A Brother, A Fiancé, A Human Bomb: Terrorist Plots Against Aviation Déjà vu

Aviation

At the end of April, a Syrian based Islamic State terrorist had components for a bomb sent from Turkey to Australia. He then provided directions to build the bomb to the cell in Sydney, Australia. Once the improvised explosive device was built it was concealed in a meat grinder. Now all they needed was to get the bomb on board an aircraft. Khaled Khayat planned to use his own brother to carry the bomb in luggage aboard an airplane.

On July 15, 2017, Khaled Mahmoud Khayat gave his brother luggage packed with a bomb concealed in a meat grinder as he prepared to fly on Etihad Airways from Sydney International Airport. Khaled’s brother was flying from Sydney to Abu Dhabi and had no knowledge of the bomb When questioned about the weight of the luggage at check in there was a problem.  Khaled ended up leaving the airport with the luggage with the bomb. His brother boarded the flight and made his way to Abu Dhabi. The Sydney cell dismantled the bomb and then began planning to conduct a hydrogen sulphide chemical attack. While the check-in security procedures and questioning prevented the luggage with the bomb from being introduced onto the aircraft additional questioning and checks should have been undertaken as to why would someone allow another individual to leave with one’s carry on bag.

Until an intelligence service intercepted communications between the Islamic State and the Sydney cell no one knew of the plot to down the Etihad Aircraft.  The intelligence service would alert Australian Police 11 days after the attempted plot. This is not the first-time terrorists have attempted to bomb commercial aircraft by using a relative who unwittily attempted to carrying an explosive device aboard an aircraft.

Thirty-one years ago, Nezar Hindawi, a Jordanian working with the Syrians proposed marriage to Ann Marie Murphy who was pregnant with his child. Hindawi offered to marry Murphy in Israel. Hindawi told her to tell no one about the marriage or the wedding in Israel. He purchased her a rolling suitcase, provided money for her passport and had her purchase a ticket on El Al airlines. Hindawi told her his company had purchased his ticket on another airline.

On April 17, 1986, Hindawi escorted her to Heathrow Airport in a taxi. While in the taxi he put a battery in the Commodore Calculator that served as a timed triggering device for the bomb he had put in her luggage. Ann Marie Murphy had no idea what she was carrying in her luggage as she cleared through Heathrow’s security checkpoint. But the El Al security check was different. They discovered the bomb set to detonate five hours into the flight. Murphy was handcuffed and led away not realizing that her fiancé was willing to not only kill her and her unborn child but 374 other passengers. Her luggage contained a bomb with over 3 pounds of Semtex explosives. Nezar Hindawi was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

These two plots show the depths that terrorists will go to attack aviation and use anyone including an unsuspecting brother or fiancé. The Sydney cell weren’t successful in getting the IED aboard an aircraft. They dismantled the bomb for later use and moved on to a chemical attack plot.

That bomb components were sent to Sydney, Australia from Turkey and not discovered should cause some concern. This highlights the issue of air cargo being sent globally and the need for additional procedures. In October 2010, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) sent explosive devices via cargo planes and passenger planes concealed in  printer cartridges of printers. Only because of intelligence was this threat thwarted. We will continue to see additional plots by terrorists against aviation and that is why the initial security questioning at check in is so important. While important, the initial security procedures at check in constitutes the first of many layers of airport security.  But just as terrorists are always adapting so too must security procedures.

Terrorist plots over the years have evolved from bombs smuggled in checked bags, carry-on luggage, firearms, altimeter devices, Operation Bojinka style attacks, building the bomb from components on the aircraft like Ramzi Yousef, seizing aircraft like on 9-11, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the printer cartridge plot, liquid explosives, clothes soaked in liquid explosives, end runs around security,  and insiders are just some of the plots we have seen. We have already seen drones near airports and even strike aircraft. If a bird strike to US Airways Flight 1549 can force an aircraft down into the Hudson River then drone attacks of aircraft pose a danger that we can anticipate at some point. One thing is certain-security procedures must evolve and adapt or aviation will endure additional attacks.

History has shown that aviation security hasn’t been at the level needed to stop terrorist threats. Generally, the first time a terrorist tactic or new weapon is used to attack global aviation this segment of transportation is caught off guard. Ramzi Yousef was able to bring components onto an Philippines Airlines Flight 434 and build a small rehearsal device which successfully detonated. September 11th took the aviation segment by surprise when Al Qaeda terrorists seized multiple aircraft using them as the weapon. Just months later, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber attempted to detonate his shoe bomb on American Airlines Flight 63. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb wasn’t discovered until he tried to detonate the underwear bomb on Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day. AQAP’s printer cartridge plot was thwarted but the devices had already flown on cargo aircraft and were enroute to their targets. Operatives were able to skillfully move a computer bomb around security and get the device on board Daallo Airlines Flight 3159. Suicide bombers in Brussels Airport, Istanbul Ataturk Airport, Glasgow Airport Attack, firearms attack at LAX, all happened and caught airports flatfooted.

Until intelligence services learned of the communication between Islamic State operatives and the Sydney cell no one knew about this plot. We need to become more predictive and think about what would future attacks would look like. Until that time we will continue to be at the mercy of a first attack which is unacceptable. Sun Tzu said “Don’t depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready for him.

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Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image: Training to Combat Terrorism August 14-18, Maysville, NC Register Now

Mirror Image 2017

The brother in charge of collecting intelligence met a source who provided information on the government official-the target. The target was a local government official that the emir of the terrorist network wanted to kill. This military operation while tactical in nature would also send a strategic message to the population. A carefully crafted propaganda statement would also be released following the operation. One of the terrorist from the Hambali cell made a pass by the target location. A local government official was inside the compound which was protected by a small guard force. After having eyes on the target location and the exterior security, the intel collector for the cell had the final piece of intelligence for the attack. After careful planning an execution plan was developed and briefed to the emir. Logistics provided the attack vehicles and weapons to be used along with a suicide bomber vest.

The martyr was chosen and would be accompanied by a security brother who was to ensure the martyr would arrive on the target. The security brother and the martyr would be driven close to the target compound. The security brother would then engage the exterior compound guard with small talk and would be armed with a pistol. The brother would engage the guard with small arm fire if anything when wrong to allow the martyr to close the distance and detonate his device. The martyr worked with another brother to conceal the device and still have access to the black switch which would detonate the device.

The second arm of the attack would infiltrate into the surrounding area after being dropped off at the wood line by a vehicle and would be on foot moving with long guns. The plan called for these two brothers to assault the guard force inside the compound after the martyr detonated his device. A vehicle would pick up the cell after the attack. Within minutes chaos reigned. The guard retreated to a stronghold position when he felt suspicious of two unknown individuals approaching the compound front. Then the security brother fired prematurely and was engaged by the guard. The suicide bomber hesitated and was shot. One of the brothers who was to assault inside the compound was engaged by the guard force and driven off. But a decisive brother was able to assault from an elevated position and killed the rest of the security forces. The local government leader was killed before the brothers alive departed to a safe house where they debriefed the emir on their tactical and strategic successes. Minutes later the media and propaganda brother arrived back at the safe house with video of the attack that he would use in their propaganda. The brothers talked about the cascading effects of this attack and how they could launch “follow on operations” to win over the local population that suffered under this local government leader.

This wasn’t a terrorist operation but the Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image: Training to Combat Terrorism at the Spartan Ranch and Tactical Training Center in Maysville, North Carolina. Participants are placed into the shoes of a terrorist cell where they learn, plan, and execute operations learning the lessons by doing. This unique one-of-a-kind training is designed for military, law enforcement, intelligence and approved security officers. Participants step into the shoes of a terrorist cell and attend lectures each day and conduct casing and surveillance of targets as well as plan and execute operations. Over the years the Terrorism Research Center has trained thousands of individuals in this customized counter-terrorism program.

Register now for the Terrorism Research Center’s August 14-18th, Mirror Image: Training to Combat Terrorism or one of the upcoming Mirror Image Counter-terrorism training programs listed going out to February 2018. For more information on Mirror Image, topics, special guest speakers and exercises contact us at Purdy@terrorism3.com or at (703) 801-2297. TRC has the ability to bring this training to your organization’s location with our Mobile Training Teams. All participants must be approved before attending. For more information on TRC’s Mirror Image click on the link below.

TRC’s Mirror Image August to February 2018

Mirror Image: From the Edge of Raqqa, the Evolution, and Future of ISIS and their Wilayats Counterterrorism Training June 19-23, 2017, Maysville, NC

Mirror Image 2017 NC

Clink on the above link to see information and the special guest speakers attending the Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image: From the Edge of Raqqa, the Evolution, and Future of ISIS and their Wilayats Counterterrorism Training.  as well as some information on the program and what past participants have said about this unique one of a kind training program.

Information on this total immersion counterterrorism training program and what past participants have said about this unique one of a kind training program is included. This unique one of a kind training is designed for military, law enforcement, intelligence and approved security officials. To register see information within the above link.

 

Mirror Image: Training From the Edge of Raqqa and Mosul, the Evolution and Future of ISIS and their Wilayats June 19-24th in North Carolina

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TRC’s Mirror Image June 19-24 2017

Click on the above link to learn more about our Mirror Image training. 

The Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image training program is a five day classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics. This one of a kind total immersion training program places participants into simulated terrorist cells where the participants replicate the various roles within a cell. Cells are briefed on targets and develop operational plans after conducting casing and surveillance. Each day, the participants will be taught a comprehensive program by a host of international terrorism experts. This unique program consists of hardships and long days. Starting in 2002, TRC trained thousands of military, law enforcement, intelligence officers in North Carolina, and at Ft. Huachuca, Ft. Irwin, Camp Rilea, Camp Pendleton, Camp Billy Machen, Camp Michael Monsoor, Camp Blanding, Camp Fogarty, F.E. Warren AFB, Canada, Djibouti and other locations.

Our Mirror Image programs have always been guided by two things that Sun Tzu believed. “Every battle is won before it is fought.” What one does before a critical incident is vital and if you not only know but understand the enemy one can succeed. For as Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” Topics covered during Mirror Image Training include: Homegrown Terrorism, Terrorist Training, Cultural Issues and Differences, Terrorist Attacks Worldwide, Casing and Targeting Tradecraft, Casing and Surveillance Exercise, Terrorist Use of Drones in Surveillance, Propaganda and Attacks, Complex Attacks, Evolution of ISIS, Terrorist Planning, Logistics, and Finances, Martyrdom Operations, Radical Islam, Identifying a Terrorist in Your Jurisdiction, Internal Security (Terrorist OPSEC), Intelligence Processes, Ambushes, Targeted Violence, ISIS Hit Lists, Assassinations, Kidnapping and the Weapon of Beheading, Terrorist Media and Propaganda, Case Studies of Terrorist Attacks & Plots to include Orlando, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, Ft. Dix, and others attacks.

Ask how you can bring this cutting edge program to your organization. TRC’s Mobile Training Team has conducted Mirror Image programs at Ft. Huachuca, Ft. Irwin, Camp Rilea, Camp Pendleton, Camp Billy Machen, Camp Michael Monsoor, Camp Blanding, Camp Fogarty, F.E. Warren AFB, Canada, Djibouti and other locations.

Our Customized Mirror Image programs have included: Mirror Image: Afghanistan, Mirror Image: Kandahar, Mirror Image Iraq, Mirror Image Anbar Province, Mirror Image Kunar Province, Mirror Image: Mindanao, Mirror Image: Across the Sahel, Persian Mirror Image: Understanding the Islamic Republic, Revolution and Sacrifice, and now Mirror Image: From the Edge of Raqqa, the Evolution and Future of ISIS and their Wilayats. For additional information regarding Mirror Image contact: Purdy@terrorism3.com 703-801-2297

 

Remembering Trooper Mark Cosslett

Trooper Mark Cosslett Sign

In 1962, President Kennedy designated May 15th as Peace Officer Memorial Day. This week, we remember those law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This week I would like to honor and remember Trooper Mark Cosslett of the Virginia State Police.  In the fall of 2002, two idiots with a rifle were sniping citizens in Virginia, DC, and Maryland.  Mark had been part of law enforcement’s efforts to locate the two criminals shooting innocent people randomly. The “so called snipers” had been arrested early on the morning of October 23, 2002. But people were still unsure if it was them. On October 23, 2002, Mark heard a police radio call go out for shots fired in Lorton, Virginia and he responded on his motorcycle. He was struck and killed when a tow truck veered into his path and struck him while responding to the shots fired call. Mark had served in the US Marine Corps, served the citizens of Virginia for 16 years as a trooper,  a motorman, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and undercover dealing with narcotics.

Mark was one of the best officers in the US at drug interdiction. It was because of his unique skills at detecting drugs and hidden compartments in vehicles that I brought Mark on the road to share his expertise and experiences with other law enforcement officers. We traveled the country teaching law enforcement officers and Customs Inspectors how to become better at drug interdiction and staying safe.

Mark was always giving, had the warmest smile and a great sense of humor. But most of all he loved his wife and two children more than anything. He was always talking about his family and their importance in his life. I thank God for the opportunity to have spent a little time with such a great friend and role model.

This week everyone should offer his or her thanks and appreciation to those who serve in law enforcement. Too many members of the law enforcement community have sacrificed and paid the ultimate price for our safety. These men and women keep us all safe and we owe them so much. If you have time this week visit the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Judiciary Square in Washington, DC or just thank a member of your local law enforcement community. Mark Cosslett and all those who have their names etched on the National Law Enforcement Memorial are all truly heroes and should be remembered as such.

Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image Training Returns to North Carolina

Mirror Image: From the Edge of Raqqa at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center

The Terrorism Research Center (TRC) is pleased to announce that our Mirror Image training program returns to North Carolina for 2017.  Since 2002, when Mirror Image was created, thousands of military, law enforcement and intelligence officers have attended this one of a kind counter-terrorism training program. TRC’s Mirror Image places participants into a “replicated terrorist cell or network” to gain an understanding into the mindset, ideology and operational methodology of a terrorist cell. We are happy to be conducting this training at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center in Maysville, North Carolina. Cells will operate in hardship conditions and will eat, sleep and train as a tight knit network. Each day, the participants will be taught a comprehensive program by a host of international terrorism experts.For more information on the course content, special guest speakers or how to register click on the link below.

TRC’s Mirror Image Returns to North Carolina

The goal behind Mirror Image is what Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Colonel Kelly Alexander said about Mirror Image, “this training was instrumental to the success of my Marines in Anbar Province.” The former Army MI G-2, CSM Franklin Saunders stated after he attended the course, “Mirror Image is hands down the best course I have attended.

2017 Mirror Image: From the Edge of Raqqa

April 24-28, May 21-26, June 19-23, July 24-28,

Aug 14-18, Sept. 25-29, Oct. 16-20, Nov 13-17

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“A Virginia Company With A Global Purpose”

 Terrorism Research Center Inc.

5765 F Burke Center Pkwy-PMB 331

Burke, Virgina 22015

   Phone 703-801-2297

 

 

 

Iran Stills Holds American Citizen Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson in Orange Jump Suit

Ten years ago an American citizen, Robert Levinson was seized on Kish Island, Iran and has been held by Iran. On September 24, 2013, we published “Iran’s Signals, Calls and Marches” to bring attention to this travesty . There is a link to that publication below.

This last week to mark the date this honorable family man was illegally seized his family once again appealed for his release. Even the United Nations holds Iran responsible for the detention of Robert Levinson. The United States needs to make returning Robert Levinson a priority and hold Iran accountable for its illegal actions. Americans should contact their elected officials and the White House and demand that Bob Levinson be one of the key priorities of the government. For this public servant should not be forgotten. Ten years is too long. The Levinson family has a website with information which I have listed below.

http://www.helpboblevinson.com/

Irans Signals, Calls and Marches

MIRROR IMAGE: TRAINING TO COMBAT TERRORISM RETURNS TO NORTH CAROLINA

In 2002, the Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image:Training to Combat Terrorism was first conducted in North Carolina. The Terrorism Research Center over the years has trained thousands of military, law enforcement and intelligence officers in our total immersion counter-terrorism training program.  Today, the Terrorism Research Center is pleased to announce that we are once again conducting Mirror Image in North Carolina.

Insurgents Village

The purpose of Mirror Image is to allow individuals to step into the shoes of a terrorist cell or network to gain insight into the mindset and ideology as well as their operational methodology.   Our Mirror Image programs have always been guided by two things that Sun Tzu believed. “Every battle is won before it is fought.” What one does before a critical incident is vital and if you not only know but understand the enemy one can succeed. For as Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

The Terrorism Research Center’s Mirror Image training program is a five day classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics. This one of a kind total immersion training program places participants into simulated terrorist cells where the participants replicate the  various roles within a cell. Cells are briefed on targets and develop operational plans after conducting casing and surveillance. Each day, the participants will be taught a comprehensive program by a host of international terrorism experts. This unique program consists of hardships and long days. Starting in 2002,  TRC trained thousands of military, law enforcement, intelligence officers in North Carolina, and at Ft. Huachuca, Ft. Irwin, Camp Rilea, Camp Pendleton, Camp Billy Machen, Camp Michael Monsoor, Camp Blanding, Camp Fogarty, F.E. Warren AFB, Canada, Djibouti and other locations.

The new facility in North Carolina is within minutes from Camp Lejeune. With ranges, the largest shoot house in America, and excellent exercise areas and facilities we are excited to bring Mirror Image back to North Carolina. Here are the dates we will be conducting Mirror Image in North Carolina.

                                    April 24-28, 2017                           August 14-18, 2017

                                    May 22-26,2017                             September 25-29, 2017

                                    June 19-23, 2017                            October 16-20, 2017

                                    July 24-28, 2017                             November 13-17, 2017

Some of the topics covered include: the road to jihad, recruiting, terrorist training, cultural issues and differences, Salafist ideology, the Evolution of Al Qaeda, AQAP, ISIS, ISIS After Raqqa, Casing and Surveillance, complex attacks, Planning, Logistics, and Finances, Media, Social Media, Propaganda and the Use of Drones, Internal Security, Ambushes, Targeted Violence, Kidnappings, Case studies of terrorist attacks to include Orlando, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, Homs, Istanbul, Ankara, Aden, and other topics.

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For more information about the Terrorism Research Center’s total immersion “Mirror Image:Training to Combat Terrorism or one of our customized Mirror Images programs or our new facility in North Carolina contact us Purdy@terrorism3.com or go to http://www.trchomelandsecurity.com to register to receive additional information.

                                                “A Virginia Company With A Global Purpose”

Terrorism Research Center Inc., 5765 F Burke Center Pkwy-PMB 331, Burke, Virginia 22015

 

The Importance of a Flag

iwo-jima-memorial

“Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

                                                              -Admiral Chester W. Nimitz-

Seventy-two years ago, Marines stormed the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima. On the morning of February 19, 1945, 1st Lt. John Wells in command of 3rd Platoon, Easy Company, 28th Marines landed on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima. Wells and his Marines would be given the mission of attacking the foothills around the base of a volcanic peak named Mount Suribachi.  Lt. Wells had lead his Marines on Guadalcanal and once boasted “Give me 50 Marines not afraid to die and I can take any position.” His Marines swept across the foothills below Mount Suribachi. Wells was severely wounded and unable to walk but still he continued to command his men. He was evacuated to a hospital ship. Lt. Wells would be awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

The battle for Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. American casualties were 6,821 killed and 19,217 wounded, while the Japanese casualties were 17,845-18,375 killed or missing and only 216 prisoners captured. “Manila John” Basilone, who won his Medal of Honor for bravery on Guadalcanal would be killed in a mortar attack after he captured a Japanese defensive position on Iwo Jima.

On February 23, 1945, in the early morning hours, 40 Marines from 3rd Platoon under Lt. Harold Schrier were ordered to attack the crater on Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag for all to see. Just the sight of an American flag was inspiring for those fighting the Japanese.  After taking their objective, Marines attached a small American flag to a steel pipe and held the flag high. To the Marines who had lost so many brothers the sight of the flag was a symbol of all they were fighting for. To the Japanese on the island, the sight of the flag was a psychological blow and they knew that their homeland was threatened. Of the 40 Marines who assaulted the crater of Mount Suribachi that day, 36 would be killed or wounded on Iwo Jima. The price in American blood was high.

The “iconic flag raising” on Mount Suribachi would be the second flag raising that day. As photographer Joe Rosenthal made his way to the top of Mount Suribachi, he stated “I could see this small flag waving on a very long pole. It gave me a jolt and I get it now. That was our Flag-American Flag.” Rosenthal asked three Marines at the summit what was happening and one of them said “The Colonel down below wants a bigger flag so it can be seen by the troops all over the island.” Rosenthal would snap a picture and hope that it was as he had seen in his viewfinder.

That iconic picture of the flag raising on Iwo Jima would win Joe Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize. One picture of Americans raising the flag would inspire the nation. Three of the Marines who helped raise the flag, Harlon Block, Franklin Sousley and Michael Stank would all be killed in battle on Iwo Jima.  The three surviving flag raisers , Marines Ira Hayes, and Rene Gagnon along with Navy Corpsman John Bradley would all make it off the island. One of those Marines, Sgt. Michael Stank has been described as “the kind of Marine you read about, the kind they make movies about.”

Rosenthal’s iconic photograph would become the inspiration for Felix de Weldon’s 32-foot high sculpture entitled Marine Corps War Memorial. The sculpture replicates the flag raising on Iwo Jima and commemorates all the Marines that have died in battle since 1775. But just as on Iwo Jima that early morning seventy-two years ago, Americans stopped even in the middle of a battle to look upon the flag being raised. Some yelled out hurrahs, others waved their helmets and others fired into the air upon seeing the American flag on Japanese territory.

Flags have played an important part in our history over the years. George Washington asked Betsy Ross to sew the first American flag. Years later, Francis Scott Key inspired by seeing the American flag still flying after the bombardment of Ft. McHenry by the British, that he wrote the Star Spangled Banner. And yet, our national symbol has been burned by protestors and dishonored by sports athletes in recent years. Our great country is not perfect in anyway. However, we allow individuals to protest and seek redress. But to disrespect the symbol of America and those who lost their lives fighting for all that the flag represents is a travesty.

I have unfortunately had to see too many flag draped coffins over the years. Yet, even in death, one of the greatest military honors is to be cloaked with one’s flag. Today, seventy-two years later, one should understand the importance of the flag that even under gunfire Marines raised this American symbol not once but twice for all to see. For after all, it is not only a symbol of America but of our national pride, patriotism and unity of purpose. And we honor those who seventy-two years ago fought and died on Iwo Jima under that flag.

Houthi Rebels: An Emerging Threat in the Red Sea

yemen-djibouti

 “The land of Sheba is once again bedeviled by blood feuds, tribal warfare and conflict. All is normal in Yemen.”

Not long ago I watched as ships navigated the waters between Djibouti and Yemen and the clouds seem to roll westward. This natural chokepoint with its sparkling blue waters has attracted global interests since the first European fleet under Afonso de Albuquerque, the Duke of Goa sailed through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

For years, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been perfecting their “swarming attack technique” sending Iranian fast boats in a dispersed formation to attack a ship using anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and suicide bomber boats. While the IRGC has perfected these tactics and techniques in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, it should surprise no one when Iranian-trained Houthi rebels in Yemen employ these same tactics in the Red Sea. Besides exporting these tactics and techniques, Iran has supplied weapons to the Houthi militias. Along with traditional small arms, Iran has provided the Houthis with anti-ship missiles surface-to- surface short range missiles, and sea mines. Iran has smuggled arms to their Houthi allies across Oman and on the seas. Even before this latest conflict, Yemen was a land filled with weapons. With the introduction of anti-ship missiles, the threat to shipping in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait have increased. Yemen remains caught in a quagmire. The Houthis militias fighting for Zaidi Shia Muslims joined with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to fight against President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. President Hadi has been backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, the United States, England and France. The Iranians have supported the Houthis in this conflict. With all this chaos in Yemen, terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State have taken advantage of the situation.There is a great line written by Freya Stark in “The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut which states:

“From here the old navigator sailed southward between converging coasts. Where the sun-darkened waves grow more frequent, he entered the channel of Bab el Mandeb, which forces the sea together and shuts it into a narrow strait, the passage which the island Dioduros (Perim) divides.”

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait sits at the southern end of the Red Sea and is strategically vital to the movement of commerce globally. The Bab el- Mandeb Straits are divided into the larger Strait with a width of about 16 miles and the smaller Strait with a width of about 2 miles from the island of Perim to the mainland of Yemen. Early on in the Yemen civil war, Houthi rebels placed numerous weapons on Perim Island. In October 2015, troops loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Saudi troops retook the strategically important island.

bab-el-mandeb-straits

The southern gate of the Red Sea is important for economic, political, and military reasons.  The Red Sea continues to be a principal route for trade between the East and West. It has been estimated that 4% of the global oil supply and about 10% of the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) supply pass through the Straits. Oil has always been a prime target for terrorists. On October 6, 2002, Al-Qaeda sent two suicide bombers in a small boat to attack the French oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden near the port city of Al-Mukalla. Abu Khaythama and Abu al-Hareth al-Badawi aimed their fast moving suicide boat at the starboard side of the oil tanker. The French oil tanker had loaded 400,000 barrels of oil at Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia and was enroute to the Minah Al-Dabah Oil Terminal in Yemen to load another 1.5 million barrels of oil when it was attacked. The tactic of using one or multiple speed boats with explosives highlights the ease with which terrorists can target and attack shipping.

houthi-speed-boat-just-before-it-explodes

Houthi suicide boat speeding toward a Saudi frigate just before it explodes.

On January 30, 2017, several Houthi speed boats buzzed around a Saudi navy Al-Madinah class missile frigate, as it patrolled the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen.  The suicide bomber boat sped towards the stern of the frigate and detonated killing two Saudi navy sailors and injuring three others. The above picture captured aboard the Saudi frigate moments before the explosion shows the suicide bombers boat speeding towards its target. Over the years the Iranians have pioneered the harassing tactic and used it for years in the Strait of Hormuz. Today, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are deploying not only Iranian missiles but utilizing this tactic of multiple speed boats harassing and attacking targets.

saudi-navy-frigate-attacked

The Saudi Navy should have never allowed the small craft to close the distance and should have engaged the target. The tactic of using a small boat to deliver a suicide bomb was first used in Yemen when Al-Qaeda attacked the USS Cole.

On the morning of October 12, 2000, the USS Cole entered Aden harbor to refuel.  At 07:46 a.m. the harbor pilot, Ibrahim came aboard and began the process of guiding the warship into Aden harbor.  By 08:49 a.m.  the warship was moored starboard side to Refueling Dolphin # 7.  The harbor pilot departed the Cole by 09:40 a.m. and the crew began the process of refueling at station three at 10:31 a.m.  Hasan al-Khamiri and Ibrahim al-Thawr launched the boat packed with explosives from Al-Haswah Beach.

The two suicide bombers slowly started to make their way on the water passing fishing boats in the harbor. Two small boats had retrieved the trash from the Cole. The suicide bombers on their small boat would make like they were another trash boat approaching the Cole. The Navy ship was only going to be in port long enough to drop its trash and refuel.  According to a Petty Officer, “A few minutes before the blast on October 12, 2000, the Executive Officer made an announcement on the 1MC stating that we should be completed with fueling and expecting to get underway by 1330 and if possible we would get underway sooner.”  The two suicide bombers guided their boat to the port side, amid ship, waved, smiled, saluted and detonated their bomb.

The crew worked diligently to save their ship and shipmates.  Commander Kirk Lippold had trained his crew to be able to handle various critical incidents. In reality, that day one of America’s most technological warships should have sank twice.  But the Captain and crew would not allow that to happen.

Seventeen sailors lost their lives that day and another thirty-seven were wounded in the attack. Like their ship’s namesake, the sailors of the USS Cole displayed great courage aiding their wounded and keeping their ship afloat. The USS Cole is named for Marine Sergeant Darrell Cole, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in the battle for Iwo Jima.

The Bab el Mandeb Strait is a strategic chokepoint where much of the regions commerce travels through the Red Sea. After the recent attack on the Saudi frigate the USS Cole was ordered back to patrol the area of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. There has been some speculation that the Iranian-trained Houthis thought they were attacking an American frigate. In the same area where the Saudi frigate was attacked, Iranian trained Houthi rebels fired missiles at the USS Mason and the USS Ponce. These US Navy ships were in international waters when fired upon by Iran’s proxy in Yemen. The USS Mason fired missiles in response. On October 13, 2016, the US Navy destroyer, the USS Nitze launched numerous Tomahawk missiles at land based radar sites in Yemen destroying them. Missile attacks in the Red Sea by the Houthis pose a significant danger to vessels navigating the Red Sea and the Straits. The United Arab Emirates unarmed ship HSV-2 Swift was struck by a Houthi fired C-802 anti-ship missile doing significant damage to the aluminum catamaran vessel. The Chinese made C-802 anti-ship missile has a range of nearly 75 miles and could strike any ships in the Red Sea approaching the Bab el-Mandeb Straits. Iran has also copied this Chinese missile and manufactured a version of their own called the “Noor.”

swift

All shipping transiting the Red Sea southbound or those entering the Bab el-Mandeb must be aware of the dangers posed by Houthi’s missiles and speed boats.   With an increased US Navy presence to maintain the freedom of navigation through the Bab el Mandeb and provide a defensive presence for ships transiting the Strait as long as ships stay away from Yemen this threat shouldn’t pose a grave danger but more of a nuisance.

The attacks on the MV Limburg, the USS Cole, and now a Saudi frigate show how easy these types of attacks can be undertaken.  There are numerous defensive actions that can be taken to prevent these types of attacks. Each one of these attacks are quite different but do highlight  adversaries that are adapting their attacks to be successful. What is more troublesome is that Iran has provided missiles to the Houthis that pose a greater threat to shipping in the Red Sea. Whom else might Iran provide missiles to that pose a new threat in the future?

The lands of Sheba today not only have to deal with the civil war between the Yemen government and the Houthis but also with various proxies fighting other proxies in this theater. Terrorists groups like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are established and looking to take advantage of the chaos. With no end in sight, the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb could play a bigger role in these conflicts.