The Government is worried that thousands of missing shoulder fired missiles could be in the hands of terrorists. Of the roughly 1 million missiles
made since the 1950's, thousands could possibly be in the hands of Al-Qaeda and other rogue groups. Today Russia and the U.S. signed an agreement to
destroy surplus SA-7's and anti aircraft missiles. The U.S. is also actively working with other countries to provide technical and financial
assistance to destroy anti aircraft missiles.
The State Department estimates that about 1 million shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles have been produced worldwide since the 1950s. The number
believed to be in the hands of "nonstate actors," such as terrorist groups, is "in the thousands," the department says.
"What's driving this is concern about the threat to commercial aviation," said Wade Boese, research director at the private Arms Control Association.
A single successful missile attack on a passenger plane could paralyze the airline industry, at enormous economic loss, he said.
There has been only one known attempt against a commercial airliner outside of a war zone. In November 2002, two surface-to-air missiles barely missed
an Israeli charter airliner taking off from the airport in Mombasa, Kenya, with tourists returning to Israel. Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network
claimed responsibility for the attempt.
The U.S.-Russian agreement signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov calls for sharing information about
exports of these missiles to third countries.
Of note, Boese said, is the absence of a commitment by either Washington or Moscow to halt the exports.
The United States began selling its Stinger shoulder-fired missile to foreign countries in 1982. The CIA secretly transferred an estimated 2,000 to
Afghanistan mujahedeen rebels in the mid-1980s, and they were used to down hundreds of Soviet helicopters and transport aircraft.
When the war against the Soviets ended in 1989, the CIA began offering to buy back the Stingers for as much as $150,000 apiece. In his book "Ghost
Wars," author Steve Coll wrote that as recently as 1996 the CIA estimated there were about 600 Stingers still unaccounted for in Afghanistan.
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This could be scary if it wasn't for the fact that there is even more dangerous things such as nukes and their components which are also missing. In
this era we rush to build better and more efficient weapons, yet we are unable to account for all the old ones. The US and the rest of the world
should be actively involved in hunting down and destroying all these stashes of these outdated weapons.