Singapore is 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 Osama 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.”
But it’s not just cargo shipping that terrorists hope to target. Earlier, U.S. intelligence officials said al-Qaida has turned its terror sights to a global sea jihad, targeting Western luxury liners and aircraft carriers.