27 Years After Hijacking of Achille Lauro, Can Cruise Ships Keep Passengers Safe in the Middle East?
Twenty-seven years ago today, the world saw terrifying television images of Palestinian terrorists holding passengers aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship hostage. The terrorists demanded the release of 50 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
There were over 20 nationalities of passengers booked on the cruise, but the terrorists stated that Americans would be the first to be executed if their demands were not met.
Leon Klinghoffer, age 69, was from New York City and was vacationing with his wife, Marilyn, and their friends, when the Achille Lauro sailed for Port Said, Egypt. Although Mr. Klinghoffer was disabled and in a wheelchair, the terrorists picked him to be the first to die. They shot him in the chest and head, and then forced two crew members to dump him and his wheelchair over the side of the cruise ship.
That terrible crime occurred in October 1985. Now 27 years later, are cruise passengers, particularly Americans, any safer?
We have seen civil unrest across North Africa. President Mubarek is gone from Egypt and Colonel Gaddafi of Libya is dead. Good riddance to both I say, but both countries now seem more dangerous to Americans than ever. Last month we saw anti-American demonstrations on the 9/11 anniversary in both of these countries, and the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi.
On the front page above the crease of the New York Times this morning are several articles about violence in Syria with a photo of a Syrian firing a Kalashnikov rifle. I not sure who is fighting who anymore but they all seem to have the potential to take their violence to U.S. interests.
In April I blogged about a plot where Arab terrorists envisioned hijacking a U.S. based cruise ship, forcing the passengers to wear orange Guantanamo-like jump suits and then videotaping their execution.
The World Cruise Industry Review concluded that the most likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a cruise ship and its passengers: "A cruise ship is boarded and commandeered, while perpetrators hold and potentially injure or kill passengers if demands are not met – as in the Achille Lauro attack."
27 years after Leon Klinghoffer's dead body was dumped into the Mediterranean Sea, the danger of terrorism against cruise ship passengers seems greater than ever before. Have cruise ships increased the number of security guards aboard their cruise ships? I doubt it. Every cabin occupied by a security guard means less revenue for the cruise lines.
The current strategy seems to be to simply skip ports in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia until things calm down. But that's a short turn fix; when the street protests are over, there remains the risk of jihadists plotting a cruise ship to target. Will the cruise security teams be ready?
If terrorists can over-power several heavily armed U.S. Marines and kill our Ambassador in Libya, does anyone really think that they are safe sailing on a Holland America Line or Princess cruise ship sailing into Tunis or Port Said?