Home Contact Us
Search :

Navy - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#1679, 22 March 2005
Terrorist's Underwater Strategy
Vijay Sakhuja
Research Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

A recent Philippine military report suggests that two Al Qaeda linked groups have been undergoing training in scuba diving. It is believed that this training is in preparation to carry out underwater attacks on maritime assets in ports and harbours. Reportedly, Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah had financed the Abu Sayyaf at least $18,500 for explosives training in 2004. The Philippine report has also noted that Abu Sayyaf member Gamal Baharan disclosed about his training with other terrorists for scuba-diver strikes. According to Baharan, Abu Sayyaf leaders Khaddafy Janjalani and Abu Sulaiman initiated the training in preparation for a Jemaah Islamiyah bombing plot on unspecified targets outside the Philippines.

The Philippines military report gains credence in the light of the fact that in 2000 the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines had kidnapped a diving instructor in a Sabah holiday resort and had wanted training in diving operations. Similarly, the owner of a diving school near Kuala Lumpur had reported that a number of ethnic Malays were keen to learn about diving, but being strangely unconcerned about decompression which is an essential procedure for post diving activity.

The capture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an alleged mastermind of Al Qaeda's nautical strategy revealed that Al Qaeda could use small submersibles, underwater motor-propelled sleds that divers use and "human torpedoes" to carry out underwater attacks. Apparently as a result of confessions by Omar al-Faruq a captured Al Qaeda operative, it was revealed that he planned scuba attacks on US warships in Indonesia. This forced US officials to visit hundreds of scuba shops in Indonesia seeking information about suspicious visitors.

It is evident that terrorist groups have built up capability and expertise in undertaking underwater attacks against maritime assets. An important question arises as to where this capability was obtained. It is fair to argue that it was obtained from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). The LTTE, fighting for a separate Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, had developed a sophisticated strategy of attacking maritime targets like Sri Lankan navy ships and other commercial vessels. Sri Lanka has lost at least a dozen naval vessels, both in harbor and at sea, as a result of LTTE attacks. The LTTE has engaged in wolf pack tactics, using high-speed boats filled with explosives that rammed into naval vessels. Sea Tigers, the naval wing of the LTTE, emerged as one of the most ruthless and dangerous maritime groups in the world capable of using human suicide torpedo. The Maritime Intelligence Group, a Washington-based think tank, has also noted that members of the Jemaah Islamiah, had been trained in sea-borne guerrilla tactics developed by the LTTE.

Sea mines, particularly the Limpet mines are an attractive choice for carrying out attacks. Limpet mines draw their name from gastropod mollusk. Gastropods are shelled animals and its relatives include the clam as well as the octopus. Limpets cling tightly to the rocks at low tide to keep from drying out. Mines built for attaching to ships in World War II were called limpet mines because of this clinging ability.

On 10 July 1985, French secret agents bombed the Greenpeace environmental protest flagship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour. The agents had planted two limpet mines on the vessel's hull. The first blast resulted in a big hole in the engine room. The force of the explosion was so powerful that a freighter on the other side of Marsden Wharf was thrown five metres sideways. US intelligence services believe that a large number of acoustic sea-mines had disappeared from a naval base in North Korea. These could be used to attack ships in harbours and also at choke points like the Malacca Straits and Straits of Hormuz.

The underwater medium is perhaps the most difficult to continuously patrol or kept under constant surveillance. This is primarily due to the complexity of the underwater geography as also the hydrographic conditions that prevail in the medium. Therefore, underwater attacks by terrorists are of a very high probability. So far conventional weapons like guns and explosive devices have remained the weapons of choice for most terrorists groups. This is so due to their easy availability as also low cost. Besides these are relatively easy to acquire and use. But terrorist groups are now showing interest in acquiring the capability to use underwater equipment and weapons. Therefore, the threat of underwater attack to maritime infrastructure is far from rare.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Stability in 2015
Sri Lanka: Making a Case for Change
Connecting Sri Lanka: Train to Jaffna
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Burying the Past: A New Beginning for Pakistan and Afghanistan
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Bangladesh: Diplomatic Manoeuvres at the UNGA
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism’s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
IPCS Forecast: East Asia in 2015
China-North Korea: Reasons for Reconciliation
Abe-Jinping Summit Meet: A Thaw in China-Japan Relations?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?
The Future of SAARC is Now

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
India’s Northeast: Need for a New Anti-Terror Policy
India-China: Securitising Water
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015
India and Maritime Security: Do More
Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
IPCS Forecast: Left-wing Extremism in 2015
Maoist Attack on the CRPF: Time for New Counter-strategies
Naxal Violence: Challenges to Jharkhand Polls

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
18th SAARC Summit: An Economic Agenda
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
IPCS Forecast: West Asia in 2015
Rise of the Islamic State: Implications for the Arab World
Islamic State: The Efficacy of Counter-strategies
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
The Af-Pak Entity: Seduction to Armageddon?
Maritime Combat Power in the Indo-Pacific
Of Lawrence, Sykes-Picot and al-Baghdadi
Voice from America
Amit Gupta
Obama’s Rapprochement with Cuba
China's Global Ambition: Need to Emulate Germany
Mid-Term Elections: So What If the US Swings Hard Right?

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage

Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness

IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Indian Ocean: Why India Seeks Demilitarisation

India and Maritime Security: Do More

Asia and the Seas: Looking Back to Look Forward

Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations

Pirates Prefer Energy Cargo

Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Xi Jinping and the Maritime Silk Road: The Indian Dilemma

Drug Smuggling across the Indian Ocean: Impact of Increasing Interceptions

Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?

Indian Ocean: Multilateralism Takes Root

BRICS: The Oceanic Connections

India-EU: Exploring Maritime Convergences

Rim of the Pacific Exercises (RIMPAC): Thaw in China-US Tensions?

Indian Ocean Navies: Lessons from the Pacific

The Oman Gas Pipeline: India’s Underwater Energy Supply Chain

Oman's Duqm Port and US Exit from Afghanistan

Search and Rescue at Sea: Challenges and Chinese Capabilities

Increasing Maritime Competition: IORA, IONS, Milan and the Indian Ocean Networks

The Maritime Silk Route and the Chinese Charm Offensive

China in the Indian Ocean: Deep Sea Forays

Antarctica and the Ice breakers: What should India prepare for?

Iran Navy: Developing Long Sea Legs

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2015
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October
 2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007
 2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999
 1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1900, Tel: 91-11-4100-1901, Tel/Fax: 91-11-4100-1902

© Copyright 2015, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com