Jihadists Using Cruise Ships to Sneak Into War Zones

Published Nov 7, 2014 11:07 AM by The Maritime Executive

Interpol is warning that ‘wannabe’ fighters, ready to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq, are now traveling on cruise ships – a tactic that has emerged in the past three months or so.

The key reason for doing this is to avoid tighter security at airports. Interpol’s counter-terrorism director Pierre St. Hilaire urges security officials to beef up cruise ship passenger checks.

According to BBC News, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said passenger manifests were already screened and systems were in place to confirm passengers' identities.

St. Hilaire continued by detailing the jihadists’ probable itineraries. He stated that prospective fighters can disembark undetected on regular stops at ports — particularly in Izmit, Turkey — then make the journey onward to the Middle East’s conflict zone, untracked by security agencies. He concluded with the call for greater information-sharing among the region’s national security agencies, to identify these passengers and prevent their travel.

Turkish authorities have deported hundreds of suspected foreign jihadists in recent months, mainly detained at airports and bus stations.

Interpol’s outgoing chief Ronald Noble confirmed that there are more and more reports that people are using cruise ships in order to get to launch pads, closer to the conflict zones, of Syria and Iraq.

The United Nations estimates that close to 15,000 foreign jihadists from more than 80 nations have fought with Islamic State militants and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. However, there is no specific figures on how many militants traveled via cruise ship.