100,000 surface-to-air missiles capable of blowing
a civilian airliner out of the sky are in circulation
around the world, some in the hands of terrorist
groups, a small arms survey said Wednesday.
survey by the Graduate Institute of International
Studies here said up to 27 organizations, some
which are connected to Al-Qaeda, possess the missiles,
known as man portable air defense systems (MANPADS).
shoulder-fired devices, which include Soviet-built
SAM7s and US Stinger missiles widely distributed
among anti-Soviet Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in
the 1980s, are small enough to pack into the trunk
of an automobile and are widely available on the
threat to civilian airliners has the potential
to affect the citizens of all states traveling
on major air routes," said the survey.
missiles came to the world's attention with an
attempt to shoot down an Israel airliner shortly
after takeoff from Mombasa two years ago. In November
2003, a cargo plane was hit by a missile shortly
after taking off from Baghdad airport and had
to make an emergency landing.
the 100,000 anti-aircraft weapons believed to
be in circulation "is an unknown quantity of systems
in the hands of non-state groups, some of which
have been identified as terrorist organizations,"
the survey said.
date, at least 13 such groups are known to possess
MANPADS with a further 14 groups reported to possess
them. Of particular concern are those thought
to be in the hands of groups loosely described
as under the umbrella organization of Al-Qaeda."
use of the missiles requires training, but "the
disbanding of the Iraqi army has undoubtedly meant
a number of soldiers trained in the use of MANPADS
are now unemployed and seeking an alternative
career," the survey said.
combat the threat, the Israeli carrier El Al envisages
equipping its aircraft with missile detection
systems and decoys at a price of one million dollars
(820,000 euros) for each plane, and the United
States also is considering such a move, the survey
it added that the latest missiles were more effective
in getting past the defenses, and that only effective
international controls on the weapons would reduce
survey also said the more than seven million small
weapons circulating in Iraq since the US-led coalition
dismantled the Iraqi army could pose a threat
to stability in the greater Middle East for years
to come. About 4.2 million firearms previously
in the hands of the Iraqi armed forces, paramilitary
troops or reserve forces have been stolen or sold
on the black market, according to the report.
Added to the 3.2 million firearms already owned
by Iraqi civilians, this makes a total circulation
of some 30 firearms for every 100 residents in
Iraq, according to the survey.
Posted: July 6, 2004