03/05/2010, 00.00
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Terrorism alert in Strait of Malacca puts trade route at risk

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia join forces to fight potential maritime threats to oil tankers. If attacks were to occur, local economies could be destroyed and world economy seriously disrupted.
Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The governments of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are stepping up security in the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping lane for world trade, after warnings of possible attacks on oil tankers. The Singapore Navy has received indications a terrorist group is planning attacks on oil tankers in the strait.

The armed forces of Indonesia and Malaysia should strengthen security measures, Singapore urged. Malaysia's coastguard has already stepped up security in the narrow waterway, which tankers use to carry oil from the Middle East to China and Japan.

"We will increase security and step up patrols in that area. Oil tankers can pass, but we will increase our readiness," Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said.

An attack that closed the Strait of Malacca or Singapore port even temporarily could have a disproportionate impact on global trade.

“Maritime attacks offer terrorists an alternate means of causing mass economic destabilisation," Rand Corporation terrorism risk analyst Peter Chalk said.

The city-state of Singapore is the world's top container shipping port and biggest ship refuelling hub.

The effects of an attack remain uncertain. Thailand’s naval attaché in Singapore said the original warning came from Japan. “Later, they changed the term to `terrorist attack' as there was fear that they could use heavy weapons to attack these ships,” Captain Sutheepong Kaewtab said.

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