Massive Multi-National Naval Hunt for al Qaeda Ship

NATO, Greek and Israeli navies are scouring three seas – the eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Aegean – for a cargo ship, the 1,600-ton Tonga-flagged Cristi, which is believed to be carrying a band of al Qaeda terrorists to a fresh target.
Greek and Israeli authorities are on high alert.
debkafile‘s maritime and counter-terror sources report that the Cristi , like the Sara, which was detained in Italy carrying suspected Pakistani terrorists, and another suspect vessel, Twillinger, is owned by the Greek ship-owner, Dimitris Kokkos, and a Pakistani-American, Rifat Muhammed.
Kokkos, who also owned the Palestinian arms-smuggling ship Karine-A captured last January by the Israel Navy, is said to live in Romania. He is wanted by the Greek authorities for smuggling.
Our investigation reveals that the pair head Nova Spirit Inc., a company registered in Delaware, US, which runs al Qaeda’s shipping operations from the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanza and Nador on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast.
Kokkos and Muhammed both vanished after the true functions of their known fleet of four vessels came to light.
But these ships appear to be only a fraction of the clandestine terrorist naval force prowling the region. Our maritime expert has so far uncovered another at least eight made-over terrorist vessels owned by different Middle East owners, some traced to Syria, which elude discovery by constantly changing flags and identities. They are believed to be bound for terrorist missions on European and Israeli shores, as well as American naval and military targets.
The Twillinger was detained on February 19 at Trieste with 8 al Qaeda operatives aboard posing as Pakistani crewmen. American and Italian investigators are still not sure if they laid hands on the entire ring. According to certain intelligence reports, twice that number secretly disembarked before the ship docked, and is now hiding out somewhere in Europe.
Six months later, on August 5, the Sara was intercepted off the shores of Sicily. Its original name Ryno had been clumsily painted over. The 15-man crew again turned out to be an al Qaeda cell equipped with fake Pakistani papers. They also had $30,000 in cash and detailed maps of Italy’s main towns and the Vatican. debkafile reported this incident on September 24.
The ship was towed to Sicily when it sent out distress signals.
Counter-terror agents now suggest the incident was staged to allow members of the terrorist cell to slip off the boat and make for their next targeted destinations. Later, the captain of the Sara reported hearing one of his “passengers” conversing with a member of the ousted Taliban in which they discussed the war against the “American Satan”.
Mystery still shrouds that episode. How did the fake Pakistani passports serve the cell’s purpose? Why the large sum of money? What mischief were the terrorists bound for in Italian cities and the Vatican? The Di Desio mosque is their known contact center in Milan. What others do they have?
Who was to supply the terrorists with weapons or explosives? And where is their arms cache located?
The pattern of al Qaeda’s maritime operations began emerging when the Romanian captain of the Sara, Adrian Pop Sorian was questioned. Small, fairly beaten-up, rusty cargo vessels sail out of Constanza for the Mediterranean carrying an innocent cargo and a Romanian crew. At Nador, Morocco, a band of operatives disguised as seamen, who are flown in from Karachi, comes aboard after collecting cash, addresses, instructions and false Pakistani papers on shore. The new “passengers” then take command of the vessel, which the crew is under orders from the owners Muhammed and Kokkos to hand over.
At sea, the ship assumes a new name and flag. Before steaming into a European port, the vessel rendezvous with a second ship and offloads the terrorists, enabling them to infiltrate a European port, masquerading now as distressed stowaway immigrants.
More facts reached debkafile‘s counter-terror sources in the course of the multi-national naval hunt still in progress for the Cristi. An international dragnet has been set up for Kokkos and Muhammed. The latter is the al Qaeda chief of naval operations in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean. Kokkos comes from the Greek crime scene and is willing if the pay is right to seek out old but fairly sound vessels for al Qaeda’s use.
The missing Cristi was last seen around October 18 between Crete and Cyprus heading east – either to Cyprus, Lebanon or Israel. Considering its direction, Israeli defense authorities resolved to try and capture the terrorist ship, fearing the men aboard were bent on a mega-terror strike against Israel from the sea.
In its previous report on September 24, debkafile revealed that Kokkos and Muhammad were the parties with whom Mohammed Dahlan and Fouad Shubaki, representing Yasser Arafat, negotiated the acquisition of the Karine-A to carry 50 tons of illegal Iranian arms to the Palestinian Authority.
The Karine-A was a sister ship of the Cristi, the Sara and the Twillinger. It therefore provides an unmistakable operational connection between Arafat and his closest aides and the active arms of the Osama bin Laden’s global terrorist organization.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email