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ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT WITH PETER JENNINGS (07:00 PM ET) December 02, 2002

A CLOSER LOOK: MISSILE ATTACKS

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS (Off Camera) Just how vulnerable are passenger jets to a missile attack? We take "A Closer Look" at that tonight. The missiles fired last week at an Israeli jet in Kenya missed, but not by much. What is frightening is that a similar attack, with perhaps a different result, could happen in almost any airport in the world. We go tonight to ABC's Martha Raddatz.

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS (Voice Over) In the last 15 years, more than 50,000 shoulder-fired missiles have been sold to third world countries. No one has any idea where those missiles are today.

JOHN PIKE, DIRECTOR, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG - Terrorists would not have a terribly hard time finding somebody somewhere who would sell them some of these missiles.

MARTHA RADDATZ (Voice Over) At least 17 terrorist organizations and 56 countries are believed to possess the shoulder-fired SA-7 missile. The weapons are produced in Russia, China, and Pakistan, among other countries, and are commonly traded on the black market. The cost of an SA-7 can be as low as $5,000. Portable, cheap, and lethal, the missiles have surfaced in Nicaragua, Bosnia, Chechnya and all over Afghanistan. The SA-7 can reach altitudes of up to 12,000 feet and can be accurately launched from more than two miles away.

MARTHA RADDATZ (CONTINUED) (Off Camera) Given that range, it's obvious that someone could fire a missile near almost any airport in the country and have a fairly good chance of hitting either an arriving or departing aircraft.

MARTHA RADDATZ (CONTINUED) (Voice Over) But the missile must be aimed directly at the airplane's engines, the heat source.

BRUCE HOFFMAN, RAND It requires considerable training, repeated use of these weapons on a simulator, before you actually fire a genuine weapon.

MARTHA RADDATZ (Voice Over) A far more sophisticated missile is the American-made Stinger. In the 1980s, the US gave more than 700 Stingers to Afghan guerrillas fighting the Soviets. The CIA has secretly been trying to buy back the hundreds believed to remain in Afghanistan, knowing that if a Stinger gets into the wrong hands, there would be a much greater chance it would hit its target. Martha Raddatz, ABC News, Washington.


Copyright 2002 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.