It was the attack that failed that is most troubling - as insensitive as that sounds to the sixteen people killed and injured in the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel attack in Mombasa, Kenya. The failed attack was the missile attack on an Israeli charter jet as it was taking off from Mombasa airport. Why was it more frightening? Because of what it represents, indicating once again that terror is as much a psychological as physical weapon.
- Though the missile attack didn't succeed, it may represent the scariest news for global travelers. That's because the attack shows that terrorists now have the will — and the means — to destroy civilian airliners as they take off and land at poorly guarded airports.
"If they can do it in Kenya, they can do it anywhere they can get access," noted one intelligence official. "If you want to hit an American jet, why do it in the United States? You can try it other places, where it's easier."
....Intelligence analysts also believe that al Qaeda has used shoulder-fired missiles before. Suspected al Qaeda missile attacks include one against a U.S. warplane taking off from Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia in 2001, one against a privately owned U.S. helicopter in Yemen this year, and several in Afghanistan. These attacks suggest that al Qaeda may have access to a supply of surface-to-air missiles.
.... it was the attempted attack on the Arkia charter jet that may be the most damaging action, even though the two missiles failed to hit their target. The attempt highlights the vulnerability of jetliners to simple, shoulder-fired missiles — of the sort that have been produced by the thousands and are kept in loosely protected arsenals around the world. Many military planes have strong countermeasures against such weapons — but not civilian jets.
....If international airlines want to reassure their passengers, they will start work today on technologies that can defeat missile attacks. And if the world's tourism destinations want to keep alive any hope of receiving visitors, they will make sure that the perimeters of their civilian airports are secure and well-policed. That won't stop bin Laden, but it will stem the terror that he's working so hard to spread.
So we must take measures that won't necessarily prevent attacks, but will serve to soothe the worried minds of travelers, making the psychological element explicit.
Similarly, the psychological aspect is why we must keep up the pressure, keep the terrorists on the run and looking behind their backs and to the skies - psychology works both ways.