There is quite a lot of terrorism talk going on these days in the mainstream media outlets. On October 10, Mike Deeson reported on the website of Tampa Bay CBS affiliate 10 News about potential terrorist “dry-runs” on the airlines. Deeson wrote:
A memo obtained by the 10 News investigators from the union that represents pilots for US Airways says that “there have been several cases recently throughout the (airline) industry of what appear to be probes, or dry-runs, to test our procedures and reaction to an in flight threat.”
In a September 2 incident aboard a flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando International Airport:
Crew members say that shortly after takeoff, a group of four “Middle Eastern” men caused a commotion.
The witnesses claim one of the men ran from his seat in coach, toward the flight deck door. He made a hard left and entered the forward bathroom “for a considerable length of time.”
While he was in there, the other three men proceeded to move about the cabin, changing seats, opening overhead bins, and “generally making a scene.” They appeared to be trying to occupy and distract the flight attendants.
“He made a hard left and entered the forward bathroom ‘for a considerable length of time.’” The other three men acting all anxious?
Could’ve been an earlier “chow call” gone horribly wrong with a subsequent frantic search for the Imodium A-D that was packed away in their checked-in luggage.
All kidding aside, both US Airways and the Transportation Security Administration confirmed the incident for 10 News investigators, and there’s been a Congressional call for an investigation of the matter according to a later 10 News piece.
On October 18, possible terrorist activity directed against Midwestern municipal water systems was reported on the Kansas City Star website. According to the paper:
The FBI is investigating a threat against water systems in four Midwestern cities, including Wichita, Kan.
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said Friday the FBI hasn’t substantiated any threats to the four cities. She would not name those cities, saying only that they were confined to the Midwest.
Finally, last weekend it was reported that intelliegence sources have informed FOX News there’s been significant Internet chatter by terrorists urging followers to kidnap Americans overseas:
“U.S. uncovers new terror threats from Al Shabab”
FOX News Video
By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)
Deeson, Mike. “10 News Investigators find memo warning about terrorist “dry-runs” on airplanes.” 10 News Tampa Bay. 10 Oct. 2013. (http://www.wtsp.com/news/topstories/article/339104/0/INVESTIGATORS-Memo-warns-of-terrorist-dry-runs-on-planes). 24 Oct. 2013.
“FBI investigating threat to water systems in Midwestern cities.” Kansas City Star. 18 Oct. 2013. (http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/18/4561155/fbi-investigating-threat-to-water.html). 24 Oct. 2013.
This Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of 9/11. And according to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they do not have any specific information concerning a terrorist attack being planned for the occasion. From the Associated Press right before the weekend:
The government is aware of no credible or specific information that points to any terror plot tied to the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, according to a new confidential threat assessment from the FBI and Homeland Security Department obtained by The Associated Press.
The new assessment, dated Thursday, said that intelligence agencies remain concerned that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are committed to carrying out attacks on Western targets. But it said there was no information pointing to any known plot. The bulletin made no mention of Syria, even as President Barack Obama sought congressional approval to use military force against the Syrian government.
Then again, the September 11, 2001, plot was pretty much under the radar too, figuratively and literally.
Remember, as I blogged back in June 2011, Osama bin Laden’s successor in Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, still has a point to prove concerning doubts over the operational capabilities of the terrorist organization and his leadership abilities.
At the same time, I can’t help but suspect Al-Qaeda might wait to see if the United States attacks Syria, at which point they- along with other terror groups- will attempt to retaliate “in defense of the Muslim faith.”
Stay frosty in the coming days…
By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)
“FBI, Homeland Security: No credible or specific intel of threat tied to 9/11 anniversary.” FOX News. 6 Sep. 2013. (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/06/fbi-homeland-security-no-credible-or-specific-intel-threat-tied-to-11/). 9 Sep. 2013.
Some analysts and Congressional officials suggested Friday that emphasizing a terrorist threat now was a good way to divert attention from the uproar over the N.S.A.’s data-collection programs, and that if it showed the intercepts had uncovered a possible plot, even better.
-Eric Schmitt, The New York Times, “Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning,” August 2, 2013
By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)
From a CBS Chicago news broadcast last night:
ROB JOHHNSON: Chicago’s Mayor and Police Superintendent have said they would use lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombings to make Chicago safer.
KATE SULLIVAN: But tonight, we’ve learned that they’ve already made some changes. Chief Correspondent Jay Levine sat down with Superintendent McCarthy and began by asking the simple question, “Are we safe?” So what do you say, Jay?
JAY LEVINE: One word Kate- absolutely.
CBS Chicago Video
Tuesday night, CBS Chicago’s Levine focused on Cook County as the second most populous county in the U.S. refines its anti-terrorism plans and procedures in the wake of the Boston terror attack (video segment here).
Personally, as long as our borders are as porous as they are, I won’t feel safe from terrorists. It won’t stop me from doing what I want, when I want, but you won’t see me at some mass gathering or in some other situation that screams “juicy jihadist target” anytime soon.
Besides, I dislike crowds.
By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)
Since I started blogging in 2007, I’ve noticed that complacency seems to be growing over a major terror attack by Al-Qaeda. I guess it’s only natural, considering the amount of time that has passed since September 11, 2001, and the successive blows suffered by the leadership of Al-Qaeda and their affiliates. Still, security was heightened in the U.S. with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and in Great Britain with the 2012 London Olympics. But as September 11 rolls around again tomorrow, and being informed that the terror group is big not only on anniversaries but on raising the bar on casualties, I sense a huge degree of complacency as it concerns another terror attack in the United States tomorrow and down the road. From the Christian Broadcasting Network website today:
Authorities are warning of the danger of a “lone wolf” attack a day ahead of the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
So far, however, there have been no warnings for law enforcement across the country to be on high alert.
According to a new law enforcement bulletin, the successful targeting of al Qaeda leaders has led to a decline in threats of a 9/11-style attack from the terrorist group.
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
At least the concern over a “lone wolf” attack still remains. But Al-Qaeda is like the Rodney Dangerfield of terrorist organizations these days- can’t get no respect. Look at these recent headlines on some mainstream media websites:
“Terror takes back seat; Americans safer now”
-From the Associated Press on Yahoo! News, September 8, 2012
“Never have so few been able to frighten so many”
-Philly.com (joint project of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, September 9, 2012)
“On anniversary of 9/11, fear is present but not all-consuming”
-The Boston Globe, September 10, 2012
There’s even this out of Hong Kong:
“Americans stop fretting about the threat of terrorism”
-South China Morning Post, September 10, 2012
I loathe Al-Qaeda as much as any other American. But let’s not call the outcome of the game (Al-Qaeda is now kaput) while it’s still in the early innings, as the next generation of terrorists- inspired by the American response and presence in the Middle East after 9/11- start to replace their predecessors who have been captured, incapacitated, and killed.
As such, keep watching your six, because I don’t think Al-Qaeda is all out of bullets just yet.
Rodney Dangerfield, “Rappin’ Rodney” (1983)
“Authorities on Alert for 9/11 ‘Lone Wolf’ Attack.” Christian Broadcasting Network. 10 Sep. 2012. (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2012/September/Authorities-on-Alert-for-911-Lone-Wolf-Attack/). 10 Sep. 2012.
Has an Al-Qaeda-trained terrorist of Norwegian descent finally received his marching orders? From the Daily Mail (UK) website yesterday:
A terrorist plot to blow up a U.S. passenger jet timed to coincide with the Olympics has been uncovered by security agencies, according to intelligence sources.
Al Qaeda intended to use a radicalised Norwegian Islamic convert to attack U.S. planes in the build-up to the London Games – which start in 26 days on July 27 – it is understood.
The plan centred on using the so-called ‘clean skin’ – a terrorist with no previous criminal record and are unlikely to raise suspicions among the security services – in order to evade airport security…
It is believed the suspect tasked with the attack uses the Islamic name Muslim Abu Abdurrahman, had converted to Islam in 2008, and was recruited in a terrorist training camp in Yemen, sources told the Sunday Times.
According to the Daily Mail piece, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP), based in Yemen, is thought to be behind this plot. As far as I know, there’s no comment yet from U.S. officials regarding the plan. However, CBS News picked up the story this morning, and from their website:
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, said that despite foiled bomb plots targeting airliners, al Qaeda has not lost its fascination with commercial aviation – and that AQAP (al Qaeda’s branch based in Yemen) has been specifically assigned to find a way to blow up a U.S. plane.
“They were the architects of the first underwear bomb, they were the architects of the ingenious printer bomb which was interdicted before it could go off,” Miller said. “And I think what we’re seeing once again is they’ve tried to put a bomb on a person and get them on a plane. Whether it has anything to do with the Olympics or the Fourth of July – one of the chosen target holidays by bin Laden – is something we don’t yet know.
“Norwegian At Center Of New Al Qaeda Plot Fears”
CBS News Video
“Al Qaeda ‘plot to blow up passenger jet’ in run up to Olympics uncovered by security forces.” Daily Mail. 1 July 2012. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2167166/Al-Qaeda-plot-blow-passenger-jet-run-Olympics-discovered-security-forces.html). 2 July 2012.
“Norwegian at center of new al Qaeda plot fears.” CBS News. 2 July 2012. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57464755/norwegian-at-center-of-new-al-qaeda-plot-fears/). 2 July 2012.
When I saw the following on the FOX News website tonight, I initially rolled my eyes:
Raging Wildfires in Colorado prompts FBI investigation
The Federal Bureau Investigation announced Wednesday that it would investigate the cause of a raging wildfire that displaced thousands of residents and an untold number of homes in Colorado…
Then I remembered something I came across recently that mentioned Al-Qaeda wanting to use such fires as a terror weapon. From Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC-TV Channel 7 back on May 3:
Al Qaeda terrorists are calling on followers to ignite wildfires in the U.S., which could make California a target…
An al Qaeda-linked website is now calling on extremists to set fires in remote areas. The websites even provide instructions on how to make fire bombs and firefighters are taking it seriously. “It does not seem all that farfetched. A wildfire moves quite quickly and can inflict damage, and if people have that intent, it’s very frightening,” said Battalion chief Julie Hutchinson with the California Fire Department. The instructions to extremists come from Inspire, al Qaeda’s online publication which was started by American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. missile strike in September, but the publication is still being produced.
In addition, Gwen Florio wrote on The Billings Gazette website on May 4:
Terrorists who want to strike fear in the hearts of Americans would do well to set wildfires in Montana, al-Qaida advises in the most recent issue of its English-language magazine, Inspire.
“It is difficult to choose a better place other than in the valleys of Montana where the population increases rapidly,” Inspire’s “AQ Chef” columnist writes.
It sure will be interesting to see if the FBI investigation turns up anything.
Granda, Carlos, Gregory, John and Michaelson, Elex. “Al Qaeda threatening to start wildfires in US.” KABC-TV Channel 7. 3 May 2012. (http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/national_world&id=8646527). 28 June 2012.
Florio, Gwen. “Al-Qaida magazine urges terrorists to set wildfires in Montana.” The Billings Gazette. 4 May 2012. (http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/al-qaida-magazine-urges-terrorists-to-set-wildfires-in-montana/article_33122cb4-30b1-5f70-a917-c6a58a629cd5.html). 28 June 2012.
Anti-terror police arrest two men in east London
British counter-terrorism police on Thursday arrested two men aged 18 and 32 in east London in an operation that was aimed partly at protecting the London Olympics, sources told NBC News.
-MSNBC.com, June 28, 2012
With Al-Qaeda still lurking and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to begin late next month, the head of Great Britain’s MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5- tasked with protecting the U.K. from terrorism/espionage) believes London will be a juicy target for terrorists. Ashis Ray wrote on the Times of India website yesterday:
A month before the London Olympics, head of Britain’s domestic spy agency said the games were an attractive target for terrorists and that some terror networks have thought about whether they could pull off an attack.
In a rare public speech on Monday, MI5 director-general Jonathan Evans though dispelled fears saying, “The Games are not an easy target and the fact that we have disrupted multiple terrorist plots here and abroad in recent years demonstrates that the UK as a whole is not an easy target for terrorism.”
The British spymaster talked about the threat posed by Al-Qaeda to our allies across the pond. From the article:
Scores of would-be British jihadis are travelling to Arab countries to be trained by al-Qaida. They are currently being trained in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Somalia, Evans said. Figures last year suggested more than 100 Britons were absorbed by terror groups in Somalia.
It is suspected that many are now being prepared for terrorist attacks across Yemen, Egypt and Libya. Evans also suggested there could be a steady stream of new recruits from the UK. From a British domestic perspective, Evans said, “Some will return to the UK and pose a threat here. This is a new and worrying development.” Speaking about the threat perception in Britain, he said, “In back rooms, in cars and on the streets of this country there is no shortage of individuals talking about wanting to mount terrorist attacks here.”
If Al-Qaeda launches a terror attack at the Summer Olympics, how would they carry it out? Asian News International reported on June 20:
The former Head of Department of Asymmetric Threats at the Joint Military Intelligence Division, in Athens, Greece, Ioannis Galatas has suggested that the 2012 Olympic Games may be a launching pad for potential terrorist threats, including Al Qaeda’s ‘dirty bomb’ plans, even as the successor to the late Osama bin Laden and a medical doctor himself, Al-Zawahiri, struggled to regain “face” amongst extremists opposing the West.
There have been numerous terrorist attacks since New York’s “9/11″ but none quite matching its scale and impact, and perhaps this has been a matter of disruption, deterrence and, most disturbingly, patience.
However, Galatas suggested that such attacks have been thwarted by national security measures and intelligence, even as the threat of a CBRN attack, referring to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, is ever present and it might also be the wild card that the terrorist networks, and “Al Qaeda” in particular are holding back.
“It is possible that Al-Qaeda’s success with the September 11 attacks has set the bar too high for its current CBRN capabilities. Al-Qaeda may be concerned that a CBRN attack that ‘only’ kills dozens of people would be perceived as a relative failure and demonstrate its weakened position relative to its pre-9/11 stature,” Galatas said.
Galatas added that there is no indication that Al Qaeda has abandoned its pursuit of CBRN weapons, including so-called “dirty bombs”.
“The possibility of a patient Al Qaeda is a disturbing possibility worth remembering,” he said.
“How Tough Is it to Build a Dirty Bomb?”
Ray, Ashis. “Britain fears al-Qaida may target Olympics.” Times of India. 27 June 2012. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-27/uk/32440844_1_al-qaida-qaida-jonathan-evans). 28 June 2012.
“London Olympics may be launching pad for ‘patient’ Qaeda’s ‘dirty bomb’ terror dreams.” Asian News International. 20 June 2012. (http://in.news.yahoo.com/london-olympics-may-launching-pad-patient-qaedas-dirty-113646870–spt.html). 28 June 2012.
It was only a matter of time before the terrorists got their hands on the following. From the CBS News website on Monday:
A Norwegian man has received terrorist training from al Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen and is awaiting orders to carry out an attack on the West, officials from three European security agencies told The Associated Press on Monday.
Western intelligence officials have long feared such a scenario — a convert to Islam who is trained in terrorist methods and can blend in easily in Europe and the United States, traveling without visa restrictions.
Officials from three European security agencies confirmed Monday the man is “operational,” meaning he has completed his training and is about to receive a target. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly. They declined to name the man, who has not been accused of a crime.
Norwegian? Oh well, so much for profiling…
“Best part of Aziz Ansari in Observe and Report”
(Warning! Strong language)
“AP: Al Qaeda trains Norwegian to attack West.” Associated Press. 25 June 2012. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57460126/ap-al-qaeda-trains-norwegian-to-attack-west/). 27 June 2012.
Speaking of terrorism this lovely second morning of summer (first time in days the forecast isn’t calling for 90 degree plus weather here in Chicago), remember when I blogged about the following threat to worldwide aviation coming out of a Qaddafi-less Libya in North Africa? From September 27 last year:
Flying the friendly skies just got more dangerous.
According to officials at a recent secret White House meeting, around 20,000 portable surface-to-air missiles have gone missing in Libya.
By the way, these missiles have the capability of bringing down commercial airliners.
On January 30, 2012, I updated Survival And Prosperity readers with the following:
20,000 portable SAMs originally reported missing. 5,000 recovered to-date.
That still leaves 15,000 missiles unaccounted for.
And just a couple of weeks ago on May 3, I received the following Security Weekly report from the global intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (commonly referred to as the “Shadow CIA” in the MSM), that talked in-depth about the Libyan missiles. STRATFOR analyzed the danger of these man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) being used against civilian aircraft in a terrorist attack.
Reprinted with permission of STRATFOR:
The Continuing Threat of Libyan Missiles
By Scott Stewart
In March 2011, while many of the arms depots belonging to the government of Libya were being looted, we wrote about how the weapons taken from Libyan government stockpiles could end up being used to fuel violence in the region and beyond. Since then we have seen Tuareg militants, who were previously employed by the regime of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, leave Libya with sizable stockpiles of weapons and return to their homes in northern Mali, where they have successfully wrested control of the region away from the Malian government.
These Tuareg militants were aided greatly in their battle against the government by the hundreds of light pickup trucks mounted with crew-served heavy weapons that they looted from Libyan depots. These vehicles, known as “technicals,” permitted the Tuareg rebels to outmaneuver and at times outgun the Malian military. Moreover, we have recently received reports that Tuareg rebels also brought back a sizable quantity of SA-7b shoulder fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).
While we have not yet seen reports of the Tuaregs using these missiles, reports of close interaction between the Tuaregs in northern Mali and regional jihadist franchise al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) raise concern that AQIM could buy or somehow acquire them from the Tuaregs. We have seen unconfirmed reports of AQIM fighters possessing MANPADS, and Algerian authorities have seized MANPADS among the weapons being smuggled into the country from Libya. For example, in mid-February, Algerian authorities seized 15 SA-24 and 28 SA-7 Russian-made MANPADS at a location in the southern desert called In Amenas.
For the Tuareg militants, the MANPADS are seen as a way to protect themselves against attack by government aircraft. They also serve the same function for AQIM, which has been attacked by Mauritanian aircraft in northern Mali. However, the possession of such weapons by a group like AQIM also raises the possibility of their being used against civilian aircraft in a terrorist attack — a threat we will now examine in more detail.
Uses and Weaknesses of MANPADS
MANPADS were first fielded in the late 1960s, and since that time more than 1 million have been fielded by at least 25 different countries that manufacture them. These include large countries such as the United States, Russia and China as well as smaller countries such as North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.
By definition, MANPADS are designed to be man-portable. The missiles are balanced on and fired from the shooter’s shoulder, and the launch tube averages roughly 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length and 7 centimeters (3 inches) in diameter. Since MANPADS are intended to be operated by infantry soldiers on the front lines, durability is an important part of their design. Also, while the guidance mechanism within the missile itself can be quite complex, a simple targeting interface makes most MANPADS relatively easy to operate.
The SA-7 has a kill zone with an upper limit of 1,300 meters, while some newer models can reach altitudes of more than 3,658 meters. The average range of MANPADS is 4.8 kilometers (about 3 miles). This means that most large commercial aircraft, which generally cruise at around 9,140 meters, are out of the range of MANPADS, but the weapon can be employed against them effectively during the extremely vulnerable takeoff and landing portions of a flight or when they are operating at lower altitudes.
Despite their rugged design, MANPADS are not without limitations. Some research suggests that battery life makes the weapon obsolete after about 22 years. Missiles treated roughly, stored poorly and not maintained well may not last anywhere near that long. Since replacement batteries can be found on the black market, battery life is not necessarily a key limiting factor. For example, two SA-7s used by al Qaeda to target an Israeli civilian flight over Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 were 28 years old and appeared to be fully functional. It is believed they did not hit their target due to countermeasures employed by the aircraft. Some of the classified U.S. military reports released by WikiLeaks indicted that, many times in Iraq and Afghanistan, the older SA-7s were ejected from their tubes and had engine ignition but failed to acquire and lock onto the intended target. This may also have been the case in the Mombasa attack.
Perhaps the most limiting factor to MANPADS’ utility has to do with the kind of aircraft being targeted. As MANPADS were developed and refined for military use, so were countermeasures for military aircraft. This means that most modern military aircraft are equipped with countermeasures that are effective against older models of MANPADS. Due to budget constraints, however, most commercial airliners and general aviation aircraft are not equipped with military-style countermeasures systems, which can alert a pilot that a missile has been launched so proper action can be taken, including evasive maneuvers, the deployment of infrared flares to decoy the missile or lasers to blind the missile’s seeker. Industry estimates indicate that outfitting and maintaining the entire U.S. airline fleet with countermeasures that could foil missiles would cost $40 billion. Because of the high cost of such defensive systems, the bulk of the civilian aviation fleet worldwide remains undefended and vulnerable to MANPADS.
MANPADS in Terrorist Attacks
The SA-7 was first deployed by the Soviet army in 1968 and was sent to North Vietnam, where it was used in combat against American military aircraft in the early 1970s. But it did not take long for militant groups to understand how the weapons could be utilized in a terrorist attack. In January and September 1973, Black September militants attempted to use SA-7s against Israeli civilian aircraft in Rome (the January flight was carrying then-Prime Minister Golda Meir). Both attempts were thwarted in their final minutes.
Two years later, the first successful MANPADS attack against a civilian aircraft occurred when North Vietnamese forces launched an SA-7 missile against an Air Vietnam flight, resulting in the deaths of all 26 passengers and crewmembers. One of the most famous civilian MANPADS attacks was in 1994, when two SA-16s were used to shoot down a Rwandan government flight, killing the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and sparking the Rwandan genocide, which resulted in approximately 800,000 deaths in 100 days (the identity of the attackers remains a matter of debate). Over the years, MANPADS attacks have been plotted and actively attempted in at least 20 countries, resulting in more than 900 civilian fatalities. The most recent MANPADS attack that resulted in loss of life was the strike by al Shabaab over Somalia in 2007 against a Belarusian cargo plane. Eleven people were killed. The attack reportedly involved a Russian SA-18 that was manufactured in Russia in 1995. It was one of a batch of SA-18s sent from Russia to Eritrea, some of which were provided to the Somali jihadist group.
A MANPADS attack does not necessarily mean certain death for an aircrew and passengers. In fact, some civilian airliners hit by MANPADS have made emergency landings without loss of human life. In November 2004, a DHL Airbus 300 was struck in the left wing by a MANPADS after leaving Baghdad International Airport on a mail delivery flight. While the aircraft was badly damaged and one engine caught fire, the pilot still was able to land safely.
The man-portable facet of MANPADS severely limits the size of the warhead that the weapon can carry compared to larger surface-to-air missile systems. They are also designed to engage and destroy low-flying military aircraft densely packed with fuel and ordnance. Because of this, MANPADS are not ideally suited for bringing down large civilian aircraft. Though airliners are hardly designed to absorb a missile strike, the damage a single MANPADS can inflict may not be catastrophic. MANPADS systems employ infrared seekers that are drawn to the heat signature of an aircraft’s engine, and therefore tend to hit the engine. Large commercial jets are designed to be able to fly and land if they lose an engine, and because of these factors, nearly 30 percent of the commercial aircraft struck by MANPADS have managed to make some sort of emergency or crash landing without loss of life, despite, in some cases, sustaining significant structural damage to the aircraft.
Still, the threat is not insignificant. The other 70 percent of civilian planes that have been hit by MANPADS have crashed with considerable loss of life. Indeed, on departure from or approach to an airport, airliners do have to traverse predictable airspace at low altitudes — well within the engagement envelope of MANPADS — and their airframes are under considerable stress. An attack at low altitude also provides the pilot less time to react and recover from an attack before the aircraft strikes the ground. These lower-level phases of flight also frequently occur over large swaths of built-up urban terrain that would be impossible to search and secure, even temporarily. Due to the noise involved with living under a flight path, this is usually low-rent real estate. With flight paths so well established, even casual observers generally have a sense of when and where large, low-flying aircraft can be found at any given time over their city.
As noted in Stratfor’s previous coverage of the MANPADS threat, since 1973 at least 30 civilian aircraft have been brought down and approximately 920 civilians have been killed by MANPADS attacks. These attacks brought about the concerted international effort to remove these weapons from the black and gray arms markets. Because of these efforts, attempts to use MANPADS against civilian airliners were down about 66 percent from 2000 to 2010 compared to the previous decade. Nevertheless, sting operations and seizures of illicit arms shipments clearly demonstrate that militant groups continue to work to acquire the weapons. There are at least 11 active non-state militant groups that are believed to possess MANPADS, and we have seen MANPADS employed sporadically in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are more than 10 other groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, that have been making efforts to obtain them. While there is no evidence that these groups now have them in their arsenals, their efforts may have become easier as missiles from Libya have trickled onto the black arms market.
Estimates vary widely, but it appears that the Libyans had an inventory of 20,000 MANPADS. It appears that the SA-7b seems to have been the most common MANPADS in the Libyan inventory, though there were also several far more advanced SA-24 missiles (the latest Russian design) that were intended to be used in vehicle-mounted launchers sold to the Libyans but that could be used as MANPADS if they were paired with the proper gripstocks and battery coolant units. Of those 20,000 missiles, teams from the United States and NATO have secured roughly 5,000; another 5,000 are thought to be in the hands of the various Libyan militias and to still be in the country. That leaves a remainder of 10,000 missiles. While a number of them were destroyed by NATO airstrikes or launched at aircraft, it is believed that somewhere around half have been smuggled out of the country. For obvious reasons, obtaining an accurate number of missiles is very difficult. Indeed, with a variety of parties involved in the smuggling, it is doubtful that anyone knows for sure how many missiles have been smuggled out of Libya.
The U.S. government has designated $40 million for a program intended to buy back Libyan MANPADS, but clearly many of them have already made it out of the country. In addition to the February seizure in Algeria, Egyptian authorities seized eight SA-24 missiles in the Sinai Peninsula in September 2011. A month earlier, two Israeli Cobra helicopters came under fire from a MANPADS fired from Sinai during a multi-stage attack launched from Sinai that resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis. The missile missed the Cobras. Indeed, the Jerusalem Post reported that, due to the perceived increase in the MANPADS threat from Sinai, commercial aircraft landing in Eilat have changed their approach pattern.
To date, we are not aware of any attacks or attempted attacks against commercial airliners using MANPADS taken from Libyan stocks. But with the missiles in the hands of Palestinian militants in Sinai and Gaza as well as in the inventory of groups such as AQIM, there is a legitimate concern that they will be used in an attack in the immediate future. Jihadists have long had a fixation on aviation as a target. With increases in airline passenger and luggage screening, MANPADS provide jihadists with the means to bypass those security measures and conduct attacks against civilian aircraft. They may have problems getting missiles into Europe or North America, but with active jihadist franchises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa, there is a very real threat of a MANPADS attack directed against U.S.- or European-flagged carriers in those regions. But with a year now gone since the Libyan weapons stockpiles were looted, Libyan MANPADS could be almost anywhere in the world, and it is somewhat surprising that they have not been more widely used.
The Continuing Threat of Libyan Missiles is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
So, of the 20,000 missiles, 5,000 are secured by the U.S. and NATO, and 5,000 are thought to belong to Libyan militias and in-country.
Which leaves possibly around 10,000 MANPADS still out there.
Does knowing this stop me from flying? Heck no. However, I’m all for equipping commercial airliners and general aviation aircraft with military-style countermeasures systems because of this information. Too bad the bill will be steep.
Activity continues to grow surrounding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit taking place here in Chicago this weekend and into early next week. From the Chicago Tribune this afternoon:
The first rally of the NATO protest weekend went off peacefully but groups of protesters conducted impromptu marches afterward on downtown streets that Chicago police tried to contain.
The two groups of protesters that had been marching through the Loop converged at Michigan Avenue shortly before 3 p.m.
Police, who had allowed the groups to wander through Loop streets largely unrestricted, stopped them halfway across the Michigan Avenue bridge, not allowing them to go further north.
On the bridge, one protester in a black shirt and Mohawk jumped up and pulled down a NATO banner on the bridge. Police officers quickly surrounded him, put him on the ground, and handcuffed him. One police officer appeared to strike her head on the bridge during the incident. Another protester obtained a police officer’s baton and threw it across the bridge…
Loop workers watched the impromptu march from their offices windows as the downtown streets seemed devoid of the typical tourist traffic often found in Chicago on warm Friday afternoons.
Drivers became impatient, however, as demonstrators snarled traffic by walking among cars and bringing the streets to a standstill.
The rally was far from the angry, violent protests seen at other gatherings of world leaders…
While I’d like to think the summit will remain that way, significant threats to law and order could come from the “Black Bloc” and terrorists. So what exactly is the Black Bloc? From Phil Rogers on the website of Chicago NBC affiliate Channel 5 this past Tuesday:
As Chicago prepares for the NATO Summit this weekend, police in other cities, and even some veteran demonstrators are offering some advice: “beware of the black bloc”.
Black Bloc demonstrators are self-styled anarchists who appear at large demonstrations, often at world summits, and are known for inciting violence.
From Reuters’ Andrew Stern on MSNBC.com that same day:
The main risk, security experts said, is that so-called “BlackBloc” anarchists will wreak havoc.
A recent tweet posted on the Twitter site of #blackbloc, a shadowy anarchist group, said: “#blackbloc comrades, keep a low profile till u are forced 2 act. We do no 1 any good in jail all day.”
If recent reports shared on an unofficial Chicago Police Department blog are to be believed, Black Bloc demonstrators will make their presence known in the Windy City in the coming days. From Second City Cop yesterday morning:
Has anyone been checking the Greyhound Station lately? Because our network people who are monitoring the subversives relate the following:
• According to their counting, 700 members of “anonymous” are arriving from the East Coast;
• 1200 are arriving from the West Coast;
• upwards of 3300 members of the “black bloc” and associated groups are coming from Canada and Seattle;
All of this prior to Friday. Is there a bit of bravado and exaggeration in those numbers? Undoubtedly. But the ones that do show up are going to be the truly dedicated assholes just itching to disrupt, damage and destroy.
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.
And then there’s the threat of terrorism. Andrew Stern wrote in a piece on the Reuters website last night:
The FBI said on Thursday there was “absolutely no indication” of a terror attack threat in Chicago, although the city was considered a potential target even before President Barack Obama and other leaders meet for this weekend’s NATO summit.
FBI agent Ross Rice said the agency will be on heightened alert in Chicago, with extra agents brought in to react if its intelligence network sniffs out a plot. The FBI has agents in 70 countries, gathering intelligence.
“Several international terrorist groups have elevated Chicago in their mind to their No. 1 target for terrorist attack,” Rice said in an interview at the U.S. government’s nerve center inside a non-descript suburban Chicago office complex. Reporters were asked to keep the location secret.
“But there’s absolutely no indication that we’ve developed that any group or organization has a plan afoot to disrupt the summit this week,” Rice said.
Jeff Coen also talked about the potential threat from terrorism during the NATO Summit and wrote on the Chicago Tribune website last Friday:
Experts agreed that although any pooling of world leaders presumably makes for a tempting target for the likes of al-Qaida and other networks, the city is probably not under any more serious threat than usual.
As I type this from Chicago’s northwest side late this afternoon- here’s hoping the experts are right.
“Thousands rally, hundreds then march.” Chicago Tribune. 18 May 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/natosummit/chi-first-nato-weekend-rally-unfolds-at-daley-plaza-20120518,0,5210924.story). 18 May 2012.
Rogers, Phil. “Police, Peaceful Protesters: Beware the “Black Bloc” Channel 5 Chicago. 15 May 2012. (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/chicago-nato-summit-protesters-black-bloc-151650715.html). 18 May 2012.
Stern, Andrew. “Chicago braces for violence at NATO summit.” Reuters. 15 May 2012. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47439309#.T7a8rVIUP8l). 18 May 2012.
SCC. “Those Whom the Gods Would Destroy…” Second City Cop. 17 May 2012. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2012/05/those-whom-gods-would-destroy.html). 18 May 2012.
Stern, Andrew. “’No indication’ of terror threat to Chicago NATO summit-FBI.” Reuters. 17 May 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/17/nato-summit-security-idUSL1E8GHDSN20120517). 18 May 2012.
Coen, Jeff. “Terrorism at NATO summit viewed as improbable, not impossible.” Chicago Tribune. 11 May 2012. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-11/news/ct-met-nato-summit-terrorism-risk-0511-20120511_1_nato-summit-summit-events-nato-host-committee). 18 May 2012.
On May 1, 2011, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs taking part in Operation Neptune Spear in Pakistan. With the one-year anniversary of his death fast approaching, intelligence agencies are concerned about a possible retaliatory strike(s) by Muslim extremists. Mike Levine wrote on the FOX News website this morning:
Just days before the one-year anniversary of Usama bin Laden’s death, federal authorities are telling partners around the country there is no specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland but they remain concerned “lone wolf” terrorists could use the date to avenge the former Al Qaeda leader’s death.
In an intelligence bulletin issued late Wednesday, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Northern Command note that terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Northern Africa’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Pakistani Taliban have called for revenge against the United States for killing bin Laden during the May 1, 2011, raid on his hideout in Pakistan.
The bulletin says Al Qaeda or its affiliates would view an attack “on this anniversary as a symbolic victory,” especially in the wake of losses suffered by Al Qaeda through U.S. drone attacks and other efforts overseas.
In addition, according to the bulletin, authorities remain concerned that so-called “lone-wolf” extremists not already identified “will execute attacks with little or no warning on or about the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
Levine added that the intelligence bulletin cited Al-Qaeda’s emphasis on symbolic dates to launch terror attacks, and that Muslim extremists might be particularly motivated to carry out a strike in retaliation for recent controversies including Koran burnings and the desecration of corpses in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, Steven Chase wrote about the concern over “lone wolf” terrorists on The Globe and Mail (Canada) website. From the article:
Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also acknowledged Monday that al-Qaeda’s switch to a sole-actor approach to inflicting damage is presenting a problem for Western anti-terrorist agencies…
Mr. Fadden predicted al-Qaeda’s recent embrace of smaller, leaderless acts of terror is a sign of things to come.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has as recently as last fall published an online magazine called Inspire that called for “open source jihad” and instructed readers to how to carry out their own attacks, he noted. “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” was the title of article in the Summer, 2010, issue.
“My colleagues in Britain, Australia and the United States are of the same opinion: We are seeing an increase in the number of people who are acting on their own,” he said.
“When there are a certain number of people involved, there is a possibility of intercepting communications; the chances of errors are far greater. But when there’s one person who’s not talking to anybody, [counterterrorism agencies] have to be really lucky.”
(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)
In addition, Fadden pointed out that the “lone wolf” approach not only attracts the ideologically-driven, but those with “serious personal problems” as well- making them more unpredictable.
It might not be a bad idea ratcheting up one’s vigilance in the coming days.
Levine, Mike. “Feds urge vigilance 1 year after bin Laden’s death.” FOX News. 26 Apr. 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/25/feds-urge-vigilance-1-year-after-bin-laden-death/). 26 Apr. 2012.
Chase, Steven. “Al-Qaeda switching tactics, CSIS warns.” The Globe and Mail. 23 Apr. 2012. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/al-qaeda-switching-tactics-csis-warns/article2411810/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Politics&utm_content=2411810). 26 Apr. 2012.
I’ve been thinking about the “routine military training exercise” that’s been going on this week in the Chicagoland area and which I surmised could be related to counterterrorism. But what about civilians? Is there anti-terrorism training available to the rest of us? And is it something even worth contemplating?
I remember an article I read some time ago by Massad Ayoob, a captain with the Grantham (New Hampshire) Police Department and an internationally-known firearms and self-defense instructor. He wrote in the November/December 2004 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine:
We are a nation of hundreds of million of citizens, equipped with only a few hundred thousand police officers. Clearly, the cops can’t be everywhere at once. Obviously, any citizen should report suspicious behavior. That’s not paranoia or fascism; under the circumstances, it’s just common sense.
No, citizens won’t spot a guy in a kafiyeh setting the timer on a small nuclear device. However, citizens do spot smaller things that can have a bearing. 9/11 suicide squad leader Mohammed Atta allegedly got into a road rage incident en route to the original airport from which he flew to Boston to transfer onto the fateful flight that terminated at the Twin Towers. If a cell phone call to police had summoned authorities in time, the course of history might have been changed.
Now, if a man carrying a boxcutter and intending to slash throats, commit mass murder, and die himself that day should find himself embroiled in a shouting match with an angry motorist who appears about to call people who can “come and take him away,” he is not likely to just drive off. This is yet another reason for competent, responsible people to consider going armed.
Ayoob, who also authors the blog Massad Ayoob on Guns on the Backwoods Home Magazine website, added:
Self-reliant people prepare for storms even if there haven’t been any for a while. There hasn’t been a real storm on these shores since 9/11 at this writing, but the storm warnings are clear and urgent.
The Federal government is preparing for the next wave of attacks. So is local law enforcement.
This means that the rest of America needs to prepare for it, too.
So for Ayoob, who argued that an armed American public is an effective counter to terrorism, civilian anti-terrorism training definitely has value.
But where does one go to receive counterterrorism training?
Using Google I stumbled upon one school right off the bat- Crisis Response International (CRI). From their website:
C.R.I. is a Las Vegas, Nevada based company. We are owned and operated by Doron Benbenisty, a former member of the Israeli Special Forces. We have been operating for over 10 years in the United States and trained thousands of U.S. personnel and first responders in Counter Terrorism techniques. We are open to CIVILIAN, as well as Law Enforcement and Military personnel.
“CIVILIAN.” Now we’re getting somewhere.
While CRI’s bread-and-butter courses are Body Guard PSD, Professional Tactical Driver, Krav-Haganah, Surveillance Operator, and Transportation Marshall, anti-terrorism training open to civilians includes Active Shooter/Workplace Violence, Counter Kidnapping, and Counter Suicide Bomber/V.B.I.E.D. (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device). “Average Joes” are invited to participate in the Active Shooter/Workplace Violence and Counter Kidnapping classes. From the CRI website:
Active Shooter/Workplace Violence:
Duration: 3 days Other Active Shooter courses are various lengths and costs.
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Active Shooter – The Israeli Method
Course Summary: This is our Main 3 day course, which is open to all. This course is one of the most successful and useful courses that we instructed in Israel, mainly to school staff, teachers and students. Students, Consumers, Office Workers, Restaurant and Nightclub employees that operate a large portion of their lives in a workplace environment can suddenly find themselves in very dangerous situations involving a determined and most likely suicidal Active Shooter. We have developed this primary course to assist personnel in dealing with this reality.
Primary learning modules: The course is broken down into THREE main modules:
Active Shooter Analysis
Then there’s Counter Kidnapping:
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Course Summary: This course will teach you how to survive a kidnapping, carjacking, hijacking and other abduction attempts. This is the only training course in the world that can help prepare you to survive a kidnapping or abduction situation. In this course, the trainees will be exposed to sophisticated kidnapping techniques that are being used by criminal and terrorist organizations all over the world.
Who needs this course? Soldiers in high-risk zones, police officers, government special agents, populations that live in high-risk zones, journalists, wealthy or famous people, entertainers, business people, humanitarian workers, travelers, pilots and flight crew, ship crew, professional drivers, civilians and others. During the course the students will be abducted and kidnapped in various methods and will learn how to survive the situation.
Primary learning modules: The course is broken down into FOUR main modules:
Kidnapping & Counter Kidnapping Techniques
Defensive Tactics, Weapons Retention & Disarmament
Escape from Captivity
Tactical Shooting (air soft in the studio)
And for civilian first responders, there’s Counter Suicide Bomber/V.B.I.E.D.:
Duration: 4 days
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Course Summary: CRI is the first and only school in the world that offers the most complete and effective counter-suicide bombing and car bomb training that relies on combat experience from Israel. We offer an extensive training course that covers intelligence, intervention and deterrence, which includes realistic exercises.
CRI’s instructors have created and offered this type of training in Israel since 1996 to transportation companies, police and the armed forces. This type of training is offered only to members of allied countries of the U.S. and Israel. Acceptable trainees for this course are Law Enforcement First Responders, SWAT, Non-Swat, Federal and Military personnel. This course is a fully tactical course that covers suicide bombers, car bombs, booby trapped vehicles and IED’s 360 degrees.
Primary learning modules: The course is broken down into FOUR main modules:
Mindset of the Bombers
Suicide Bombers, Car Bombs & IED’s
“AOTS Goes to Anti-Terrorism School”
Interesting. Well, at least we know there is anti-terrorism training available for us civilians.
Anyone know of other anti-terrorism instruction that’s out there?
Ayoob, Massad. “Armed civilians can help fight terrorism.” Backwoods Home Magazine. November/December 2004. (http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/ayoob90.html). 19 Apr. 2012.
Some more insight into the U.S. military training exercise being conducted this week around the Chicagoland area. Editor Jean Lotus wrote on the Forest Park Review website yesterday afternoon:
Things got choppy in Forest Park last night between 8 and 9:30 p.m. as five helicopters from the U.S. Special Forces participated in training exercises that involved landing and taking off from the village-owned property behind the Altenheim…
Participating were Special Operations military personnel from multiple branches of the military, said a U.S. military spokesperson, who declined to give his name.
“We had some multiple tactical scenarios for upcoming mission deployments these units all have. We landed helicopters at the Altenheim,” he said…
The exercises were “not tied to the NATO visit in Chicago in any way,” he said. “These exercises have been planned since February, 2011.”
Lotus reported that the training was being coordinated by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, “which coordinates helicopter trainings around the country to ‘meet mandatory training certifications,’ according to the CEMC [City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications] website.”
I wonder if Forest Park first responders found themselves unexpectedly busy during the drill- seeing that the Altenheim is a senior citizen’s home. What a spectacle that must have been for the residents.
Lotus, Jean. “New use for the Altenheim: Special Ops training.” Forest Park Review. 19 Apr. 2012. (http://forestparkreview.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=38&ArticleID=6470). 20 Apr. 2012.
Here’s the latest on that “routine military training exercise” going on around the Chicagoland area from April 16-19. Michelle Stoffel reported on the TribLocal (Chicago Tribune) website this morning:
The U.S. military will be using the vacant Sheraton Northwest hotel for training exercises Thursday, police said this week.
Military personnel will land helicopters on the hotel, sometime during the late afternoon or evening, Arlington Heights Police Capt. Nicholas Pecora said.
The U.S. military informed Arlington Heights police they would use the former hotel for urban battle training, but did not disclose their particular mission, he said. Arlington Heights also informed neighboring Palatine and Rolling Meadows of the exercises.
The same military unit was swooping around downtown Chicago Monday as part of a similar exercise.
I don’t know about you, but the exercise is sounding less like civil strife/martial law training to me. And as I mentioned in that April 16 piece, the military already has significant urban warfare training resources and facilities at their disposal.
Therefore, I have to wonder if it’s a counter-terrorism drill in advance of the upcoming NATO summit in May, or in anticipation of something else?
Perhaps even some posturing as well?
“Inquiring minds want to know.”
Stoffel, Michelle. “Military training exercises planned for Thursday.” TribLocal. 18 Apr. 2012. (http://triblocal.com/arlington-heights/2012/04/18/military-training-exercises-planned-for-thursday/). 18 Apr. 2012.
Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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