“Nicaraguans seize missile during sting,” from the Washington Times, with thanks to Radwick:
Nicaraguan police, with U.S. assistance in a sting operation, thwarted black marketeers trying to sell SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles capable of downing commercial aircraft earlier this month, raising fears that some missiles already have been sold to terrorists, The Washington Times has learned….
“This is a very, very serious threat,” said the U.S. official. “This is what makes me stay up at night. Civilian aviation is at stake.”
The official said one Soviet-made SA-7 was confiscated at an air conditioning repair shop, the site of the sting in Managua, Nicaragua, where three Nicaraguans tried to sell the missile and offered more to undercover Nicaraguan police.
“This shows that such missiles can be bought on the open market, and it highlights the need for strong international cooperation to get rid of them,” a second official said in a government statement issued to The Times.
The sting has sounded alarm bells through the Bush administration for a number of reasons. The arrested men thought they were selling missiles to terrorists in Colombia and were willing to sell to Islamic terrorists, the official said. Also, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in November had won what he believed was a firm agreement from Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos to destroy about 1,000 remaining SA-7s. Some in the Bush administration now suspect the military is double-crossing Mr. Bolanos.
Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are known to be seeking portable missiles capable of bringing down a commercial airliner. The 20-pound SA-7 has a range up to 15,000 feet. In the wrong hands, a missile could down an airliner on its airport takeoff or approach.