Thanks in large part to the medium through which I type this to you now, small local groups of angry men can have their feelings and agendas felt across vast distances like never before (well, besides that one time). These angry men are now free to share their 80’s training montages, exotic vacationing clips, and terrible music videos with the rest of an unwelcoming world. But while a little mujahideen’s big reach has usually been constrained to snippets of propaganda, one recent hurrah against global imperialism actually helped foil a massive smuggling operation on the other side of the world.
A rag-tag group calling themselves the Al-firqan Brigade, based out of the Sinai in Egypt, posted this video on September 4th showing their members firing two RPGs on a container ship in the Suez Canal. The rockets do little damage to a massive ship like the COSCO Asia, but in some Brontës-esque level of coincidence, they nailed a container chock-full of twenty cent Vietnamese cigarettes being shipped from Singapore to Rotterdam. The contraband was discovered by port authorities during inspection, and when Interpol and the local Irish Gardai were notified, they were able to trace the container back to a millionaire businessman from County Louth in Northern Ireland. The Co Louth native is seemingly no stranger to the investigators. He is known to have a number of fraudulent companies and bank accounts at his disposal, with this latest container registered to a fake furniture company from Dundalk, and supposedly has connections with one Thomas “Slab” Murphy of the South Armagh IRA. The Gardai believe the Co Louth millionaire and another ex-IRA fellow from Belfast run the largest tobacco smuggling operation in Europe, moving Modeng brand cigarettes from Vietnam through Singapore to Rotterdam where they sell them on both the Irish and UK black market.
As for the Al-firqan Brigade, really just a decentralized, unaffiliated group of restless dudes with guns and probably lots of opium, they may be a sign of what’s to come. Militants have taken advantage of instability in Egypt’s urban centers and have been using the Sinai region as a base for launching attacks all over the place, forcing an aggressive campaign from the country’s current rulers. To the Al-firqans, the Suez Canal “has become a safe passageway for the Crusader aircraft carriers to strike the Muslims, and it is the artery of the commerce of the nations of disbelief and tyranny.” and they have denounced the Muslim Brotherhood for their “legitimacy to the ballot boxes and not to Allah.”, and really have a hate-on for the whole democracy itself, stating, “[T]he road for Allah’s word to be supreme is the ammunition box and not the ballot box,”. But they do have a point when they say, “We can target the international water passage morning and night, along the entire length of the waterway, which is 190km in length, and we will return to target it whenever we wish.”. Say what you will about toothless propaganda and empty religious rhetoric, but at least they can identify a security vulnerability when they see it. Some 45 to 55 ships pass through the 200 meter wide canal every day, pumping some five billion dollars into Egypt’s economy, and acting as a linchpin for global trade. As Greg Knowler points out in his piece on Suez security, while RPG and machine gun attacks may not pose a serious threat, escalation in the form of suicide bombings could seriously impede shipping traffic and cause an international crisis.
That’s the thing about these wannabe mujahideen. When just any ol’ sap can pick up a gun, walk down from his village, and get everyone’s heckles up about global security and the fragility of our modern way of life along the way, it reveals all the small oversights we took plowing our way through the third world to connect resources with cash.