Checkmating terrorists' past and future moves

Terrorists are slowly learning they eventually will be held accountable for their violent actions. And, as efforts are dedicated to ensuring this end, efforts are also being dedicated to countering attacks the next generation of terrorists may be considering.

On Sept. 5, 1972, with the summer Olympics underway in Munich, Germany, eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village, kidnapping 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. The terrorists killed two captives immediately. They used the others as hostages to make their way to the airport, attempting to negotiate the release of over 200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to make their escape. A botched rescue operation by West German police resulted in all the hostages being killed as well as five of the terrorists.

While the surviving three were arrested, their release was negotiated the following month after a Lufthansa flight was hijacked by other Palestinian terrorists. Israel immediately launched “Operation Wrath of God” by which its intelligence organization, Mossad, tracked down and eliminated, one-by-one, not only the three Munich terrorists but others in the terrorist group’s leadership who were directly or indirectly involved in the attack. The operation lasted two decades but completed its mission successfully.

On Dec. 21, 1988, minutes after Pan Am Flight 103, with 259 people onboard, took off from London en route to New York, an explosion occurred under its left wing, causing it to crash. Fortunately for investigators, the bomb detonated while over Lockerbie, Scotland, allowing them to collect invaluable evidence that would have otherwise been lost over the ocean, enabling them to link the bombing to Libya.

Three Libyans eventually were determined to be responsible for the attack. Two of them were intelligence officers Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah who were believed to have planted the explosive device onboard the aircraft. Although their extradition was demanded, Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi refused to turn them over for prosecution. Finally, in 1999, Gadhafi agreed to do so as long as adjudication was by a panel of Spanish judges sitting in the Netherlands. Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001, receiving a life sentence, while Fhimah was found not guilty.

Al-Megrahi was later shown a level of compassion he had denied the 270 people killed in Lockerbie (11 people on the ground died in addition to the 259 on the plane), as he was released in 2009 after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis. He died in Libya three years later.

The third Libyan involved in the bombing remained a mystery for many years before finally being identified in 2017 as the bomb-maker. Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi admitted his involvement to Libyan law enforcement. He allegedly served as a longtime operative for Libyan intelligence, building explosive devices from 1973-2011. He is accused of providing the luggage containing the Lockerbie bomb to his co-conspirator(s), arming it just before it began its transit. He was finally indicted by outgoing U.S. Attorney General William Barr in 2020 for the Lockerbie bombing as well as other bombing plots.

Last week, al-Marimi, 71, was taken into U.S. custody, becoming the most recent terrorist to learn that violent actions have consequences. Those committing terrorist acts are learning they will be pursued relentlessly to be brought to justice. Details remain sketchy on how al-Marimi was extradited, but there are indications he was forcibly removed from the safety of his home in Tripoli by unidentified armed kidnappers. Regardless, the families of Pan Am 103 victims undoubtedly are pleased to know, after 34 years, the bomb-maker is finally being brought to justice.

Occasionally out of great tragedy, good occurs. Such has been the case in the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing. As 190 of Lockerbie’s victims were Americans, many of whom were college students, Congress held hearings to determine what went wrong. Among those called to testify was one of Israel’s leading aviation security experts, Arik Arad, who gave details on what security gaps were left open.

Arad testified before both the House Public Works and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He did so with impressive credentials, having designed security for Israel’s El Al Airlines as well as its shopping centers. A great testimonial to his security expertise is that there has yet to be a successful penetration of any security system he has designed.

Arad’s testimony – and later engagement by a major U.S. airlines to design its security system – made passenger aviation safer in a post-Lockerbie world. But as one seeking to stay ahead of the next terrorist threat, today Arad has identified what that threat is and is taking steps to counter it. His newly formed company, Cyviation Aero, is focusing on a threat that potentially could bring the commercial aviation industry to a standstill. It is the threat posed by terrorists successfully hacking into airborne aircraft to achieve bombless aviation disasters. As in the past, Arad is taking a proactive approach to design defensive security solutions against cybersecurity attacks that even the terrorist has yet to formulate.

We live in a world where both good and evil reign. As terrorists like al-Marimi represent the latter, endeavoring to make it less safe for commercial air travelers, it is good to know we have counter-terrorist experts like Arad representing the former, endeavoring to stop al-Marimi’s ilk by checkmating the terrorist’s latest threat.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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