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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Worldwide effort to destroy old SAMs good, but late

Hand-held, surface-to-air missiles may be one of the greatest terrorist threats to the airline industry in the United States and other countries.

Thousands of these light, easy-to-carry missiles are missing from armories around the world. Additionally, the size and weight of these deadly weapons, along with their high value on the black market, make them an easy choice for smugglers that have access to such armaments.

If nothing else was accomplished in Russia last week, the United States was able to sign an agreement with Russia concerning these missiles. Russia will cooperate by destroying its surplus Soviet-era SA-7s and other portable anti-aircraft missiles.

It is hoped this move isn't too little, too late.

The U.S. Stinger missile, manufactured in the 1980s, falls into the same category. Those who enjoy action movies may have seen examples of what this weapon can do in the hands of someone who knows how to use one.

Airplanes have been downed in Afghanistan and in Iraq by both SAMs and rocket-propelled grenades. The only-known attempt to destroy a passenger jet occurred in November 2002 when two SAMs were fired at an Israeli charter airliner in Mombasa, Kenya. Luckily, they missed.

At least 1 million of these shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles have been manufactured since the 1950s. Thousands may already be in the hands of terrorists.

Russia will join Nicaragua, Bosnia, Cambodia and Liberia — countries that earlier agreed to destroy these missiles.

We saw what happened to our economy when the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon were hit by terrorists. The same could happen to the airline industry.

It would take only one successful attack to paralyze this already struggling industry.

Removing these obsolete inventories will not guarantee safety, but cooperation such as this is needed worldwide to help fight terrorist threats.

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