Cruise ships ‘ferry jihadists to Syria and Iraq’
Aspiring jihadist fighters are reportedly taking cruise ships to the Middle East in a bid to avoid detection at airports.
Interpol has said that in the last three months foreigners trying to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria have been using cruise lines to reach the conflict zones.
“Regular stops at ports in the region would allow prospective fighters to disembark undetected and make their onward journey to Syria or Iraq untracked by security agencies,” says the BBC.
Foreign fighters, particularly Europeans, appear to be travelling to Turkey to cross the border into the two war-torn countries. Turkish authorities say they have deported hundreds of suspected jihadists after detaining them at airports and bus stations.
But Interpol says the close monitoring of airports means would-be jihadists are making alternative travel arrangements.
The international police body has not given an estimated number of militants using this method of transport, but says it wants more checks to be carried out by cruise operators to prevent prospective fighters from exploiting the loophole.
Ronald Noble, Interpol’s outgoing chief, said countries should conduct checks on all passengers using cruise liners.
“Originally, our concern about people on cruise ships – dangerous people on cruise ships – really focused on the classic sort of rapist, burglar, or violent criminal,” said Noble.
“But as we’ve gathered data, we’ve realised 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 there are 15,000 foreign jihadists from more than 80 countries fighting with Islamic State and other extremists in Syria and Iraq. Interpol says it is not just European fighters – some 300 people are travelling from China alone. ·