There is a disturbing story today in CNN entitled "Documents Reveal al Qaeda's Plans to Seize Cruise Ships . . ." The CNN article explains that an al Qaeda operative was caught with encoded digital data which, once deciphered, revealed some of the terror group's "most audacious plots and a road map for future operations."
The terrorist group had far reaching plans to conduct operations in Europe and to kill cruise ship passengers as part of its reign of terror.
The CNN article was based on the work of investigative journalist Yassin Musharbash, a reporter with the German newspaper Die Zeit, who was the first to report on the documents. The CNN articles states:
"One plan: to seize passenger ships. According to Musharbash, the writer "says that we could hijack a passenger ship and use it to pressurize the public."
Musharbash takes that to mean that the terrorists "would then start executing passengers on those ships and demand the release of particular prisoners."
The plan would include dressing passengers in orange jump suits, as if they were al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and then videotaping their execution."
Are cruise ships prepared to deal with a well organized attack by a jihadist terrorist organization?
The idea is not theoretical or far-fetched. After all, the PLO hijacked a cruise ship 25 years ago and killed and threw an America passenger overboard: The Death of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro Cruise Ship - 25 Years Later And our U.S. Navy lost several dozen sailors who were blown up during the attack on the U.S.S. Cole by an al Qaeda group (photo right).
May 1, 2012 Update: Former Director of Security at Princess Cruises, Commander Mark Gaouette, left a comment below, pointing out that Islamic extremists have taken steps to target cruise ships over the past decade. Commander Gaouette has also worked for Homeland Security and is an expert on the subject of cruise ship safety and the threat of international terrorism.
Gaouette authored a best selling book "Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists, and Common Criminals" which explains that cruise lines are not taking adequate steps to protect passengers from harm. One reviewer stated: "The chapters about terrorism were so interesting it was hard to put down and should raise some serious red flags with the cruise industry. I think this book should represent a real sea-change of how security and safety on these vessels is regulated by the governments of the world, marketed and perceived to you and me the consumer, and how the cruise line industry conducts their business in general."
The South Florida Business Journal covered the story today, stating: "The Coast Guard, cruise ship and facility operators, and law enforcement officials generally believe waterside attacks are a concern for cruise ships," a 2010 General Accounting Office report said. "Agency officials and terrorism researchers also identified terrorists boarding a cruise ship as a concern."
Here is the CNN video:
Do you believe that the cruise industry has done enough to protect passengers from terrorism, or are cruise vacationers sitting ducks? Please leave a comment below.