RealNews

Terrorism Fears Grow on Asian Oil Route

Fears are growing of terrorism in the Malacca Straits, the pirate-ridden Southeast Asian waterway that is a conduit for half the world’s oil supply. Despite those concerns, the Muslim nations of Indonesia and Malaysia have rebuffed U.S. offers to help police the strategic route. Part of the agenda when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld meets Asian officials Friday and Saturday will be Pentagon proposals to help provide intelligence, conduct joint patrols and send U.S. Marines into the straits. The United States and Singapore believe the 50,000 commercial vessels — from cruise ships to supertankers — that travel through the straits each year are vulnerable targets for al-Qaida and its South Asian affiliates. The narrow, 550-mile-long waterway straddling Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore has been a pirates’ paradise since the 1800s. Piracy worldwide has tripled in the past decade, rising by 20 percent last year alone, said the U.N. International Maritime Bureau. It counted 189 incidents in Southeast Asia, more than 40 percent of the 2003 total. Full Story

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