Friday, April 28, 2006

Al qaeda at sea? are multiple maritime plots afoot?

In the Movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a alien ambassador seeking to get the world's attention stops time and makes the world - stand still.

Kerry Collison; avid author and mega-blogger may feel like the alien ambassador trying to warn people in the USA of a problem we in SE Asia know only too well, It is recurring fear for many in the region, a coordinated attack by Al Qaeda and it's allies in the region on the Straits of Malacca.

While ASEAN has put up joint patrols versus the repeated acts of piracy; amidst reports of hijacking of ships where-in nothing was taken and seemed more like training missions. Warnings have emerged over the last four years of a possible major terror attack on shipping in the area.

There are among the Navies of the region a worry expressed both by Military people and members of both the international shipping companies and leaders in the region.

A growing fear; rising over the years; about a possible attack on or near Asia’s choke point in the Malacca Straights.

A lot of people are expressing renewed concern Now at this time of extreme oil prices if a Attack on or near Straits of Malacca near Singapore could hold up traffic for a few days what it would do to the global economy. One analyst says a few days of tension could see a $120 a barrel "As not impossible."

" The same conditions that allow pirates to operate in Indonesian waters can also be conducive to militant groups such as al Qaeda or its Southeast Asian offshoot Jemaah Islamiah. Maritime attacks and attacks against oil infrastructure and transportation...." Stratfor report quoted by Collison

Collision’s post based a report of the STATFOR organization; But that threat of a attack here near us is in part based on one that occurred before while it was off Yemen and en-route to the entry to the Suez Canal.

" An attack similar to the one against the MV Limburg off of Yemen in October 2002 would bring an immediate international response --....The economic fallout, however, would have already begun " Collison quoting Stratfor

But going beyond the STRATFOR warnings; speaking to analysts they say one area of extreme concern is if “multiple choke points are hit link up several events,” imagine a much larger scenario; not just Malacca, And here is where talking to the people I have been discussing this with in the last few hours see something.

“But what if Hormitz, in the Gulf; or on Oil tankers in the Suez and Panama canals; then that were followed by attacks on oil pipelines and or refineries.” my sources say such actions taken over period of days;

World be enough to send oil prices soaring “They would skyrocket.”

At first I asked if “such a plot had been considered even a remote possibility?” the answer given to me; "There are several actual intelligence reports on individual attacks plots versus these targets." I was told by not just one security analyst - But the same quote repeated almost in the same words by another who cited intelligence information gleaned from detainees and captured documents.

I and my counterparts in the news media have done stories with topics like this; to try and get these concerns aired- on occasion we do a pretty good job Looking for these things and hopefully raise concern enough for us to see some action taken to prevent events like this from happening but we are not always successful. .

But reading and re-reading this possible path of action; the thought of something going on at multiple point’s worries me repeatedly I have been told;

Analysts say "it is not far-fetched."

"If one looks at past actions of Al Qaeda for example they have arranged for attacks to be carried out in different hemisphere’s or countries before, " one senior fellow of a major think tank told me when I asked him about the subject said; " I would not think it impossible."

Groups like Al Qaeda are able to commit multiple attacks across the globe; One need only look at the assassination of the leader of the northern alliance in Afghanistan around the time of the 9-11 attacks; Then embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the string of bombings across the globe that almost move across time zones like a clock.

I often wonder why the Madrid Attacks were never linked to the bombing of Superferry 14 and the attacks on other targets in an around the same timeframe.. I am suddenly worried about the new message of the leaders of Al Q. I wonder; and worry, if indeed as mentioned in the statements “Oil supply” is now the new target, weapon, and, threat next. plot to make a real life; World Standing still….. waiting in gas lines and trying to figure out how move about.

I hope I'm not the only one thinking this way. Something I am sure is being done to prevent this on a individual level at the various places; If not - we'll all be walking for couple of days and trying to recover from the chaos of a world standing still.

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