The News Rep newspaper contained this ominous headline yesterday – ISIS terrorists have just hijacked a cruise ship . . .
The newspaper, which focuses on security, military and warfare issues, stated “Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists have stormed a cruise ship full of unaware tourists somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. Special Operations Command Europe has been alerted and swiftly deploys its SOF (Special Operations Forces) units to Greece. There, the American commandos link up with their Greek counterparts and prepare to storm the vessel . . .”
But the ISIS attack on a cruise ship was just part of a annual drill by U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) which concluded today in Crete. This year’s exercise took place from December 2nd to 7th in the port of Souda, Greece with special forces from the Greek police, military and coast guard.
The U.S. and Greece are conducting joint anti-terrorism drills in Greece in light of terrorism in neighboring Turkey and nearby countries such as Syria and in North Africa like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
New Rep states that U.S. special operations forces include the Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group, Navy SEALs, and Air Force special operations assets, such as the CV-22B Osprey helicopter, from the 352nd Special Operations Wing.
A newspaper in Greece explained that the task forces explored how to respond to various terror-attack scenarios on “relatively unprotected” or “vulnerable targets” known as “soft targets.” The National Herald states that the security drill involved an “Islamic State terrorist attack on a large cruise ship” in the Greek port.
Each year there is a different location for Jackal Stone exercises which have in the past included the boarding of commercial vessels in European ports via rigid inflatable boats and repelling SOF’s from helicopters.
This recent joint security exercise is a reminder of the vulnerability of cruise ships which are considered to be “soft targets” to terrorism. We suggest reading the best selling book by former Director of Security at Princess Cruises, Commander Mark Gaouette, Cruising for Trouble: Cruise Ships as Soft Targets for Pirates, Terrorists and Common Criminals.
The foreseeability of a terrorist attack is well known and highly documented, as the Rand organization noted long ago.
The cruise industry encountered a deadly terrorist attack in Tunis several years ago when terrorists killed cruise passengers from the Costa Fascinosa and MSC Splendida after they were bused without security or any warnings to a museum. We also know that al Qaeda planned to seize cruise ships and execute passengers in the past.
Read: How the Next Jihadist Terror Attack Against Cruise Passengers Will Happen.
I previously received an interesting comment from a reader who said that cruise ships should use muster drills to educate passengers what do to if there is a terrorist attack during a cruise. What is the protocol for a passenger if terrorists enter the ship? Go to your cabins, hunker down and hope for the best? Try and overwhelm the attackers? Try and escape via lifeboats? Who knows?
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Photo Credit: Top – YouTube/DFMagazine via the Mirror (Armed troops land on cross-Channel ferry as part of terror security drill amid fears of ISIS ship attack); bottom – Mark Gaouette via Amazon.