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Cruise ships in the Mediterranean could become targets for Islamic State militants, a senior Nato naval officer has warned.
Terrorists hope to build a maritime arm that could carry out attacks, said Vice-Admiral Clive Johnstone.
The march of Islamic State in Iraq and Levant along the Libyan coast has cast an “uncomfortable shadow” across shipping, and the spread of sophisticated Russian and Chinese weapons to armed groups in the region also means there is now the “horrible opportunity” a cruise ship or container ship could be hit, the commander of Nato’s maritime command warned.
Vice-Admiral Johnstone, a Royal Navy officer, said Islamic State was quickly changing and had ambitions to mount seaborne operations.
He told the Telegraph: “We know they have had ambitions to go off shore, we know they would like to have a maritime arm, just as al Qaeda had a maritime arm.”
As the Mediterranean is becoming increasingly militarised, commercial and tourist shipping is coming under threat, he said.
Sophisticated Chinese, Russian and Korean weapons were finding their way to militant groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah.
Though he said he did not believe groups were targeting shipping, there was still a risk of a serious incident.
“There is a horrible opportunity in the future that a misdirected, untargeted round of a very high quality weapons system will just happen to target a cruise liner, or an oil platform, or a container ship,” he said.
Clia UK & Ireland said: “As always, cruise lines coordinate closely with national and international security and law enforcement authorities around the globe to help ensure passenger safety.
“While we cannot disclose specifics of cruise ship security protocols, cruise lines take passenger safety very seriously.
“Security staff are well-trained and experienced; some are former law enforcement officers.
“Port and onshore facilities, infrastructure, and passenger security and services in destinations are strictly scrutinized.
“In the event of any safety concerns, cruise ships have the flexibility to alter their itineraries as needed to avoid areas of higher risk.
“Our priority is to provide for the safety of passengers and crew at all times.”
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