Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1986

Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.

The Year in Review

The level of international terrorist activity remained high in 1986, despite a slight decline in the total number of incidents. This halts, at least temporarily, the dramatic upward trend in the number of incidents experienced in the previous two years. In the first part of 1986, terrorism continued to rise, but increased counter-terrorist cooperation among Western nations undoubtedly played an important role in checking the escalation of terrorism for the rest of the year. US military action against Libya in April and subsequent European diplomatic and security actions against Libya and Syria for their involvement in some of the year’s major attacks helped to curb activities by terrorists supported by those countries after midyear. Nevertheless, the overall high level of activity combined with the continuing increase in attacks aimed at innocent bystanders and intended to cause mass casualties keep international terrorism as a priority item for concern.

In 1986, we recorded some 774 international terrorist incidents, a very slight decrease from the record level of 782 incidents in 1985. More than a quarter of these incidents resulted in casualties. Fewer persons were killed in international terrorist incidents in 1986 than in 1985 (576 and 825 persons, respectively), and more were wounded—1,708 versus 1,217—yielding a slightly greater total number of casualties in 1986. The decline in number of deaths is deceptive without looking behind the figures. The difference between 1985 and 1986 represents one incident—329 deaths from the Air India bombing. Moreover, 1986 could have included as many as 800 more deaths if several attempted aircraft bombings had succeeded.

Although there were fewer international attacks in 1986, a greater number were conducted against US targets—204 versus 170 in 1985—increasing the share to 26 percent in 1986 versus 22 percent in 1985. Total US casualties fell almost 43 percent, however, and US deaths alone fell 68 percent, returning to the levels of earlier in the decade. The totals would have been much greater, however, if the bombing of TWA Flight 840 had caused the plane to crash and if two attempted bombings of El Al aircraft had succeeded.

About 55 percent of the 1986 incidents involving US targets occurred in Latin America, an increase over the previous year’s 45 percent. Although only about a quarter of anti-US attacks took place in Western Europe (a decline from one-third in 1985), the majority of US casualties last year stemmed from attacks there, most as a result of attacks by Middle Eastern rather than European terrorists. Slightly more anti-US attacks were registered in the Middle East (21 versus 17) last year, but the number of such attacks in Lebanon dropped in terms of both absolute numbers (10) and as a percentage (50 percent) of anti-US attacks in the Middle East—versus 13 and nearly 80 percent, respectively, in 1985.

A region-by-region comparison of the 1986 data with those of 1985 reveals no worldwide pattern, but rather the interplay of local conditions. In 1986 more international terrorist incidents—360—were recorded in the Middle East than in any other part of the world, virtually unchanged from the 1985 figure of 357. If the number of attacks conducted by Middle Eastern terrorists elsewhere in the world is included, Middle Eastern terrorism accounted for 404, or about 52 percent of all international incidents, down slightly from 441 and 56 percent in 1985. Latin America, with 159 attacks and the bulk of the anti-American incidents, was the second most frequent venue for international terrorist attacks in 1986, slightly more than Western Europe, where the number of incidents continued to drop, down to 156 attacks in 1986.

In 1986 attacks by Middle Eastern terrorists world-wide killed more than 450 persons—nearly double the number in 1985—and injured nearly 1,120 others. This continues the pattern of the previous year. Attacks by West European and other terrorists tend to be designed to avoid casualties, whereas most of those by Middle Eastern terrorists are intended to cause maximum casualties.

The citizens and property of 78 countries were the victims or targets of international terrorist attacks in 1986, slightly fewer than the 84 recorded the previous year. International incidents also took place in fewer countries in 1986—65 as opposed to 72. More than half of all international attacks continue to target businessmen, tourists, and other unprotected “soft” targets. The number of attacks against diplomatic, military, and other official targets remained virtually unchanged.

The number of attacks by type varied by comparison with 1985. Arson attacks climbed slightly from 102 to 117, but kidnapings declined from 87 to 52. Bombings continued to account for more than half of all international attacks with 438 incidents in 1986, as compared with 399 in 1985.

Certain governments continued to facilitate international terrorist activity, although the number of attacks in which such support could be identified declined. Libya, Syria, or Iran was responsible for most state-sponsored terrorist attacks and the decline probably reflects their efforts to distance themselves from terrorist groups and to disguise their involvement. In 1986, Libyan and Syrian terrorist activities were publicly exposed in two major incidents in Western Europe that led to a combination of military, political, and economic sanctions against them by the United States, Canada, and West European governments.

The level of international terrorist attacks of Middle Eastern origin declined only slightly in 1986. The number of attacks occurring in the Middle East itself remained largely unchanged from 1985, but “spillover” attacks into Western Europe declined nearly 50 percent—from 74 in 1985 to 39. Several factors probably contributed: the breakdown of the Hussein-Arafat accord resulted in fewer attacks by radical Palestinians on Jordanian and PLO targets; the record levels of Middle Eastern attacks in Western Europe in 1985 led to enhanced local security measures; and the most prominent state sponsors—Syria and Libya—curtailed their levels of activity after disclosure of their involvement in two terrorist operations in April. The EC nations took a number of political and economic actions against Libya—including expelling more than 100 Libyan so-called diplomats—following the US bombing of Libya in April.

International terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories declined slightly from the record level of 1985 but still formed the majority of all international attacks recorded in the Middle East. Of the 360 international incidents that occurred in the Middle East, 195 took place in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, down 11 percent from the previous year. Most of these were low-level attacks—isolated shootings or stabbings and many fire bombings—but some incidents, such as the bombing of a crowd of soldiers and civilians at Jerusalem’s Western Wall in October, were more serious.

There was a 28-percent decrease in the overall level of international terrorist incidents in Western Europe in 1986, primarily a result of the nearly 50-percent drop in incidents of Middle Eastern origin. International attacks by West European terrorists also declined, but such groups continued to pose a threat. During the year, the West German Red Army Faction (RAF) began a campaign against nuclear-related targets. The “nationalist” wing of the French Action Directe (AD) began for the first time to engage in attacks producing deliberate fatalities, but anti-French attacks by the Basque group Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) accounted for much of the dramatic rise in incidents involving French interests. The 1985 phenomenon of “Euroterrorism”—much publicized cooperation between the RAF, AD, and other European terrorist groups—was less in evidence in those groups’ activities in 1986 but remained a cause for concern among West European security forces.

International terrorism in Latin America showed another dramatic upsurge in 1986, increasing by one-third, with more than half of the 159 total incidents against US targets. As in previous years, international incidents constituted only a small part of all the political violence in the hemisphere. About 70 percent of the attacks—113 total—were against American targets, a marked increase over previous years. Most such attacks tended to be bombings of unoccupied offices or other facilities of US companies. The most prominent increases in international attacks last year occurred in Peru (59 in 1986 versus 16 in 1985) and in Colombia (50 versus 30). Chile, the leading regional venue for international attacks in 1985, experienced 25 percent fewer incidents in 1986.

Terrorist incidents in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, taken together, amounted to only 13 percent of all international attacks in 1986. For the second straight year, attacks in Asia rose while those recorded in Africa declined. Most terrorist violence in Asia continued to be the work of Tamil and Sikh separatists and Communist insurgents, but the year was also marked by increased terrorist violence in Pakistan, including a number of bombings thought to be the work of Afghan state agents. Twenty international attacks occurred in Africa, down from 41 the previous year.

Terrorist Spillover From the Middle East

After substantial increases in the previous two years, the number of terrorist attacks committed in Western Europe by Middle Eastern groups or states declined in 1986. Middle East-related attacks in Europe averaged 35 per year from 1980 to 1983, climbed to 61 in 1984, and reached 74 in 1985. In 1986 the number returned to the earlier level, declining almost 50 percent to 39. Most of the decline occurred in Mediterranean littoral states: Greece saw five Middle East-related terrorist incidents, as opposed to 14 the year before; Italy experienced only two after 11 the previous year; and only one such attack occurred in Cyprus in 1986 after 12 in 1985. France, by contrast, suffered a significant increase—from six to 16—accounting for 40 percent of all such attacks, nearly twice the percentage previously recorded for any West European country.

The 1986 terrorist attacks in Europe with a Middle Eastern connection that captured the most attention were those involving Libya and Syria. Libyan involvement in early 1986 was a continuation of Libya’s actions in late 1985 when Tripoli provided Tunisian passports to the Abu Nidal organization terrorists responsible for the 27 December 1985 attack on the El Al counter at Vienna airport. In 1986, Libya is known or suspected to have been behind five incidents aimed at US or British targets in Europe: the April bombing of a West Berlin discotheque; the April attempted grenade attack on a US officers’ club in Ankara, Turkey; an April bombing in London that damaged offices of British Airways and American Express; a May attempted bombing of the Bank of America office in Madrid; and the August attack by three teams of gunmen against the British base at Akrotiri, Cyprus.

Also included among the Middle Eastern spillover incidents in Europe were attacks by Libyan operatives against Qadhafi’s Libyan opponents—a radio station owner in Rome and a businessman in a Paris suburb.

Libya was implicated in the most violent Middle East-related event to occur in Asia in 1986—the 5 September attempted hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi that left 21 persons dead, two of them Americans.

Syria’s support of Middle Eastern terrorist groups that operate in Europe, including radical Palestinian factions, has long been a contributor to the Middle Eastern spillover problem there. In 1986, Syrian personnel were implicated directly in three events in Western Europe—the April attempt to bomb an El Al jetliner in London; the March bombing of the German-Arab Friendship Union building in West Berlin; and the June attempt against El Al in Madrid. Like Libya, Syria curtailed its operations in Europe during the second half of 1986, contributing to the decline in Middle Eastern terrorism there.

Iran traditionally has been circumspect in sponsoring terrorist attacks in Western Europe, and its surrogates have not been implicated in the kind of spectacular, mass casualty attacks in Europe associated with Arab and Palestinian terrorism. French police believe, however, that Hizballah-linked terrorists were involved in a series of bombing attacks in Paris in September 1986. The Khomeini regime continued its attacks against Iranian dissidents in 1986, making an abortive attempt to assassinate former Admiral Madani in Paris in January, bombing the Paris home of exile leader Masud Rajavi in April, and murdering an Iranian dissident former Army colonel in Istanbul in October. No suspects were arrested in any of these attacks.

Palestinian Activity

Palestinian terrorist groups were responsible for fewer terrorist attacks in Western Europe in 1986 than in 1985. The breakdown of the Arafat-Hussein peace initiative virtually ended the round of anti-Jordanian and anti-PLSS terrorism—much of it by the Abu Nidal organization—in Europe and elsewhere that was an important feature of the scene in 1985. Two high-ranking Palestinian officials were assassinated by unknown assailants in Athens in June and October, but the most significant Palestinian attacks in Europe were those noted above that were undertaken with assistance from Libya or Syria. The anti-Arafat Abu Musa group, which is backed by Syria, committed its first attack in Western Europe last year, the previously mentioned attempt to bomb an El Al airliner in Madrid in June.

The Abu Nidal organization (ANO), which conducted more than a dozen attacks in Europe in 1985, was known to be responsible for only one there in 1986. On 6 September, just hours after the resolution of the Karachi Pan Am hijacking attempt, a suicide team attacked an Istanbul synagogue with submachineguns and handgrenades, killing 22 persons and wounding six, before blowing themselves up.

Several factors may have contributed to the decline in ANO attacks:

  • The dissolution of the Hussein-Arafat accord removed the motivation for ANO attacks against Jordanian and pro-Arafat Palestinians, the focus of many of the group’s attacks since late 1984.
  • The pressure on ANO’s key state sponsors, Libya and Syria.
  • Virtually all ANO members who carried out attacks in Western Europe since mid-1985 were arrested or killed.

Despite concerns that the June trial in Rome of Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) members charged with the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro would spawn a wave of terrorism, the trial was marked only by two small bombs at Italian facilities in Athens on 19 June. All four defendants were convicted, as was PLF leader Abu Abbas (in absentia), but no terrorist retaliation occurred.

One or more members of the radical Palestinian 15 May Organization, which had been presumed inactive since 1984, are believed to be involved in the bombing of TWA Flight 840 in April. Evidence suggests that on 2 April, May Mansour, a Lebanese Christian woman, smuggled a bomb aboard the plane bound for Rome and Athens. She disembarked at an earlier stop, leaving the device, reminiscent of those placed on airliners in the early 1980s by the 15 May Organization. The bomb exploded over Greece, killing four American citizens—one an infant—who were sucked out of the aircraft through the hole created by the blast. The pilot managed to land the damaged aircraft with no further loss of life, but if the plane had been at a higher altitude when the bomb detonated, it most likely would have crashed, killing everyone aboard.

Other Middle Eastern Terrorism

The only substantial increase registered in Middle Eastern terrorist attacks in Western Europe in 1986 occurred in France. Following on the heels of two department store bombings in Paris in December 1985, Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible for 13 bombings or attempted bombings during 1986 in two separate campaigns, in February-March and in September. The bombers called for the release of three Middle Eastern terrorists—George Abdallah, leader of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction (LARF), a Marxist Christian group; a Palestinian convicted in the 1981 attempt to kill former Iranian Prime Minister Bakhtier; and a member of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) convicted in the 1983 bombing of Orly Airport. Almost all of the 1986 attacks were claimed in the name of the “Committee for Solidarity With Arab and Middle Eastern Political Prisoners” (CSPPA), which is believed to be a covername for some combination of LARF members, Palestinians, and Armenians. Some French authorities have recently said that Iran may have been involved in at least some of these bombings through supporters of the Lebanese Hizballah militia arrested in Paris in 1987. France has been a major supplier of aircraft and missiles to Iraq in the Gulf War.

The six September bombings, which virtually paralyzed Paris that month, were intended to pressure the French into releasing Abdallah, then awaiting trial for complicity in attacks on US and Israeli diplomats between 1982 and 1984. The campaign had the opposite effect, and in February 1987, Abdallah received a life sentence.

Target USA

Over one-quarter of the international terrorist incidents in 1986, 204 of 774 or 26 percent, involved US citizens or property; these figures are higher than those of 1985—170 of 782 or 22 percent. In contrast with 1985, US interests were attacked slightly more often in 1986 than Israeli ones, usually the most frequent target. For the first time, more than half the international terrorist incidents involving US citizens or property occurred in Latin America, primarily in Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Only a quarter took place in Western Europe, with West Germany and Spain the favored locations. Businesses continued to be the most frequently attacked US targets, with such attacks increasing by about 50 percent from the previous year. Attacks on US diplomatic targets doubled, but incidents involving military targets and “other” targets, such as tourists, private citizens, and passersby, declined from the 1985 levels.


Although the number of anti-US attacks rose in 1986, casualties declined dramatically. Eleven of the 204 anti-US incidents resulted in American casualties and six in fatalities, with totals of 12 persons killed and 100 others wounded. In contrast, in 1985, 21 of the 170 anti-US attacks resulted in American casualties, 10 in fatalities, for a total of 38 US citizens killed and 157 wounded. Half of the American deaths in 1985 were caused by a single terrorist incident: an Air India aircraft exploded and crashed in the North Atlantic in June of that year, killing all 329 persons aboard, including 19 US citizens. The decline in lethality was also because of the decline in Middle Eastern terrorist attacks in Western Europe. Even so, some two-thirds of the US casualties occurred in incidents in Europe, mostly at the hands of Middle Eastern terrorists. In Latin America, which accounted for more anti-US incidents, the most common type of attack is bombings against property, usually at times when few potential victims are present.

The US fatalities occurred in the following six incidents:

  • Greece, 2 April. The bombing of TWA Flight 850 on its Rome-to-Athens leg; four US citizens were killed.
  • West Berlin, 5 April. The bombing of the La Belle discotheque; two American servicemen were among the three fatalities.
  • Lebanon, 17 April. Peter Kilburn, an employee of the American University in Beirut who had been kidnaped in November 1984, was discovered murdered.
  • Peru, 25 June. A bomb exploded on a crowded tourist train bound for the Inca tourist site of Machu Picchu. Two Americans, one a little girl, were among the seven foreigners killed.
  • Colombia, 11 August. The body of Bechtel employee Edward Sohl was found. He had been kidnaped in December 1985 by the People’s Liberation Army (EPL) and may have died in captivity as early as May.
  • Pakistan, 5 September. The attempted hijacking of a Pan Am jet in Karachi. Two Americans were among the 21 persons killed.


During 1986, six US citizens were kidnaped. Two Americans were kidnaped in southern Philippines, but were soon released. Four more Americans were kidnaped in Beirut. Although two hostages taken there in 1985 were released during 1986, a total of six Americans was being held prisoner in Lebanon when the year ended.

Regional Patterns: The Middle East

For the second consecutive year, the Middle East was the principal venue for international terrorist attacks, accounting for approximately half of all international incidents for 1986. In Lebanon, Westerners continued to be at high risk of kidnaping—18 more were taken during the year and, although eight of them were released, two were known killed and eight were still being held at the end of the year. Warring militias—Palestinians and rival Lebanese Christian and Muslim groups—waged bloody internecine battles; many Middle Eastern terrorist groups participated in this “war of the camps” in Beirut.

Lebanon: The Kidnapings Continue

In Lebanon, the violence between warring militias continued throughout the year. In many cases, neither the perpetrator nor the target of a bombing attack could be conclusively established, as, for example, in the case of a series of bombings in July and August in East and West Beirut in which 76 persons were killed and hundreds wounded.

Westerners were not the primary victims of the violence in Lebanon, but they remained an important target. In the fall, the French contingent of the UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon suffered several attacks, and the French military attaché was assassinated as he entered the Embassy in East Beirut. Westerners in Beirut were particularly attractive targets for politically motivated kidnapings. Elements of Hizballah—using a variety of cover names—probably were responsible for most of the kidnapings, although in some cases, “freelance” terrorists initially may have taken hostages in order to sell them to the highest bidder. Four members of a French television crew were kidnaped in March; three were eventually released. Another French citizen kidnaped in February was released toward the end of the year.

Two Americans, Father Lawrence Jenco and David Jacobsen, were released in July and November, respectively, but three more—Frank Reed, Joseph Cicippio, and Edward Tracy—were kidnaped in the fall. At the end of the year, they were believed still in the custody of Hizballah, along with two other Americans seized in March and June of 1985. Another American, Peter Kilburn, who was taken hostage in 1984, was murdered in April 1986, as were two British citizens kidnaped just the month before. The killings occurred following the US airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in April, and Libya is thought to have been involved. Another kidnaped American, of Armenian descent, is believed to have fallen victim to Armenian factional struggles.

A third British journalist taken hostage in April was allegedly also murdered at the same time as the other two British hostages, but his body has not been found. A South Korean diplomat was kidnaped in January, but his status remains unknown. Two Cypriot students taken in April were released in June.

Iran continues to be the most influential party with the hostage holders in Lebanon. Tehran gives financial and logistic support to the extremist Hizballah factions implicated in most of the kidnapings, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps units in Lebanon may well support the continued detention of Western hostages.

Iranian involvement in or influence over at least some of the hostage holding is demonstrated in the case of the French hostages who were members of the Antenne-2 TV crew. Taken in March by the Revolutionary Justice Organization, which is believed to be a cover name used by Hizballah elements, their fate appears to be directly linked to bilateral talks between Paris and Tehran. Three were released upon satisfactory conclusion of negotiations between France and Iran over debts from the pre-Khomeini era. Hizballah leaders in public statements have emphasized that Tehran is the key party in any hostage negotiations.

Israel and the Palestinians

International terrorist attacks arising from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute decreased somewhat in 1986, but even so in 1986, as in 1985, about one international attack in every four was conducted in Israel, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip. Most of the incidents on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip consisted of small-scale incendiary bombings against property, but Israeli citizens were killed or wounded in several attacks.

In October, Palestinian assailants hurled grenades at Israeli soldiers and their families near Jerusalem’s Western Wall, killing one person and injuring 69 others. The attack—the bloodiest in Jerusalem since 1984—was claimed by several groups, including Fatah, the Abu Nidal organization, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and a previously unknown group, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In March, an American tourist—who was probably mistaken for an lsraeli—was shot and wounded by unidentified terrorists in Jerusalem.

As in 1985, Palestinian operatives made several attempts to infiltrate the Israeli coast by sea from Lebanon. In July, a joint Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Syrian Social Nationalist Party squad attempted a raid on an Israeli resort town, but was intercepted offshore. In the clash that ensued between the Israeli Defense Forces and the terrorist unit, two Israeli soldiers were killed and nine were injured. All four terrorists, identified as Palestinians, were killed.

Israeli security forces uncovered a number of suspected terrorist cells inside Israel and the occupied territories during 1986. For example, on 29 April Jerusalem police arrested 20 suspected terrorists reportedly connected to the radical Palestinian Abu Musa faction. Authorities announced that the cell was responsible for several terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, including the 13 April murder of a British tourist.

Israeli extremists conducted about a dozen retaliatory attacks against Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Ethnic tensions mounted near the end of 1986, following the murder of a Jewish religious student in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In 1986 radical Palestinians continued to murder more moderate Palestinians. In early March the Israeli-appointed mayor of Nablus was killed outside city hall by a lone gunman. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—a radical, Damascus-based Palestinian organization—is believed responsible. The PFLP waged an intense campaign of terror throughout most of 1986, which probably inhibited the development of moderate Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories. The murder of the Nablus mayor—who had been appointed by Israel and tacitly approved by the PLO—underscored the PFLP’s intolerance for Palestinian cooperation with Israel. Besides the Nablus killing, the PFLP was responsible for some of the most important attacks in Israel and the occupied territories last year, including:

  • The 12 January murder of an Israeli policeman in Galilee.
  • The 10 July attempt with the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP) to raid an Israeli resort town from the sea.
  • The 15 November stabbing of the Israeli student in Old Jerusalem.

Persian Gulf

As part of an Iranian campaign to pressure Persian Gulf oil producers into cutting their production, Iranian-backed terrorists bombed several important Kuwaiti oil installations just before the 19 July OPEC meeting. Tehran probably also believed such attacks served a parallel purpose of pressuring Kuwait to reduce its support for Iraq in the Gulf war. The five nearly simultaneous explosions caused extensive damage that crimped Kuwaiti oil production for weeks.

The attacks were apparently carefully planned and coordinated by persons with access to the sites, and Iran was known to have assets among the native Shias and foreign worker communities. Some of them probably worked in the Defense or Oil Ministries or in the oil industry. Kuwaiti authorities arrested nearly a dozen suspects in early 1987 for those bombings and others in January; virtually all of them were Kuwaiti Shias, some from the country’s most prominent families and with ethnic ties to Iran. Police also recovered Israeli, US, and Soviet arms and explosives.

These arrests may affect somewhat Iran’s subversive capability in Kuwait, but Tehran still has important assets in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. In Bahrain, for example, the Iranian-backed Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain (IFLB) remains committed to the over-throw of the ruling family and has used terrorist tactics in the past. A few dozen IFLB members were arrested in mid-1986. The group may have as many as 1,000 members, and it has overseas branches. The IFLB has not conducted a successful terrorist attack in a few years but remains a potential destabilizing force available to the Khomeini regime.

Other Significant Attacks

The third most frequent venue for international terrorism in the Middle East in 1986—after Israel and the occupied territories, and Lebanon—was Syria. Most of the 22 international attacks recorded there were bombings in Damascus; a few of them among the most lethal attacks of 1986. On 13 March, a powerful bomb that went off in a refrigerated truck under a bridge in a Damascus suburb may have killed 60 or wounded as many as 100 persons. Syrian leaders publicly blamed Iraq for the attack. On 16 April, bombs exploded on a military bus and two civilian buses in the town of Hims, killing and injuring perhaps another 100 persons. Another bomb went off shortly thereafter aboard the Latakia-Aleppo train. Militant Lebanese Christians may also have been responsible for the March and April bombings as retaliation for Syrian military moves in Lebanon.

One of the two terrorist hijackings that occurred in 1986 was of an Iraqi airliner on Christmas Day. (The other was the attempt against Pan Am in Karachi.) In circumstances that are still not entirely clear, the Iraqi plane crashed in Saudi Arabia, killing at least 62 of the 107 persons aboard, including two of the four hijackers. Several terrorist groups, including “Islamic Jihad,” claimed credit, but the actual perpetrators are still unknown. The operation may have been timed to coincide with a conference of Iraqi opposition groups that met in Tehran from 24 to 28 December; Iran denied involvement.

Regional Patterns: Latin America

Politically motivated violence continued unabated in Latin America throughout 1986, and international terrorist incidents increased some 34 percent from 1985 levels to a total of 159—the highest total for the region since the beginning of the decade. Latin America replaced Western Europe as the second-most-active arena for international terrorist incidents, with Peru, Colombia, and Chile accounting for much of the activity. More than half of all international incidents that involved US citizens or property in 1986 occurred in Latin America. Almost all of these were property bombings in Colombia, Peru, and Chile, with local branches of US-based multinational banks and the facilities of US-affiliated petroleum companies the most popular targets. Much of the terrorism in the region continues to be the outgrowth of domestic rural and urban insurgencies that are not primarily anti-American.

The increase in international attacks in the region occurred in the context of an overall increase in violence against vulnerable components of local governments’ economies or highly visible symbols of multinational intervention in those governments. Oil company pipeline facilities were attacked in Colombia, for example, as much because of their visibility and vulnerability as because of the companies’ affiliation with the United States. In Peru, attacks were not focused solely on US interests but on other governments’ personnel and facilities as well. As of early 1987, for example, Soviet, Indian, West German, Chinese, Argentine, Spanish, North Korean, and Japanese interests had been attacked there.


International terrorism increased from 16 incidents in 1985 to a record high 59 incidents in 1986, making Peru by itself the third-most-active venue worldwide for such attacks (following only Israel/West Bank/Gaza Strip and Lebanon). Many of these incidents—mostly low-level bombings that caused little damage—were directed against local branches of US-based international financial institutions, which may symbolize international imperialism to one or both of the two main subversive groups, the Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru (MRTA).

The Peruvian security forces’ suppression of SL-inspired prison riots in Lima in June—during which more than 200 SL prisoners were killed—seemed to have no long-term effect on that group’s determination or capabilities. It subsequently increased operations against unprotected economic and foreign targets. Continued economic sabotage probably costs Peru significant amounts annually in repairs to damaged infrastructure (bridges, electrical power grids, and buildings) and counterinsurgency costs. Losses from tourism or business investments discouraged by terrorist activities are more difficult to determine, however.

Expanded SL activity in Lima in 1986 further stretched the capabilities of Peruvian security forces, making it difficult for the government to adequately protect foreign diplomatic missions in Lima. Urban attacks seem to be part of a broader SL strategy to hit valuable, highly visible targets in the capital that attract more attention to its cause than operations confined to its traditional rural heartland in Ayacucho Province. SL leaders have just begun to appreciate the publicity value of such attacks; they apparently consolidated their highly compartmented apparatus in Lima to conduct more attacks in the city than in any other department in Peru. Nearly 300 confirmed terrorist incidents—mostly domestic—have occurred over the last two years in the Lima metropolitan area, giving it one of the highest rates of terrorism for any city in the world. However, as neither the SL nor the MRTA consistently claimed credit for such attacks, it is difficult to determine exactly how many of the unclaimed incidents were conducted by each group.

Part of the steady rise of violence in Lima in 1986 was attributable to MRTA activity. In contrast to Sendero Luminoso, the MRTA is almost exclusively urban based, generally targets property rather than people to attract attention to its cause, and attacks both foreign and domestic targets.

For the most part, MRTA attacks against US interests have involved throwing bombs at night from car windows at US diplomatic, commercial, and cultural facilities in Lima. In late 1986, the group carried out seven such attacks within a three-day period. MRTA attacks so far have caused relatively minor damage, but increased MRTA activity raises the possibility of incidental casualties, especially if it uses more powerful car bombs.


International terrorist incidents in Colombia increased from 30 in 1985 to 50 in 1986, with many attacks directed against US-affiliated business interests. Rebel leaders also emphasized legal political activity throughout the year, as well as the penetration of organized labor and other interest groups. Despite this political maneuvering, the level of political violence was as high as during the civil war of the 1950s. The new president took office in August and inherited a tenuous truce with the largest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but the other three major guerrilla groups—all of which have terrorist components or occasionally resort to terrorist tactics—are in open conflict with the government.

The National Liberation Army (ELN), the 19th of April Movement (M-19), and the People’s Liberation Army (EPL)—which together contain an estimated 2,500 armed combatants—are members of a loose alliance known as the National Guerrilla Coordinator (CNG). The CNG was formed in 1985 by the M-19 organization but has grown in strength under ELN influence since mid-1986. The ELN has abandoned its former isolation and appears to have forced the M-19—seriously weakened following government strikes and the losses of key leaders—out of its original role as head of the guerrilla alliance. The various CNG leaders still squabble over ideology and tactics, but the coalition was responsible for better coordination of attacks and improved propaganda efforts last year.

Colombian terrorists changed their targeting strategy in 1986, showing less interest in high-profile attacks undertaken solely for publicity value and staging more attacks on electrical pylons, transmission substations, and other economic infrastructure targets. Terrorist use of robberies, kidnapings, and extortion against both foreign and domestic businesses inflicted substantial damage on commercial activity. However, as in Peru, actual losses from tourism and business investments discouraged by terrorist attacks are difficult to measure. Narcotics traffickers continued to employ terrorist-like tactics against opponents in 1986.


Terrorist groups have exploited the continuing high level of opposition to the Pinochet regime. In 1986 terrorist incidents declined overall, although Chile was still the seventh leading venue for international terrorist attacks. Significant attacks included the bombing of the US Ambassador’s residence in April. Of the two main terrorist groups—the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR) and the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR)—the FPMR was by far the most active. Although most of its operations consisted of relatively minor bombings of Chilean Government facilities, elements of the FPMR attempted to assassinate President Augusto Pinochet last September. A new development last year was the threat from extreme rightwing groups such as the 11 September Command and the National Combat Force. Little is known about these groups but their capacity for terrorist violence may be equal to that demonstrated by the extreme left.


No international terrorist incidents were recorded in Ecuador in 1986. The fortunes of the country’s only terrorist group, Al-faro Vive, Carajo! (AVC), declined substantially after the arrests or deaths of several key leaders during the year. The AVC at the end of 1986 was in a state of disarray, with most of its leadership in prison or dead. Some active cells remained, however, and could stage limited operations.

El Salvador

There was a decline in international terrorist activity in El Salvador in 1986, reflecting the insurgents’ reluctance to stage high-risk urban terrorist operations and the steadily improving capabilities of the Salvadoran security services. Despite some minor terrorist attacks in San Salvador, an expected campaign of sustained urban violence by mainline guerrilla organizations did not materialize. The security forces raided numerous safehouses, arrested more than 50 urban guerrillas, and broke up terrorist support cells. Salvadoran security has arrested most of the urban terrorist component of the Clara Elizabeth Ramirez Front, which was responsible for several assassinations in 1984 and 1985, including the slaying of six Americans in a single attack.

Regional Patterns: Western Europe

Terrorists staged 156 international attacks in Western Europe last year, a decline of 28 percent from the record high of 218 in 1985. Part of the decline stemmed from the decrease in attacks of Middle Eastern origin. (For detailed treatment of this issue, see the section on Middle Eastern spillover). The pattern of terrorism in Europe shifted in 1986. Spain became a principal location of international attacks in the region (mainly to attacks by Basque terrorists against French interests), with France and Germany in second and third place. In attacks conducted within Western Europe, French interests were most often targeted, followed by American and, less often, Spanish. Although most anti-US attacks occurred in Latin America, Western Europe remained the most dangerous region for Americans abroad, largely the result of actions by Middle Eastern rather than West European groups.

Most West European groups continued in 1986 to concentrate their attacks against domestic government facilities, the police and security forces, and businesses. The Military Wing of the Basque group Fatherland and Liberty (ETA-M) committed the most international attacks in 1986, generally harassment bombings of French businesses and privately-owned French automobiles in Spain. Such attacks, intended to pressure the French Government to reduce its cooperation with Madrid, became increasingly lethal in the course of the year.

West Germany

“Euroterrorism,” which captured headlines in 1985, was less evident in 1986, although the rhetoric continued. The Red Army Faction (RAF)—the key proponent of a united terrorist front—was inactive until midyear, and none of its attacks bore the marks of involvement by non-RAF elements. The RAF issued some documents in the name of the “anti-imperialist front”—and the French group Action Directe (AD) echoed some of this rhetoric—but there was no evidence that the groups coordinated any of their 1986 operations.

RAF tactics in 1986 included the use of a remotely controlled ambush bomb, the selection of a victim because of his connections to the nuclear issue and the US Strategic Defense Initiative, and the assassination at pointblank range of a senior Foreign Ministry official. The reinvigorated RAF “illegal militant” cadre bombed at least 10 targets following the general theme of the attacks conducted by the “hardcore” members.

At a conference of terrorist support groups in February 1986, the RAF acknowledged it had erred in conducting a car bomb attack against Rhein-Main Airbase in 1985 and killing an American serviceman for his identity documents. During the year, the group used tactics designed to avoid unintended casualties. The illegal militants, for example, carried out their bombings at night and provided warnings. The RAF also concentrated its efforts on attacking West German interests and largely ignored US and NATO targets.


Action Directe remained divided into two operating groups—”nationalist” and “internationalist” wings—a split that occurred in 1982, partly over the issue of cooperating with the RAF. The internationalist wing attempted to assassinate an industrialist in April and killed the chairman of Renault in November, in an attack reminiscent of the RAF murder of the Foreign Ministry official the previous month. This wing maintains ties to other European groups; shares weapons, explosives and possibly accommodations; conducts symbolic assassinations; and is more likely to attack US and NATO targets.

In contrast, the nationalist wing generally operates independently, conducts bombings of unoccupied buildings, and restricts itself to French targets, especially ones it labels the “organs of repression.” This wing became more lethal after its leader was arrested in March 1986. It was probably responsible for bombing a police station, which killed one senior officer, and for attempting to murder the prominent rightist mayor of Provins, which killed a municipal employee. The nationalists also carried out bombings of firms doing business with South Africa early in the year and may be linked to the shadowy “Black War” group that bombed similar targets.


The most important development in terrorism in Spain in 1986 was the attacks on French interests by the Basque separatist group ETA-M. Those attacks began in earnest after France began expelling wanted Basques to Spain or to third countries. Initially, ETA-M limited itself to firebombing unoccupied French private vehicles but by the end of the year had progressed to bombing French business interests, often without regard for inadvertent casualties. This pattern of increasing lethality differed markedly from the group’s prior operating style, in which casualties usually were restricted to specific targets—most often Spanish security forces. The group continued to use the same techniques, however: bombings comprised more than two-thirds of its attacks, and arson and selective armed attacks remained important.

Other indigenous groups in Spain were generally less active in 1986, although Iraultza, a small anti-NATO terrorist group composed of radical elements of the extremist Spanish Basque Communist movement, conducted eight bombings in 1986, up from four the year before. Iraultza primarily targeted American companies in the Basque region near Bilbao, setting off small bombs late at night that caused only property damage. The Maoist urban group GRAPO (First of October Antifascist Resistance Group) remained virtually inactive for the second straight year after suffering massive arrests in January 1985. Known for its attacks on US and NATO facilities, in 1986 the group claimed responsibility only for attempting to bomb a Ford auto dealership in Oviedo, stealing a taxi in Redondela, and robbing a bank in Zaragoza. None of these actions resulted in casualties.


The Popular Forces of 25 April (FP-25) claimed responsibility for only two international attacks in 1986, compared with 10 the previous year. One of the attacks it claimed—the explosion of a car bomb at the US Embassy on 18 February—was the only attack on US diplomatic facilities in Western Europe in 1986. On 17 May, the group took credit for firing a single 60-mm mortar round at the Iberian Atlantic Command facility. Neither incident caused any casualties.


By all accounts, 1986 was the quietest year for terrorism in Italy since 1969. The best-known group, the Red Brigades (BR), in decline since the Aldo Moro murder and the Dozier kidnaping, conducted only two attacks, one a successful murder of the former mayor of Florence, and the other a crudely bungled attempt on the life of a government adviser. Hundreds of old-line BR members—including leaders like Barbara Balzarani and Giovanni Senzani—were convicted in 1986 for crimes committed earlier in the decade.


Radical leftist terrorists expressed their growing disapproval of the Papandreou government’s domestic and foreign policies with more attacks on government targets in 1986. By and large, however, Greek groups did not target foreign interests as often as in previous years. Greek terrorists attacked US citizens less often in 1986.


The most serious new development in anti-Turkish terrorism last year was the escalating violence of the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) after Ankara retaliated for a bloody PKK attack that killed 13 Turkish soldiers in August by launching an airstrike against the group’s camps in Iraq that same month. In October, the PKK expanded its list of targets to include NATO, attacking a radar site in the southeast with rockets and automatic weapons. The group also targeted Turkish officials. Elsewhere in Western Europe:

  • A young PKK member was arrested in West Germany in August as he opened a train station locker containing explosives, weapons, and ammunition. He was apparently planning to attack the Turkish Consulate General in Hamburg but was later released for lack of evidence.
  • Dutch officials apprehended in late August a PKK activist who planned to attack a Turkish consulate in The Netherlands. He was carrying weapons and explosives at the time of his arrest.

Northern Ireland

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) continued its campaign of 1985 against businesses and individuals—both Catholic and Protestant—that provided goods or services to the security forces. There were 62 deaths from domestic sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in 1986, up slightly from 1985. Most of those who died were civilians, but 24 members of the security forces also were killed. Extremist groups on both sides railed against the year-old Anglo-Irish Accord on power-sharing, but none of the statements claiming responsibility for attacks linked those actions to the agreement.


Fewer attacks occurred in 1986 than in 1985. Arrests of virtually the entire infrastructure of the Communist Combatant Cells (CCC) in December 1985 and the discovery of several of the group’s safehouses in January 1986 effectively halted the CCC’s 15-month terrorist campaign.

The Netherlands

Among the 10 international terrorist attacks that occurred in the Netherlands in 1986, most were by previously unknown groups opposed to doing business with South Africa. At least two bombings occurred against Dutch construction companies that were mistakenly believed to be working on cruise missile-related projects.


No indigenous terrorist groups exist in Scandinavia, but Prime Minister Olaf Palme’s murder in February 1986 heightened the sense of vulnerability in the region to such attacks. Although Palme’s assassination has not been firmly linked to a terrorist group, Stockholm police have aggressively pursued the possible involvement of the Kurdish Workers’ Party. Otherwise, the region experienced only a few instances of Middle Eastern-sponsored terrorism.

Regional Patterns: Asia

International terrorist incidents in Asia during 1986 nearly doubled over the previous year—from 41 in 1985 to 77 in 1986. Despite the increase, international terrorist attacks occur in Asia at a rate far below the levels of such activity in other regions of the world; only Pakistan experienced a marked increase in activity. Most political violence in Asia is domestic rather than international and occurs mainly in the context of insurgencies.


Incidents in Pakistan accounted for much of the year’s increased activity. Twice as many international attacks occurred there as in 1985; these 47 incidents represented more than half of Asia’s total and made Pakistan the sixth most dangerous country for international attacks last year. Most of the attacks occurred in the North-West Frontier Province, where Afghan and Soviet-sponsored operatives conducted a terror campaign against refugees and civilians. Agents thought to be working for the Afghan secret police bombed bridges, railways, power transmission lines, shops, restaurants, and hospitals in an effort both to erode Islamabad’s support for Afghan insurgents and to sow dissension between Afghan refugees and Pakistani civilians.

The most daring terrorist attack in Asia in 1986 occurred on 5 September, when four ANO gunmen stormed a Pan Am 747 in Karachi. The attack eventually left 21 persons dead and nearly 100 others wounded. After initially killing one American, the hijackers threatened to kill a passenger every 10 minutes unless they were provided a flightcrew to fly the plane to Cyprus. Two deadlines passed without further incident before the airplane’s lighting failed and the gunmen opened fire on the passengers. The four gunmen, along with a fifth conspirator arrested afterwards in Islamabad, were taken into Pakistani custody.

Karachi was also the scene of other airline-related international terrorist attacks. In May, a series of four bombs exploded in a 15-minute period at four separate locations, killing a local security guard and wounding two other persons. The targets included the cargo office of Pan Am and three offices of Saudia Airlines. No group claimed credit for the blasts, but police suspected Iranian involvement.

Sri Lanka

Two spectacular attacks in 1986 represented a new level of violence for the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka. In early May, a bomb blew the tail off an Air Lanka passenger jet preparing to take off from Colombo for the Maldives, killing 16 persons (most of them foreigners) and injuring another 41. The bomb probably was intended to go off shortly after takeoff while the plane was over Sri Lankan territory. If the plane had been airborne, as many as 150 persons could have been killed. The leading suspect is the Tamil Eelam Army, a group thought to be responsible for an aborted 1984 bombing of another Air Lanka jet. A few days later, a large bomb demolished Colombo’s Central Telegraph Office, killing at least nine persons and wounding some 50 others. No group claimed credit in the telegraph office bombing, but the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam—the most lethal and hardline insurgent group—probably was responsible. Both bombings came just after an Indian Government delegation had arrived in Colombo to explore ways of restarting stalled peace talks between Colombo and Tamil moderates; the attacks probably were intended to torpedo the Indian-brokered peace talks.


Radical leftist groups mounted several operations in opposition to the Western Economic Summit held in Tokyo in May. The groups staged low-level incidents prior to and during the summit designed to obtain maximum publicity and to embarrass the Nakasone government. In the boldest such attack, the Chukaku-ha (Nucleus Faction) group fired five homemade rockets at the State Guest House as the heads of government were arriving. All the projectiles missed their targets and struck the street, sidewalks, and a building near the Canadian Embassy. There were no casualties and damage was minimal. In three separate attacks in March also designed to disrupt the summit, Senki-ha, Chukaku-ha, and Hazama-ha fired rockets against the US Embassy, the Imperial Palace, Osaka Police Headquarters, Yokota Air Base, and the State Guest House. These attacks also caused little damage and resulted in no casualties. In addition to attempts to disrupt the Summit, radical groups continued their campaign against Narita Airport, the railway system, and Japanese Government buildings, causing disruption and minor damage but few injuries.


An incident in Jakarta, Indonesia, just after the Tokyo summit, led to speculation that the Japanese Red Army (JRA) may have become active after nearly nine years. On 14 May homemade projectiles were fired at the US and Japanese Embassies but failed to explode. An hour later a car bomb exploded in the parking lot of an office building housing the Canadian Embassy and destroyed at least six cars. The previously unknown “Anti-Imperialist International Brigade” claimed responsibility for the attacks in retaliation for the antiterrorism declaration of the summit. Fingerprints found in a hotel room from which the projectiles were launched were identified as those of convicted JRA member Tsutomu Shirosaki. The JRA made no claim concerning the Jakarta attacks, and it is not certain whether Shirosaki acted independently, was part of a breakaway faction, or represented a return to terrorist attacks by this highly lethal group.

The Philippines

Insurgents in the Philippines continued to engage in terrorism—primarily domestic—to undermine the Aquino government and win support for their causes. The New People’s Army (NPA) of the Communist Party of the Philippines stated that it will not target US and other foreign facilities and personnel unless they become actively involved in Manila’s counterinsurgency effort. In March, NPA guerrillas in Kalinga-Apayao Province briefly held hostage nine US servicemen who had entered NPA territory inadvertently; they were interrogated, held overnight, and then released unharmed.

The Muslim insurgency heated up slightly in 1986, but most attacks were conducted against the police, Army, and local political targets. The Moro National Liberation Front—the largest Muslim insurgent faction—may have been involved in a series of incidents in June and July in which an American, 10 Filipino nuns, a Filipino-American, a Swiss businessman, and his Filipino companion were kidnaped. Ransom was allegedly paid in several cases and all were released unharmed.


Sikh militants proved throughout the year they intend to use terrorism to press their case for an independent state. They continued to target Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Sikh moderates, Hindus, and government security forces, but unlike 1985 when Sikh terrorists bombed an Air India jet killing 329 persons, in 1986 they undertook no attacks that affected foreigners.


A small time bomb packed with nails exploded near the entrance of the Erawan Hotel in Bangkok in April shortly before Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was to attend a banquet hosted by the Thai Prime Minister. One Thai was killed and two others wounded. There was no claim of responsibility, but the incident was generally believed to have been related to Thai political feuding. A few weeks later, a bomb thrown from a passing car exploded inside the US Consulate compound in Songkhla, causing minor property damage and no casualties. Although no group claimed credit, Muslim separatist sympathizers may have been responsible. The small Pattani United Liberation Organization, a Muslim separatist group, has received funds from Libya, but it has been largely inactive in recent years.

South Korea

On the eve of the Asian Games in September, a bomb exploded near a crowded arrival terminal at Seoul’s Kimpo Airport, killing five Koreans and injuring another 29. An anonymous caller told police that radical South Korean students were responsible. Seoul has claimed the explosion was a North Korean-engineered attempt to disrupt the Asian Games, but no evidence has come to light to link Pyongyang to the incident.


Australia experienced a rare international terrorist attack when a car bomb exploded underneath the building housing the Turkish Consulate in December, killing the bomber and injuring a bystander. It destroyed the entire floor where the Consulate offices were located. Police arrested a member of the rightwing Armenian terrorist group that had assassinated the Turkish Consul General in Sydney in 1980 but had been inactive since 1985.

Regional Patterns: Sub-Saharan Africa

As in previous years, there were few international terrorist incidents in Sub-Saharan Africa in 1986 and the number of attacks recorded in the region dropped for the second consecutive year. We recorded only 20 international attacks—compared with 41 in 1985 and 45 the year before. Several factors probably contributed to the decline: a reduction in Libyan-sponsored attacks, a more difficult operational climate for the African National Congress (ANC) and the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) as a result of aggressive South African countermeasures, and revised strategies pursued by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Mozambican National Resistance Movement (RENAMO).

There were four recorded attacks against US interests in the region during 1986 compared with three the year before. Most terrorism in Africa—except for that sponsored by Libya—is associated with local insurgencies. As a result, US interests have most often been incidental rather than direct targets of terrorist acts. In each of the recorded attacks in 1986, there were no American casualties and damage to US property was minimal.

The number of Libyan-backed terrorist incidents in Sub-Saharan Africa declined for the second straight year, with a direct link to Qadhafi being found in one instance. In July, Togolese security forces apprehended nine individuals who reportedly confessed to receiving explosives from the Libyan People’s Bureau in Benin to attack the US Embassy and the market area in Lome. This incident indicates that Tripoli continues to support dissidents who oppose pro-Western governments in West Africa. As in similar incidents elsewhere, Qadhafi hoped to assure plausible denial through the use of surrogates—in this case Beninese and Togolese nationals—to distance Tripoli from actual attacks, so that government- to government relations would not be jeopardized.

Southern Africa

Most international and domestic violence in southern Africa occurs in the context of insurgencies directed at incumbent governments or in the context of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Some groups occasionally resort to terrorist tactics to further their causes.

The African National Congress (ANC) openly advocates the overthrow of the South African Government, and in 1986 turned increasingly toward violent tactics to achieve this aim. The year was marked by a series of landmine blasts in the Transvaal traced to the ANC and to a limited number of bombings of military and civilian targets in South Africa’s urban centers. While the ANC leadership insists that all targets were installations involved with the administration of apartheid, it is not clear that the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, has been able or willing to impose this strategy upon all its operatives inside South Africa.

The South African Government has sought to suppress the ANC through harsh security measures in South Africa and through raids on suspected ANC targets in neighboring countries. Its tactics have included commando raids on suspected ANC hideouts and bombings. Neighboring countries continued to attempt to restrict ANC movement across the South African border.

In Mozambique, the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) launched a new military offensive in September 1986. As in the past, RENAMO made direct attacks on population centers, coupling these with attempts to intimidate and/or recruit the civilian populace to its cause. The Mozambican Government regularly charged RENAMO with atrocities against the civilian population, while RENAMO spokesmen routinely insisted that the Mozambican Army was in fact guilty of these acts. RENAMO previously has been noted for its brutal attacks against civilians and foreigners, but in 1986 it released more than 60 hostages unharmed. The change of tactics probably was designed to improve the group’s international image.