Jihadists, or at least wannabe jihadists, are using cruises to get to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria. Interpol has said that the travel trend has only emerged within the last three months, but that cruise ship lines should use the same checks as airports before the problem becomes worse.
Interpol won’t reveal how many jihadists have used cruises to join the fight, but that it’s been happening “more and more.”
Turkey is the only destination confirmed by Interpol for the militants’ cruises. In recent months, officials in Turkey have cracked down on foreign jihadists found in airports and bus stations, deporting hundreds of individuals. With other means of transportation under new scrutiny, cruise ships are becoming a natural alternative.
According to Interpol’s counterterrorism division, Pierre St. Hilaire told the AP that one town in Turkey is an especially popular Jihadi destination.
“Because they know the airports are monitored more closely now, there’s a use of cruise ships to travel to those areas. There is evidence that the individuals, especially in Europe, are travelling mostly to [the Turkish coastal town of] Izmit and other places to engage in this type of activity.”
As BBC News explained, from regular stops on cruise lines, jihadists can depart undetected and reach areas in Syria and Iraq where the Islamic State is continuing its onslaught. Turkey is especially popular for its long, often insecure, border with Syria.
According to the AP, the recent development is one of the reasons why Interpol wants to expand a pilot program called I-Checkit, which currently allows airlines to cross-reference passenger information with the international police organization’s databases.
Although Interpol is saying that cruise lines need to use the same screening procedures as airports, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said cruises use their own strict security system. The CLIA says that not only are passenger manifests screened and identities confirmed, cruise liners hire security professionals.
“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 threat of foreign jihadists entering the fight continues to burden law enforcement officials. As the Inquisitr previously reported, ISIS even recruited three teenage girls from Denver, Colorado, to fight in Syria. Luckily, the girls were found in Germany and transported back to the U.S.
Plenty of jihadists do make it to the middle east, however. The AP estimates that there are about 15,000 people from 81 different countries fighting in the conflict zones.
Now that those foreign jihadists are using cruises for transportation, the need for information sharing seems even more pressing.
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons]