Maritime terrorism in SE Asia

Islamists pose an increasing threat to maritime security.

Terrorist Threats from the Maritime Domain: Singapore’s Response – Analysis

Terrorist threats from the maritime domain are a recurring challenge around South and Southeast Asia even prior to the emergence of actors such as the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Singapore’s position as a hub for maritime trade and industries has required distinct initiatives to mitigate potential threats by terrorist organisations.

By Joseph Franco and Romain Quivooij

The Islamic State’s successes in Iraq and Syria appear to have inspired resurgence among other jihadist groups. Al Qaeda Central sought to reassert its authority with the ‘Organisation of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent’ (AQIS) made public by Ayman al-Zawahiri on 3 September 2014. The genesis of AQIS, while a competitive response to the rise of IS in the global jihadist movement, is also an outgrowth of Al Qaeda’s long-term ambitions for expansion in South Asia since the early 2000s.

Al-Zawahiri’s pronouncement was followed three days later by a failed attack on a Pakistani naval frigate in Karachi for which the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the recently formed AQIS both claimed responsibility. The attack involved AQIS fighters who were former Pakistani naval officers, who sought to hijack the Pakistani frigate PNS Zulfiqar to launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean. Local media reported that the attackers had pre-positioned their weapons in lockers on the dock, and these were used to take control of Zulfiqar. Looking beyond the AQIS tactics, the Karachi attack also demonstrated how maritime assets can be an attractive target for groups seeking to demonstrate their resolve.

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