, the pirates there have also shown no restraint in the use of gunfire and RPG fire to stop ships, and to threaten ships whose crews look like they might resist. Just because they haven't killed anyone by accident just means they've been lucky. Yusuf, you say they are just getting back what's been stolen from them. I call that a moral equivalance argument that doesn't have a foot to stand on. You don't commit a crime because someone committed one against you first. At least civilized people don't. If they were using those boats for fishing rather than piracy, I could see your argument, but not now. As to dumping toxic waste, cite some proof. Somalia dumps plenty of waste and sewage straight into the ocean from it's own coast, I guess I'd want to see some way to differentiate between foreign dumping and home grown dumping.

every one here quick to bla... (Below threshold)
yusuf:

every one here quick to blame the pirates should read this article

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,594457,00.html


trust me, if someone ignores your pleas for help you will take matters in to your hands. That's human behaviour. The international toxic waste dumping has decimated somali maritime resources. Time for the world to pay up.

And if my family was faced with a situation of starvation or bleeding rich oil tankers roaming somali waters, i know what i would choose

Then Yusuf, I as a person t... (Below threshold)
Chad:

Then Yusuf, I as a person that was on a ship being seized illegally in international waters would have every right to defend myself from your illegal actions and shoot you, as I was only working on the ship to feed my family. Talk to the warlords about starving people, not people that give to charities trying to feed starving people. The SAME warlords that are getting rich off of piracy.

Yusuf, I don't know if you ... (Below threshold)
Chad:

Yusuf, I don't know if you read all the way to the bottom of the article, but they basically say that the pirates use the excuse of the "poor fisherman" as a reason to step up their activities, not that most of them were ever actually fishermen themselves. Interesting point, that one is. Note that they site mostly Asian and Europeans for the illegal fishing.




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