- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

Are the skies today safe for civilian aircraft? That question demands an immediate answer in light of the twoshoulder-launched missiles fired at an Israeli passenger jet off the coast of Kenya Thursday morning.
For whatever reason, the missiles did not strike their target. But the pilots saw missile contrails some distance away. Israeli security agents later found at an east African site two spent canisters from what were probably SA-7 Strela missiles, a 30-year-old shoulder-launched, surface-to-air missile of Soviet manufacture.
Shoulder-launched SAMs of American manufacture came into use during the Soviet aggression against Afghanistan in the early 1980s. These small, portable, tactical SAMs were a deadly weapon against low-flying Soviet warplanes, particularly helicopters.
Where the Kenya terrorists got the Soviet SAMs is not known, but we can be sure their strategists have many more of these lethal weapons stashed away for future use.
The terrorists who used the missile launchers in Mombasa, the tourist seaside city in Kenya where three suicide bombers in a coordinated assault crashed into the Israeli-owned hotel, knew what they were doing. If they couldn't hijack an Israeli plane because of tight Israeli ground security and on-board air marshals, well, the skies are wide open for missile attacks.
What we have witnessed in the Mombasa missile attack is a terrorist revolution in tactics. They've taken their war against the West to one of the most vulnerable institutions of modern travel. And nothing is as vulnerable as a modern passenger airliner on takeoff as it begins a climb out.
The world now has yet another taste of what the diabolical ingenuity of modern terrorism means. We can be grateful that Air Force One, with its specialized countermeasures, is not in as much danger as was the crowded Israeli passenger jet. But that is little solace to those of us who fly on unprotected airplanes out of civilian airports. We must assume that somewhere there is a rogue state whose scientists,localor recruitedfrom abroad, are working on a program that would outwit present-day antimissile technology.
The Mombasa missile attack is the final confirmation that a group like al Qaeda or similar groups have declared war to the end against Western civilization, and they will not be satisfied until they have conquered. This scenario resembles one of the James Bond films in which a madman named Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the founder of SPECTRE, with all his marvelous push-button gadgets is ready to destroy the world unless global power is turned over to him and his crew. But Osama bin Laden is no fictional Blofeld.
What Mombasa means is that the American airline industry with all its economic woes now has to plan countermeasures to ensure the safety of the more than 20,000 commercial airline flights a day. It means guarding against portable missile launchers not only in the immediate perimeter but perhaps in a 10-mile circumference around major airports.
The new Department of Homeland Security has its first assignment: Where are the Stingers we once supplied to those Afghan mujaheedin who have now turned against us?


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