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article imageJihadists using tourist cruise ships to reach Syria

By Stephen Morgan     Nov 7, 2014 in Politics
Interpol has announced that jihadists are using ever more imaginative ways to get to Syria. There is evidence that some of the militants are now posing as tourists and booking on cruise ships in the Mediterranean which dock on the Middle East coast.
New evidence suggests that the recent tightening of surveillance at airports and, in particular, checks at crossings on the Turkish/Syrian border, have drastically cut down the numbers of would-be jihadists getting through.
The BBC reports that at an Interpol meeting in Monaco this week, the international police agency said checks to passenger lists should be extended from airlines to cruise operators before the issue became more of a problem.
The evidence has only come to light in the last three months and Interpol's chief, Ronald Noble said that checks on cruise liners needed to be stepped up.
The Middle East paper, Al Arabiya, quotes Elinore Boeke, director of public affairs for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), who said that security wasn't any more lax than other means of transportation.
“Cruise lines take security as seriously as the airlines, and security procedures are very similar. U.S.-based cruise lines share passenger manifests with U.S. authorities who check against official databases.”
Another communiqué from the CLIA promised that they were already screening passenger lists and checking passengers' identities.
"Cruise lines employ full-time security professionals, many of whom are former law enforcement officers, who are in regular contact with local and international authorities," the CLIA statement said.
The New York Daily News says the evidence of transit by cruise ships has “prompted Interpol to expand a pilot program in which airlines screen passengers against the international police body’s global database of stolen passports."
The system is called I-Checkit and is not only being expanded to include cruise operators, but hotels, banks and other private-sector enterprises.
Interpol's director of counter-terrorism, Pierre St. Hilaire emphasized that “It’s a global threat — 15,000 fighters or more from 81 countries travelling to one specific conflict zone”.
“In order to prevent their travel and identify them, there needs to be greater information-sharing among the region, among national security agencies,” he said.
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