Friday, March 24, 2006

The Jamaica-Somalia Connection

The Star Princess after the fireYesterday’s cruise ship fire was all set to pass below the Gates of Vienna radar. And why shouldn’t it — what, after all, does yet another cruise ship debacle have to do with jihad?

However… we have an occasional correspondent in the intelligence business, and last night she contacted us with an intriguing idea from the murky shadows of spookdom. Apparently certain elements in the intelligence community are convinced that Al Qaeda has taken an interest in cruise ships as targets after the attempted pirate attack on such a vessel off the coast of Somalia last November.

Mind you, this latest incident on the Star Princess seems unlikely to be jihad-related. News 14 Charlotte gives the details of the story:

A fire apparently started by a cigarette broke out aboard a cruise ship early Thursday as it sailed through the moonlit Caribbean, injuring 11 people and scorching about 100 rooms. One elderly American passenger died from a heart attack, the cruise ship company said.

The Star Princess, carrying 2,690 passengers and 1,123 crew members, bore evidence of the nighttime drama as it pulled into Montego Bay’s port. About 85 exterior cabins were blackened from the fire, a stark contrast to the otherwise gleaming white exterior of the ship.

If this was a mujahideen operation, they must be embarrassed by the result. Smoke inhalation and a heart attack! Not much of a payoff there.

‘Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat’ by Dennis Malone CarterBut consider: cruise ships are horizontal skyscrapers, and this one had more than 3800 people on board, more passengers and crew than the number of victims killed on September 11th.

Those two-bit Somali pirates failed in their efforts, but suppose the Great Jihad took on the task instead? It would gain an enormous propaganda victory, cripple an important component of the tourist trade, and make sea travel every bit as burdensome as air travel is now.

You can picture the burning, sinking ship on live video taken from circling helicopters and beamed to every TV set in the world for days on end. Images of charred bodies floating in the water, injured victims screaming while being winched into Coast Guard helicopters…

How could Al Qaeda not do it?

I’m a hayseed when it comes to intelligence matters, so I invite readers with expertise and/or opinions on the topic to contribute ideas. Here are a few areas to think about:

  • Munitions: something better than the Somali pirates had. More powerful explosives, and a better means of launching them.
  • Delivery: a suicide bomber could pull off a USS Cole on a cruise ship. Those floating hotels have less armor than a battleship.
  • Timing: nighttime, no moon, when the ship is far from shore.
  • Followup: spread oil on the water, and set it alight timed to coincide with the launch of the lifeboats.
  • Collaborators: men on the inside. Stewards, kitchen help, mechanics, etc., planted as sleepers until the time is right. The US government couldn’t screen for Pakistanis or Arabs or Farsi speakers. Can the cruise ship companies engage in racial profiling?
  • Use these collaborators to disable as much of the ship’s electronics — radios, in-ship voice lines, etc. — as possible.

That’s what on old geek like me can put together after ten minutes of fooling around with the idea. What do you think those Al Qaeda bastards are dreaming up in the lantern-lit caves of Waziristan?


Baron Bodissey said...

Kirk -- if those guys can learn anything from the rants of a bozo like me, they must be pretty pathetic and nothing to worry about.

They are well-educated and dedicated strategists, many with engineering degrees and with explosives and warfare training by the ISI. They're quite capable of thinking of much more sophisticated and workable plans than my ideas.

Besides, our side needs to be seriously looking at all these kinds of scenarios. If they're not, let's goose 'em and get 'em started.

Fat Man said...

My first attempt would be to rule out insurance fraud.

Baron Bodissey said...

Ken --

The URL in your comment messed up the post width. I made it into a link.


Ken Lydell said...

Remember the Achille Lauro. It took only four Palestinian terrorists to pull it off.

Unknown said...

The first such instance of a passenger liner hijacking was the Santa Maria in 1961 by rebels protesting the regimes of Franco and Salazar.

Mark Tempest said...

Actually, the buzz on al Qaeda and cruise ships has been around for a while. The Turkish government currently has a man on trial who asserts he was going to blow up some Israeli cruise ships off Antalya, Turkey. More here and here. After his arrest in August 2005 he engaged in some posturing: "...'I have no regrets,' Sakra shouted to journalists from a window after he was led into the courthouse. 'I was going to attack Israeli ships. If they come, my friends will attack them.'

'I had prepared a ton of explosives,' he added in a barely audible voice.

He also shouted 'Allahu akbar,' Arabic for 'God is great,' before officials pulled him back and closed the window. He spoke in Turkish with an Arabic accent.

A police official said Sakra was planning to attack Israeli cruise ships with speedboats packed with explosives. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because only top officials are allowed to speak on the record without prior authorization."

And don't forget the frequent rumors of al Qaeda divers, either...

Edna Barney said...

Baron - Thanks for Nothing! You are creeping me out. For the first time in almost twenty years I've signed up for a cruise next month. Up until just now, I was worried about "Bird Flu". I'll be thinking of you.

Captain USpace said...

These terrorist monkees MUST be exterminated!

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
make good use of terror