Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Stinger Threat

Western intelligence agencies have been worried for years about the threat posed to civil aviation by shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles like the Stinger missiles the United States supplied to the mujahedeen for use in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Now the New York Times reports that the threat may be significantly greater than was previously thought.

American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday.

A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said.

It is not known how many of the missiles are in the hands of terrorist organizations. However, the price on the black market is said to be $5,000. That means (1) the black-market supply of missiles is plentiful and (2) the price is within reach of almost any organization that might be interested in purchasing them.