Counter-Terrorism: March 16, 2005


American and British warships in the Persian Gulf have, so far this year, seized 14 small ships (wooden dhows), and 125 people on these ships, for suspected terrorist activity. Many of the boats were found carrying weapons, cash and documents indicating terrorist activities. The Arab nations along the west coast of the Persian Gulf have been increasingly successful at preventing al Qaeda terrorist attacks in their countries. Saudi Arabia, where many of the organizers, money, and troops, for al Qaeda come from, has seen terrorist operations declining in the last year. In the last two years, some 500 people (police, civilians, terrorists) have been killed or wounded in Saudi Arabia as a result of al Qaeda attacks, or police operations against the terrorists. Because Islamic conservatism is popular in all the Arab Gulf states, there are potential al Qaeda members everywhere. But except for a few violent encounters in Kuwait, most of the other Gulf states have just quietly arrested the known terrorist wannabes. The presence of non-Moslem troops in Iraq, and Iraqi Sunni Arabs willing to provide help in carrying out attacks, has drawn hundreds, if not thousands, of Gulf Arabs north. Local police and border guards have made it increasingly difficult to just drive north, and into Iraq. So many aspiring terrorists have taken to the sea, employing the many seagoing smugglers that work the Gulf waters. While the smugglers have been eluding naval patrols for thousands of years, they have never encountered anything as formidable as the American and British warships. Using radar, other sensors, helicopters and UAVs, the warships have made it extremely difficult for the smugglers to get people, and stuff, into Iraq. As a result, the smugglers have raised their fees. The evidence collected from the seized ships indicates that the terrorists, at least some of them, are running short of money, weapons and people. 


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