Role of non-state actors in the maritime domain

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"The largest unregulated area in the world is oceans" - Adm Madhvendra Singh.

1. An Ominous Amalgam.

The growth of commercial shipping in Southeast Asia makes the challenge of piracy and maritime terrorism in the region alarming. The point to note, as stated by Khurana is, "there is transfusion from piracy to criminal activities to the terrorist direction. Indicator to this is the increasing number of pirate attacks, becoming more violent and the well-organised manner in which these are carried out. Maritime crimes like drug trafficking and gunrunning are organically enmeshed with these activities, leading to the deduction that these constitute the 'precursors' of Maritime Terrorism." Security experts thus consider the line between piracy and terrorism to have blurred in Southeast Asia. The scourge of piracy and terrorism at sea are increasingly intertwined, as piracy on the high seas is becoming a key tactics of maritime terrorist groups with either direct or proxy involvement of the non-state actors. The maritime asymmetric threats and challenges these groups pose can only be understood by an in-depth analysis and gauging of profiles of these violent non-state actors.

2. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealem (LTTE).

Although the activities of LTTE were mainly restricted to South Indian Ocean a brief mention of this group is mandatory before discussing the role of non state actor groups in the SE Asian Region as 'LTTE was the pioneer in maritime terrorism with a state-of the art Maritime Terrorist Organisation'. Before their recent defeat by the Sri Lankan military, the LTTE had successfully exercised control of the sea off Jaffna and in the Indian Ocean Region. The movement's naval wing, 'the sea tigers' were proficient in wolf-pack tactics using fast speed boats, hijacking vessels, under water operations involving saboteur attacks against the Sri Lankan navy besides engaging in drug smuggling a major source of revenue.

3. Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda is a transnational non-state actor. Bin Laden spread the message that the "Al Qaеda Navy" includes twenty "naval" ships. There are claims that, Al Qaeda has assembled its own small fleet in the form of 'ghost ships,' i.e. hijacked ships which have been re-flagged and re-registered. It was reported that, it actually had video footage of Malaysian police patrols in the Malacca Straits, indicating their potential interest in attacking the waterway. Al Qaeda has publicly called for attacks on economic centres and attacks on oil supplies to the west. Reportedly, Abu Laith, claiming himself as the spokesperson of the Al Qaeda, has issued a statement, " We, the fighters of the holy war, in general, are hoping to enter the next phase...It will be a war of killing, a war against business which will hit the enemy where he does not expect us to".

4. Al -Qaeda's Strategy.

It also seems that Al Qaeda has tried to develop what one might call a strategy for maritime terrorism, though this was set back considerably with the arrest of their 'maritime strategist,' Abd al-Ramin al Nashiri (also known as Mohasmmed Omar al-Harazi), in 2002(Currently held in Guantanamo Bay). Nashiri designed assaults on shipping and under water attacks by suicide demolition teams. In fact he was the mastermind of the USS Cole and Limburg attacks. The Al Qaeda-linked regional terror network, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) continues to thrive in Southeast Asia, encouraging separatist groups with 'jihadi' calls.

5. Southeast Asia the Centre of Gravity.

Southeast Asia has historically been infamous for sea-piracy. An important factor and specifically relevant to Southeast Asia that is contributing to piracy has been the lingering effects of the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) that first broke with the forced devaluation of the Thai baht in mid-1997. This unprecedented event exerted a stronger "pull factor" on piracy, drawing more people (including members of national security forces) into maritime and other crime due to falling wages, higher food prices, and job losses. These effects were particularly evident in Indonesia, an enormous archipelagic state that suffered acutely from the aftermath of the AFC. Indeed, since 1997, this country's territorial waters have consistently ranked as the most pirate-prone in the world. More alarmingly, most of the crews for world shipping are recruited from Indonesia and Philippines, whose waters are home to terrorist groups with experience of sea borne operations.SE Asia Region Non-State Actors of the SE Asian Region

6. In addition to Al Qaeda, there are various groups of Southeast Asia operating in the region. The maritime infrastructure of the terrorist groups in Southeast Asia is derived from the archipelagic nature of the terrain in which the groups operate. However, maritime capabilities of these groups vary significantly. In addition to Jemma Islamiyah, the following terrorist groups of Southeast Asia have the ability to manoeuvre at sea in the Southeast Asian Region, as per Kazumine Akimoto:-

(a) Indonesian - based Free Aceh Movement/ Gerekan Aceh Meredeka(GAM)/ Aceh Sumatra National Liberation Front( ASNLF)

(b) Indonesian - based Free Papua Movement/ Organisesi Papua Merdeka (OPM)

(c) Malaysian-based Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia (MILF)

(d) Phillippine - based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

7. Jemma h Islami y a h (JI).

The Jemmah Islamiyah(JI) the Southeast Asian regional terrorist group that came into limelight with October 2002 attacks in Bali does not have a dedicated maritime organisation like Al- Qaeda. Even then the JI operatives had meticulously drawn up plans and identified "kill zones" to conduct suicide boat attacks on vessels in the narrowest part of the channel. The Singapore government's White Paper 'The Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism' noted that, the JI had intended attacks on US naval vessels and personnel off Changi naval base and Pulau Tekong . Due to the increasing threat posed by the JI (with its ambitious desire to establish a pan-Islamic state in the Southeast Asia) and the high incidence of piracy , maritime terrorism has become a serious challenge to the region's maritime security.

8. Gerakan Aceh Merdeka ( GAM).

The Free Aceh Movement (GAM: Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) in Indonesia's Aceh province which is located in the northern tip of Sumatra Island is notorious for its maritime activities. The group strove for independence and has mainly attacked targets on land, but is also known to have targeted off-shore installations such as oil-rigs and tankers. Whereas, it was initially primarily Islamist, it seems to have gradually abandoned its religio-political ambitions in favour of economic motives. GAM has extensive contacts with smuggling syndicates and pirate gangs operating across the Straits of Malacca.

9. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Moro National Liberation Front (MLF) and a splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), both of them fighting against the government of the Philippines for independence, even though the former seems to have abandoned the armed struggle. The MILF is the largest, most capable rebel group in the Philippines. The group has also used its land capabilities to conduct operations in the country.

10. Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Originally called Mujahideen Commando Freedom Fighters ( MCFF) , the ASG was organised in the Philippines as an underground militant Muslim group in 1990s by the late Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalni, a veteran Afghan fighter, who was recognised as its overall "amir". Most ASG members and followers belong to Muslim families with strong , centuries -old seafaring tradition. Their deep knowledge of the maritime domain gives them ample capability to conduct maritime terrorism. Plainly, ASG once a predominantly land-based terrorist organisation is becoming more and more maritime in its operations, to escape the predominantly land based Philippine military responses to internal security. The ASG has significant maritime capability around stealthy, high speed, shallow-draft wooden boats that are equipped with machine guns.

11. The Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM).

The RSM group formed in 2002 is named after the last king of Manila before Spanish conquest in the 1500s. Most of its members are Muslim converts. Like the ASG, the converts want to make remake the country as an Islamic state. In fact the gruesome attack on 'Super Ferry' in Feb 2004 was reported as a joint operation between JI, ASG and RSM.

12. Motivation for Jihadi Terrorists.

The RAND research reveals that, "The magnitude of expected consequences of attack is the most important factor motivating jihadist terrorists, with a primary goal of causing human deaths and injuries and a secondary goal of causing economic disruption. After expected consequences, the ability to capture media attention is presumed to determine jihadists' intent. Finally, assaults that also involve a venue of symbolic importance to those attacked and resonate with the global jihadist enterprise are presumed to be more attractive as targets of terrorism than those that do not."

13. Overlap between Crimes of Terrorism and Piracy by Non-State Actors.

The recent indictment by US Court in Oct 2009 of Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, presumed to be a Somali pirate involved in the attack against the M/V Maersk Alabama back in April 2009 reveals the emerging conceptual overlap between crimes of terrorism and piracy--both types of organized crime habitually committed by non-state actors enjoying refuge in lawless regions.

14. Undoubtedly, the non state actors continue to play a dominant role in the maritime domain. As stated by Arbinda Acharya "The long term threat of these groups would further emerge with their increasing radicalization and their ability to network with other groups in the littorals. How this would translate into sea-lane security and shipping safety would be interesting to observe".

End Notes

Jane's Fighting Ships, 2004-05, p.1 (Executive Overview) ,the former Indian Naval Chief described the oceans at a press conference in Singapore on November 12, 2003

Cdr Gurpreet S Khurana, Research Fellow, IDSA, Maritime Terrorism in Southern Asia Addressing the 'Precursors'' (Published in Indian Defence Review, Vol 20(1), Jan-Mar 2005 issue, page 60

Rommel C. Banlaoi, Maritime Terrorism in Southeast Asia, The Abu Sayyaf Threat, Naval War College Review, Autumn 2005, Vol. 58, No 4.pp64

Op cit Cdr Gurpreet S Khurana,

Op cit Rommel C. Banlaoi

Gal Luft and Annie Korin, Terrorism goes to sea, Foreign affairs, Nov/Dec 04.

VR Raghavan W Lawrence Prabhakar, Maritime Security in the IOR Critical Issues in Debate, pp7,Tata Mc Graw Hill, 2008

Arbinda Acharya and Nadeeka Prashadani Withana Groups with Maritime Terrorist Capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region, edited by VR Raghavan W Lawrence Prabhakar, Maritime Security in the IOR Critical Issues in Debate, Tata Mc Graw Hill, 2008

Vijay Sakhuja , "The Dynamics of LTTE's Commercial Infrastructure", Observer research Foundation Occasional Paper, April 2006

Bojan Mednikarov and Kiril Kolev, Terrorism on the Sea, Piracy, and Maritime Security, Information and Security International Journal, Vol.19, 2006, 102-114.

'Al-Qaeda Spying on Malaysian Marine Police in Malacca Straits: Expert', in New Straits Times, 19 Oct 02.

See "Bin Laden Still Alive: Al-Qaeda" at<>

Bjørn Møller ,Piracy, Maritime Terrorism And Naval Strategy, Danish Institute for International Studies(DIIS) Report 2009

Vijay Sakhuja Combating Terrorism in Asian Waters, Terrorism Monitor Volume : 7 Issue :35 November , 19, 2009 accessed on 18 Dec 2009.

Cdr Gurpreet S Khurana, Research Fellow, IDSA, Malacca Strait Security: Is an Extra-Littoral Naval Response Exigent? 'Indian Defence Review', Vol 19(3) (Jul-Sep 2004 issue) pp 21

Southeast Asia here is defined as the 10 countries comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Cdr Gurpreet S Khurana, Maritime Terrorism in Southern Asia Addressing the 'Precursors' (Published in Indian Defence Review, Vol 20(1), Jan-Mar 2005 issue, page 60)

Peter Chalk, The Maritime Dimension of International Security Terrorism, Piracy, and Challenges for the United States, RAND Monogram, US Airforce Project.

Peter Chalk, Non-Military Security and Global Order: The Impact of Extremism, Violence and Chaos on National and International Security, London: Macmillan, 2000, pp.61

Indonesia controls roughly three million square kilometers of archipelagic waters and territorial seas, plus an additional three million square kilometers of continental shelf. It has been estimated that Jakarta would require more than 300 vessels to effectively protect and monitor this expansive maritime space (as well as human resources and technology dedicated to that purpose). However, the country has only 115 vessels at its disposal, of which only 25 are fit for operating at sea at any one time.

Capt UK Thapa Maritime Terrorism and Lessons for India, Naval Despatch Dec 2006

Opcit Arbinda Acharya and Nadeeka Prashadani Withana

Kazumine Akimoto, Maritime Terrorism and The Role of the Navy- A Sinster Shadow Lurking in The Sea Lane, Journal of Indian Ocean Studies, Vol 12 No.3 December 2004

Opcit Arbinda Acharya and Nadeeka Prashadani Withana

"The Jemma Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism", White paper, Ministry of Home Affairs, Republic of Singapore, 2003.

The tape, released by the Singapore government, features a man describing how explosives could be carried on a bicycle without arousing suspicion. One plot involved bombing US Navy vessels in a special 'kill zone' along the north eastern shores of Singapore and the bus that was targeted carries US military personnel between a naval base used by visiting warships and a train station. The US Navy has a logistics unit in Singapore and warships going to and from Afghanistan have been docked for replenishment in the new naval facility specially designed to accommodate US aircraft carriers.See <> for details.

Rommel C. Banalaoi, 'Maritime Terrorism in South east Asia: The Abu Sayyaf Threat ", naval College Review , Autumn 2005, pp 63-80. Also Catherine Zara Raymond , 'Maritime Terrorism in South east Asia: Potential Scenarios", Terrorism Monitor, April 6, 2006 pp1-3.

Opcit Arbinda Acharya and Nadeeka Prashadani Withana

"Eyes of the Storm".Time, at

Tanner Campbell and Rohan Gunarathna, 'Maritime Terrorism, Piracy and Crime', Rohan Gunarathna edited . Terrorism in Asia Pacific : Threat and Response. Eastern Universities Press, Singapore, 2003 p 81.

Opcit Rommel C. Banlaoi,

Ibid pp71

Land based terrorist attacks of ASG have been documented by Mark Turner, "Terrorism and Secession in the Southern Philippines: The Rise of the Abu Sayyaf ", Contemporary Southeast Asia17, no.1 ( June 1995), pp1-19.

Asia Times 24 Apr 2004

Summary of Report on Raja Soliaman Movement, 12 Apr 2004,04.htm

Opcit Arbinda Acharya and Nadeeka Prashadani Withana

Michael D. Greenberg, Peter Chalk, Henry H. Willis,Ivan Khilko, David S. Ortiz Maritime Terrorism Risk and Liability , RAND Centre for Risk and Management Policy

, Accessed on 02 Dec 09. Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse , presumed to be a Somali pirate involved in the attack against the M/V Maersk Alabama back in April 2009.Muse has now been indicted under the substantive statutes like, Piracy, (which incorporates the );Hostage-Taking, ; Violence Against Maritime Navigation, ;Kidnapping, ; and a weapons enhancement statute, . He's also convicted of engaging in a conspiracy to commit same pursuant to . Muse has pled not guilty and is tried as an adult, although his age is contested.

Opcit Arbinda Acharya and Nadeeka Prashadani Withana

Article name: Role of non-state actors in the maritime domain essay, research paper, dissertation