Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.
The Year in Review
The level of international terrorist activity worldwide was almost unchanged in 1988, rising by 3 percent with 856 incidents compared with 832 for 1987. The Middle East again had the highest incidence of international terrorism, incurring 313 attacks—36 percent of the total worldwide. When Middle East spillover attacks are added, Middle East-inspired terrorist incidents account for 41 percent of the total (down 15 percent from 1987). Asia, primarily due to terrorist attacks by Afghanistan against targets in Pakistan, again held second place with 194 incidents, or 22 percent; Western Europe remained in third place with 150 incidents; Latin America, with 146 incidents, was fourth in 1988. Africa remained in fifth place—far down in the number of incidents, with 52 attacks, or 6 percent. No international events were recorded in Eastern Europe during 1988.
Terrorists were responsible for three “spectaculars” in 1988—the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner in April, the attack on a Greek day-excursion ship off the coast of Greece in July, and were most likely responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in December. The trend in major operations from 1987, however, continued downward. Key factors restraining the growth in international terrorism in 1988 were:
- Continuing improvements in physical security at both official and nonofficial facilities frustrated terrorist targeting.
- Western and other nations built on counter-terrorist cooperation of the last several years and have imprisoned additional terrorists.
- Some state sponsors of terrorism, for example Syria and Iraq, appear to have substantially reduced their direct involvement in terrorism in 1988, although both continue to provide safe haven and training to terrorist organizations.
- Militia activities in Lebanon continued to have a diversionary influence on the capabilities of international terrorist groups to conduct overseas operations.
- Iran’s decision to end the war with Iraq and expand its ties to the West lessened Iranian involvement in terrorism at least temporarily, although Tehran continues to include terrorism among its policy tools—possibly including exercising significant influence over those who hold US hostages in Lebanon. We cannot rule out, however, an increase in Iranian-supported terrorism in an attempt to promote its revolutionary image overseas in the face of its setback in the Gulf War.
Even so, terrorists set a record for the number of attacks in 1988 and have the potential to continue the pace and deadliness of their activities. Moreover, the likely terrorist attack on Pan Am 103 vividly demonstrated the terrorists’ capability to overcome security precautions with careful preparations. Disputes among rivals in the Middle East—many of whom have used international terrorism in the past as a policy instrument against their neighbors—could spark a resurgence of violence. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) remained one of the most active separatist groups. West European separatist groups show no signs of slackening their use of terrorism, although their capabilities have been seriously curtailed by effective law enforcement actions. Other West European organizations such as the West German Red Army Faction (RAF) and the Italian Red Brigades (BR) have continued to pose a threat, while the 17 November group in Greece escalated its activity, including the assassination of the US defense attaché. Insurgents in Latin America and the Far East are turning increasingly to urban terrorism. And Afghanistan appears willing to continue to use terrorism against Pakistanis.
The 856 international terrorist incidents recorded in 1988 resulted in 658 persons killed and 1,131 wounded, including casualties to terrorists themselves. This is an increase in fatalities from 633 in 1987, with most of the increase resulting from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The number of persons wounded, however, decreased from 2,272 injured in 1987. Excluding the Pan Am disaster, casualties were down, reflecting a decrease in attacks by Middle Eastern terrorists and Afghan-sponsored attacks in Pakistan. Although accounting for a small portion of the overall numbers, Africa experienced one of the greatest increases in the number of casualties—almost 60 percent over the total for 1987, from 163 to 259 dead and wounded. Terrorism in the Middle East and its spillover into the rest of the world accounted for 356 persons killed and 319 injured.
The United States suffered a substantial increase in terrorist attacks and casualties abroad during 1988, indicating that it remains a primary target for international terrorists. The number of anti-US incidents increased in all regions, rising from 149 in 1987 to 185, resulting in 192 persons killed and 40 wounded. In 1987, seven Americans were killed and 47 wounded. As in 1987, Latin America was the locus of the largest percent of incidents against US citizens and property—60 percent. About 20 percent of the anti-US incidents took place in Asia; 10 percent in the Middle East; and 9 percent in Western Europe. Also recorded is one attack in Africa.
The citizens and property of 79 nations were attacked by international terrorists in a total of 68 countries. Terrorists continued to carry out most of their attacks—77 percent of the total worldwide—against the least protected targets such as businesses and tourists. Attacks against government and other official targets decreased only slightly—from 25 percent of the total in 1987 to 23 percent in 1988. Many of the attacks were against individuals, indicating the necessity for constant awareness of personal security measures. Terrorists hit noncombatant military targets less frequently—38 times in 1988, down from 88 in 1987—partly due to greatly enhanced security precautions and also reflecting changes in many groups’ ideological concerns that decreased their interest in such targets.
The number of attacks by type varied little in comparison with 1987. Terrorists relied most often on bombings (48 percent); arson came next (28 percent), followed by armed attacks (15 percent). Terrorists decreased their use of kidnapping as a tool in 1988, accounting for 4 percent of the total; most kidnappings (12 of 32 kidnapping incidents worldwide) took place in Latin America, a change from 1987 when it was most prevalent in the Middle East (30 of 53 incidents).
State support for international terrorism remained substantial but dropped slightly in 1988. Some key Middle Eastern countries that most extensively facilitate terrorist group activities have attempted to hide their involvement through the use of proxies and other means. Incidents we are able to attribute to state sponsorship fell from 189 in 1987 to 177 in 1988, a decrease of 7 percent. International terrorist attacks sponsored by Afghanistan accounted for the largest portion, with 124 in 1988, compared with 125 in 1987 and 29 in 1986.
We believe that international terrorist incidents sponsored by three countries that were most subjected to international pressure—Iran, Libya, and Syria—declined. Iran was linked to 32 incidents in 1988, down from 45 in 1987, primarily because of the end of the war with Iraq and subsequent moves to obtain Western economic assistance. Libya is suspected of involvement in six attacks in 1988, and it continued to support dissident and terrorist groups. There was no evidence available to tie Syrian officials directly to any attacks during the year. We do not yet know what role, if any, state sponsors had in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Ten countries were the venue for roughly 75 percent of the total number of incidents in 1988. In order of numerical precedence in 1988, they are: Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank (29 percent combined), Pakistan (15 percent); Colombia (10 percent); Spain (7 percent); Lebanon (3 percent); West Germany (3 percent); and Zimbabwe, South Korea, Peru and France (each at 2 percent).
The number of attacks of Middle East origin outside that region fell in 1988 to 45 from 50 in 1987—but if the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing is proved to have been caused by a Middle Eastern source, the number of casualties will have increased. Thirty of the attacks took place in Western Europe.
Most of the attacks were in countries where Middle Eastern groups have been active for a number of years. Eight of the attacks were in Turkey; four each in Cyprus, France, and West Germany; three in the United Kingdom, and one each in Switzerland, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Portugal. The attacks in Western Europe resulted in 291 persons being killed—including the 189 US citizens aboard Pan Am Flight 103—and 147 wounded. In 1987, 19 persons were killed and 47 wounded in the region by Middle Eastern terrorists. Four attacks in Latin America coincided with the second anniversary of the US air strikes on Libya. The prime suspects have received Libyan support in the past.
Middle East Overview
The total number of terrorist incidents in the Middle East fell from 371 in 1987 to 313. Of the total that occurred in 1988, 250 reflected violence in Israel and the occupied territories. The year 1988 also saw a violent resurgence in terrorism by two of the most dangerous Middle Eastern groups—the Abu Nidal organization (ANO) and the Iranian-backed Hizballah in Lebanon. Both groups conducted spectacular operations against Arab and Western targets. In addition, Iran encouraged a campaign of violence against Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the deaths of several hundred Iranians during the 1987 pilgrimage to Mecca.
On 14 December, Yasser Arafat, speaking in Geneva as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accepted UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and renounced terrorism. This represents a fundamental change in PLO positions, fulfilling longstanding US conditions for the start of a substantive dialogue with that organization. We have stated that we will not be able to sustain a dialogue if PLO terrorism continues.
Three major terrorist attacks occurred in 1988. All the attacks appear to be “classic” operations—kidnapping, hijacking, bombing—by groups seeking vengeance or release of friends and family members in prison abroad. These major operations were:
- Hizballah terrorists, probably directed by Imad Mughniyah, a Hizballah security chief, hijacked a Kuwaiti airliner seeking the release of 17 Shia terrorists imprisoned in Kuwait. Although the terrorists failed to obtain release of any prisoners and killed two Kuwaitis, the operation was in some respects technically impressive. The terrorists—in suspected complicity with Iran—showed themselves to be skilled professionals in their ability to manage the incident, equip themselves, secure the airliner from rescue, and escape when an end to the incident had been negotiated. Kuwait released two of the imprisoned terrorists in late 1988 on completion of their sentences.
- The ANO in July capped a series of attacks marking its return to international terrorism with a machinegun and grenade attack on a Greek day-excursion ship, The City of Poros, killing nine persons and injuring almost 100 others. While the objective of the operation is not known, the ANO may have planned the attack to press the Greek Government to release ANO terrorists from jail.
- Pan Am Flight 103 exploded in midair in late December. While the investigation of the crash continues, and culpability has not yet been established, likely suspects could include several Middle East terrorists and governments that have supported terrorism in the past.
Three terrorist incidents—two bombings and one attempted bombing, all unclaimed—were recorded in Egypt in 1988, and increase of one over 1987. On 10 January a small bomb exploded in an alley next to the US Consulate in Alexandria, causing damage but no casualties. Sixteen days later another small bomb exploded in a bookshop in the Nile Hilton Hotel annex in Cairo, injuring one person. The similarities in the two attacks—no claims and low-order explosives probably meant to make a political statement rather than cause casualties—led to speculation that they were related, perhaps to ongoing legal proceedings against members of the Nasserist terrorist group, Egypt’s Revolution. In what appears to be an unrelated event, on 4 April a bomb was discovered at the US pavilion of the Cairo International Fair shortly before it would have exploded.
Egyptian authorities in 1988 broke up several clandestine groups suspected of terrorist actions or intentions. Twenty members of the group Egypt’s Revolution were indicted and charged with attacks on US and Israeli diplomats. The prosecutor asked for death sentences for 10 and life sentences for the others. The trial, which began in November, was not completed at yearend.
Egypt has taken a firm counter-terrorism stand and has called for stronger international cooperation to combat terrorism, including improved sharing of terrorism-related information; strengthened international protocols dealing with arrest, extradition, and prosecution of terrorists; and increased international assistance to less wealthy nations for use in developing counter-terrorism programs. In January, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Chicago, sponsored an international conference on terrorism that attracted representatives from 30 countries.
In cooperation with the United States and others, Egypt has taken steps to strengthen its counter-terrorism capabilities. These include increased training and education for police officials involved in counter-terrorism, improved counterterrorist procedures and safeguards at Cairo’s international airport, and upgrading the counter-terrorism reaction forces. Egypt has also worked closely with Israeli authorities in helping to secure the border against infiltrators.
In recent months, the Egyptian Government has engaged in an extensive dialogue to encourage PLO moderation. Egypt has urged it to explicitly renounce terrorism, recognize the Israeli’s right to exist and accept UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. By so doing, Egypt probably contributed to the conciliatory statement in Geneva in December by PLO leader Yasser Arafat, which led to the initiation of a dialogue with the United States.
Israel remained the primary target of Palestinian terrorists during 1988. Although effective Israeli countermeasures continue to limit terrorists’ abilities to orchestrate large-scale attacks against Israel and the occupied territories, several operations resulting in significant casualties took place inside Israel in 1988:
- On 7 March, three Palestinian terrorists hijacked a bus near Beersheba, in southern Israel. The terrorists—reportedly members of Force 17 or another Fatah element—and three Israeli civilians died in the attack.
- On 27 April, two Palestinian terrorists crossed into Israel from Lebanon and attacked a civilian truck. The operatives opened fire with automatic weapons and threw hand grenades, wounding the driver.
- On 21 August, terrorists, reportedly Bedouins enlisted by Fatah, launched a grenade attack against a crowded pedestrian mall in Haifa, injuring 25 civilians. The PLO issued a claim for the attack, attempting to legitimize the operation by alleging that the victims had been Israeli intelligence agents.
In addition, Israeli interests outside the Middle East were targeted in 1988. The following were among the year’s incidents:
- On 14 April, Turkish national police defused a time bomb found in front of the El Al airlines office in Istanbul.
- On 11 May, suspected ANO terrorists attempted a car bomb attack against the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. The driver of the explosives-laden car attempted to park near the Israeli Embassy compound several times but was turned away by security officials. The car bomb subsequently detonated, killing three persons and wounding 17.
The Israeli Government conducts a large, efficient, and comprehensive counter-terrorism effort. This effort includes providing significant resources to counter-terrorism military units, developing a massive counter-terrorist intelligence collection effort, funding research and development into new equipment and techniques, and using aggressive counter-terrorist procedures to protect Israeli citizens and visitors. Among the latter are special protection techniques for El Al and the training of citizens, including school children, in counter-terrorist tactics such as bomb recognition and reaction.
In 1988, the Israeli Government employed a variety of measures to limit terrorists’ efforts to attack Israel. The armed forces carried out preemptive attacks—usually air strikes, although occasionally ground operations were employed—against locations in Lebanon that Israeli intelligence had identified as terrorist camps and places of refuge. Israeli intelligence has been successful in limiting internal terrorist activities. In December, the authorities arrested a 13-person terrorist cell in Haifa consisting of Israeli Bedouin Arabs, two of whom were on active duty with the Israeli Defense Force. The cell is believed responsible for the bombing of a Haifa shopping mall in August. Also in December, the government announced that other terrorist cells had been uncovered in the preceding two months, most of which were located in the occupied territories. The cells were reportedly linked to many terrorist incidents, including the firebombing of a civilian bus that killed a mother and her three children in October.
The Governments of the United States and Israel are seeking extradition of terrorists held in their respective countries. The United States is seeking extradition from Israel of a dual national who is wanted for a mail bombing in the United States in 1980. Israel is seeking extradition from the United States of a naturalized American citizen of Arab descent wanted for murder in a 1986 firebombing of a bus en route to Jerusalem. (In early 1989, a federal judge agreed to his extradition.)
Israel has been accused of carrying out several assassinations in 1988, including the assassination in Tunis of Khalil al Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, the second-ranking individual in the PLO, who murder sparked a UN Security Council debate. The PLO has accused Israel of being responsible for the bombing of a car in February, which killed three PLO leaders in Limassol, Cyprus.
Jordan, which has been the victim of past terrorist attacks both at home and abroad, experienced two minor bomb blasts in Amman in April. The two attacks were claimed by Black September, a cover name for the ANO.
As part of its efforts to combat terrorism, the Jordanian Government has initiated a multimillion-dollar project to increase police communications capabilities; has increased tenfold the size of the Desert Police Force, which interdicts drug and gun smuggling; and has cooperated in international counter-terrorism forums by sharing information and resources. The Public Security Directorate’s Special Police Force has participated in bomb-detection training programs for dogs and their handlers offered by the Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, and groundwork for greater program participation has been laid.
Terrorist attacks in Kuwait in 1988 focused on foreign targets. International incidents decreased to five last year, compared to 17 attacks in 1987. As in previous years, pro-Iranian Kuwaiti Shias probably were behind most of these incidents, although press reports indicate an Iranian citizen was arrested along with two non-Kuwaiti Arabs in connection with the bombings of an Avis rental car office in May and a Saudia Airlines office in April. Efforts by Iran to improve its relations with neighboring states and the West following Tehran’s decision to adopt the UN cease-fire resolution in July probably contributed to the drop in attacks in Kuwait.
The most significant attack against Kuwaiti interests in 1988 was the seizure in April of Kuwait Airways Flight 422.
The Kuwaiti Government maintained a hard line policy against dealing with the hijackers, despite the murder of two of its citizens during the 16-day ordeal and the presence of three Royal Family members among the hostages. Kuwait steadfastly refused to meet the hijackers’ demand for the release of the convicted Hizballah terrorists.
Kuwait handed down sentences in trials of terrorists in 1988. On 6 June, several Kuwaiti Shias were sentenced for their part in the June 1986 and January 1987 oilfield bombings. Six were given death sentences, eight, prison sentences ranging from two years to life, and two were acquitted.
Kuwait is involved in a number of international counterterrorism efforts. In November, the Kuwaiti Cabinet endorsed three terrorism-related international conventions and set them to the Amiri Diwan for signature. The conventions deal with crimes against diplomats, the taking of hostages, and acts of violence at civil airports. Kuwait has participated in the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Training Assistance program, with training provided in VIP protection, port security, and SWAT team response.
The number of international terrorist incidents in Lebanon declined from 112 in 1987 to 28 in 1988, possibly because of interdiction of violence by Syrian military forces, who continued to occupy West Beirut and expanded their presence to the southern suburbs as well. Responsibility for most of these attacks (about 60 percent) went unclaimed; the groups undertaking them may have included Palestinian factions, Lebanese Christian militias, and Lebanese Shia and Sunni fundamentalists.
Kidnappings of foreigners as well as kidnappings of Lebanese nationals continued: eight foreigners were seized in 1988, including US Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Richard Higgins, who was detailed to UN peacekeeping duties with the UN Observer Group Lebanon. At yearend, 20 foreigners are believed to remain hostage:
- Hizballah terrorists in February abducted Lieutenant Colonel Higgins in southern Lebanon. Groups claiming responsibility for the attack—the Islamic Revolutionary Brigades and the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth—claimed that Higgins, who was commander of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization observer unit for Lebanon, was a spy and would be tried for his activities.
- The pro-Iranian radical Shia Hizballah also was probably behind the kidnapping of a West German/Lebanese dual national and the brief detentions of two Swedish journalists. Most Hizballah kidnappings have been intended to force the release of Hizballah operatives imprisoned abroad—primarily the 15 remaining terrorists held in Kuwait and Muhammad Hammadi who was on trial in West Germany.
- Radical Palestinians probably were involved in the seizure in Lebanon of a Norwegian and a Swede employed by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, a Belgian doctor working for a Norwegian aid organization, and a Swiss Red Cross official. PLO officials have publicly accused the ANO of conducting several of these kidnappings, which may have been intended to embarrass PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and/or obtain ransom for the hostages.
Several foreign hostages were freed during the year—in some cases amid allegations of concessions or ransom paid to the kidnappers. They included the following:
- Three French hostages—diplomats Marcel Carton and Marcel Fontaine and journalist Jean-Paul Kauffman—were released on 4 May; the release occurred in the context of press reports that claimed Paris agreed to restore diplomatic relations with Tehran and to repay the balance on an Iranian loan made under the Shah.
- Syrian pressure on Hizballah may have led to the release on 3 March of West German/Lebanese dual national Ralph Schray, who had been kidnapped in January; the remaining West German hostage, Rudolf Cordes, was freed on 12 September with assistance from Iran.
- The kidnappers of Beirut University College Professor Mithileshwar Singh, an Indian citizen with US resident alien status, in a statement accompanying his release on 3 October, claimed they were freeing him as a goodwill gesture toward the United States.
- The ANO on 29 December freed two young girls it had held since capturing the French private boat Silco in the eastern Mediterranean in November 1987; the girls’ mother, her newborn child, and six other French and Belgian nationals who were on the yacht continue to be held.
At yearend, the list of foreign hostages remaining in Lebanon included nine Americans—among them journalist Terry Anderson and American University of Beirut Dean Thomas Sutherland, currently in their fourth year of captivity.
In addition to its kidnappings, Hizballah terrorists, possibly from the group led by Imad Mughniyah, mounted their most ambitious hijacking to date: the takeover, possibly with Iranian assistance or at least its acquiescence, of Kuwait Airways Flight 422 on 5 April. As with previous Hizballah hijackings, the group demanded freedom for 17 Iraqi Da’wa members imprisoned in Kuwait for a series of bombings there in 1983, one of whom is Mughniyah’s brother-in-law. During the 16-day ordeal—the longest lasting hijacking to date—the aircraft, which was seized out of Bangkok, Thailand, flew to Mashhad, Iran. It landed at Larnaca, Cyprus, after local officials blocked the runway at Beirut International Airport, and terminated in Algiers, Algeria. The hijackers killed two Kuwaiti hostages—the first time the group had singled out Muslims for execution—during the four days spent in Larnaca, and threatened the lives of three Kuwaiti Royal Family members on board throughout the ordeal. Kuwait refused to release any of the Da’wa 17; the incident ended on 20 April after Algiers agreed to provide safe passage to the hijackers.
The number of attacks in and against Saudi Arabia doubled in 1988 over 1987. The rise in anti-Saudi attacks probably was a result of resentment by Iran and its sympathizers over Riyadh’s imposition of restrictions on Iranian attendance at the annual Muslim pilgrimage after the Iranian-staged riots in the 1987 Hajj. Several Saudi Shias were tried and executed in September for their role in the bombings of Saudi oil facilities during the spring. Saudi interests—primarily offices of the national airline, Saudia—in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East fell victim to the attacks overseas; by yearend there had been 22 such incidents. Although most of these attacks consisted of low-level bombings that caused no casualties, assassins also attempted to kill three Saudi teachers in Nigeria in March, murdered a Saudi diplomat in October in Turkey, and attempted to kill another Saudi diplomat in Karachi, Pakistan, in December. A group calling itself the Hizballah of the Hijaz—possibly composed of Saudi Shias—took credit for the assassination of the diplomat in Turkey, claiming revenge for the execution of the Saudi Shias on 30 September. A group calling itself Soldiers of the Night claimed responsibility for the attack in Karachi and accused the victim of working for the United States and Israel.
Saudi Arabia has continued a strong emphasis on upgrading its counterterrorism capabilities. Western governments including the United States provided training to the newly created special counterterrorism unit of the Saudi Special Forces, and the United States provided some training on hostage situations. Industrial security was considerably tightened following the bombings in March and April at two petroleum facilities at Ra’s Tannurah and Al Jubayl in the Eastern Province. The Ulema, the nation’s highest judicial authority, issued a religious decree in August declaring sabotage, to include hijacking and airplane bombing, as a major crime punishable by death.
The Saudi Government moved quickly against the three men suspected in the oilfield bombings. They were arrested in August after a gun battle in which a police officer was killed. The three, plus an accomplice, were charged with terrorism, sabotage, and conspiring with Iran; two were also charged with murder. The four were tried in closed session and sentenced to death in September. Despite threats from Hizballah of the Hijaz, they were executed after their sentences were reviewed by the King.
In what has been condemned by the US Government as an act of political assassination, Abu Jihad, the PLO military chief, was gunned down at his home in Tunis on 16 April, along with two Palestinian bodyguards and a Tunisian gardener. Tunisia brought a resolution before the UN Security Council condemning the killing of Abu Jihad as aggression against the country. Israel, which neither confirmed nor denied the allegation, was widely alleged to have been responsible for the Abu Jihad assassination.
Members of Force 17, the security arm of the Tunis headquartered PLO, reportedly reside in Tunis. Although its principal responsibility is providing security for PLO leaders, Force 17 is known to have engaged in terrorist attacks, primarily in Israel and the occupied territories.
Tunisian authorities arrested an Italian terrorist leader in July and turned him over to Italian authorities.
Latin America Overview
There were 146 international terrorist attacks in Latin America during 1988, up from 108 in 1987. This increase was primarily because of a sharp rise in the number of terrorist attacks in Colombia—up from 19 in 1987 to 88 in 1988. The majority of these were bombings directed against segments of Colombia’s oil pipeline system in which multinational oil companies participate as joint-venture partners. Peru and El Salvador were second and third, with Peru’s total dropping from 41 international incidents in 1987 to 15 in 1988. International terrorist attacks in El Salvador increased from just two in 1987 to 13 in 1988. Chile, traditionally third among Latin American countries in the number of international terrorist attacks, dropped to fourth place with nine such attacks, down from 15 in 1987. Despite decreases in the number of international terrorist incidents in Chile and Peru, domestic terrorism continued at a high rate in both countries. Bolivia also experienced an increase in international terrorist incidents last year. Attacks there increased from three in 1987 to six in 1988, including the attempted bombing of Secretary of State Shultz’s motorcade in August.
Of the 146 international terrorist attacks in Latin America during 1988, 73 percent, 110 of 146, of the incidents involved US personnel or facilities. During 1987, 66 percent—71 of the 108 attacks on international targets—involved US personnel or facilities. Nearly all international as well as domestic terrorist actions in Latin America were carried out by indigenous guerrilla or radical movements. In one terrorist incident, however, a group calling itself the Palestine Command detonated an explosive device against a Jewish target in Bolivia. Origins of this group remain unclear.
International terrorist incidents in Bolivia increased in 1988 to six, up from three in 1987. Among the attacks was the attempted bombing of US Secretary of State Shultz’s motorcade, as it traveled from the airport outside of La Paz into the capital city on 8 August. Two groups claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing—the Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Commando and the Pablo Zarate Wilca National Indigenous Force. The attack on Secretary Shultz’s motorcade was the second claimed by the Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Commando against a US target; in 1987, it claimed responsibility for the bombing of Citibank in downtown La Paz. Police investigators have developed few leads in the attack on the motorcade or the bombing of the US Embassy’s commissary that took place on the same day but believe that the attacks probably were the work of the Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Commando.
In December, the assassination of a Peruvian naval attaché in La Paz raised new speculation that the activities of Peru’s Sendero Luminoso (SL) might be spilling over into neighboring Bolivia. Although an unknown group claimed responsibility for the attack, wording of the claim note and the victim’s reputation as a counter-insurgency expert suggest that, at the least, a group sympathetic to SL—if not SL itself—carried out the action.
In Chile, nine international terrorist incidents occurred in 1988—down from 15 the previous year. Although most of these actions remain unclaimed, they were probably conducted by members of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), a Marxist-Leninist group with strong ties to Cuba. Despite a slowdown of both international and domestic terrorism—just before and after the October 1988 presidential plebescite—domestic terrorism increased by about one-third over 1987 figures, up from 164 to 223.
Chile’s long and porous border with Argentina has made it difficult for either side to impede the flow of arms and personnel from leftist groups there. Cooperation between the two countries has improved and Argentinian authorities have captured a number of people alleged to be directly supporting terrorists in Chile. Weapons have also been smuggled into the country via Chile’s vulnerable coastline.
Even through Chile and Argentina do not have a bilateral extradition treaty, the Chilean Government has requested extraditions of FFMR suspects under the broader Montevideo extradition treaty of 1933. An extradition request in November, however, was turned down by an Argentinian judge on technical grounds, and another request in December is still pending.
The Chilean Government maintains a strong and active counter-terrorism force in response to the constant threat of the foreign-supported FPMR. Investigations by the authorities, however, sometimes violate basic human rights, according to most human rights monitors. Prison terms for those convicted under the arms control and counter-terrorism laws are generally lengthy.
Virtually all of Chile’s terrorism prosecutions have been against leftists, and incidents of rightwing terrorism have rarely been followed with arrests. The failure of security forces to apprehend any members of rightwing extremists groups such as the Chilean Anti-Communist Action Group and the National Combat Front leads to speculation that the actions of these groups may be unofficially sanctioned by some officials in the security forces.
The United States has a continuing interest in the Letelier murder case, in which former Chilean Ambassador and Pinochet critic Letelier and an American associate were killed by Chilean agents in a car bombing in Washington, DC, in 1976. The most recent US attempts, however, to reopen the investigation or seek compensation for the Letelier family have been rebuffed by the Chilean Government. (In January 1989, the US Government invoked a 1914 bilateral dispute settlement treaty, which provides for an international commission to investigate the case.)
International terrorist incidents in Colombia increased sharply in 1988, up from 19 in 1987 to 88 in 1988. The National Liberation Army (ELN) was responsible for most of the international terrorist activity in Colombia—as it was in 1987. The ELN carried out about 78 attacks on international targets, including 58 bombings of the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline—jointly owned by Colombia and a consortium of US and other Western oil companies. In 1987, only 15 attacks on internationally owned oil facilities occurred, with the ELN responsible for 14 of them. The group has made no secret of its desire to drive foreign investment out of Colombia and has caused the country hundreds of millions of dollars in lost oil revenues. Pipeline bombings slowed significantly, however, during the last six months of 1988.
Other types of international terrorist activities in Colombia—aside from the pipeline bombings—also increased, from four in 1987 to 30 in 1988. The ELN increased its kidnappings from one in 1987 to about 14 in 1988, including a US businessman who was held for four months. ELN urban terrorism also expanded, with several bombing attacks on foreign interests. In late September, the group attempted to assassinate a US oil company executive by blowing up his car near his home in Bogotá. The 19th of April Movement (M-19)—another leftist guerrilla group in Colombia with ties to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Libya—carried out nine attacks on international targets. Many of its actions appear to have been carried out to show solidarity with causes beyond the borders of Colombia. In late March, the group fired a rocket at the US Embassy in Bogotá to protest US troop maneuvers in Central America. In mid-April, coincidentally about the second anniversary of the US air strikes in Libya, the group bombed the Colombian-US Bi-national Center in Medellin. Although there exists no evidence of direct Libyan involvement in this attack, the fact that M-19 has received training and money from Libya leads us to suspect a Libyan link. The M-19, which has also received training and other support from Cuba, carried out attacks during the same time frame on three US commercial targets, a British company, and a French bank. Tripoli in the past has encouraged its clients to attack British and French targets. At a minimum, we consider it likely that even in the absence of direct Libyan encouragement, these attacks were carried out to curry Libya’s favor and support.
Colombia is a democratic country whose institutions are also threatened from attacks by narcotraffickers. Narcoticsconnected violence is frequently designed to intimidate government officials and institutions to ensure the unhindered pursuit of the narcotics trade. The narcotraffickers have been successful in making prosecution or extradition of major narcotics traffickers too dangerous for most officials. Several judges and officials who took forceful action against narcotraffickers have been forced to leave the country. Although the insurgent violence is primarily domestic in character and is increasingly directed at economic targets, it does spill over into neighboring Venezuela, where kidnapping and extortion schemes are carried out.
The government enacted sweeping counter-terrorist decrees and issued state-of-siege decrees in January 1988 in response to the narcotics traffickers’ killing of Attorney General Carlos Mauro Hoyos. The decrees expanded the definition of terrorism, enhanced the arrest, search, and confiscation powers of the police, and provided strict rules for the use of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court, however, subsequently overturned those powers that allowed the police and military to make arrests and searches without warrants based upon suspicion, and required registration of property and inhabitants in areas deemed to be used by terrorists.
In late November, the Colombian President issued modifications to the January decrees in response to the growing terrorist activity, including the assassination attempt on the Defense Minister. The decrees, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court, mandate automatic life sentences for members of illegal armed groups found guilty of murder, prohibit bail for those suspected of terrorist crimes, and provide for immediate suspension of sentences for those who turn state’s evidence. In addition, juries will be eliminated in all terrorist murder trials.
In El Salvador, a sharp increase in urban terrorism—particularly in the last half of 1988—pushed up the number of international terrorist incidents from two in 1987 to 13 in 1988. In declarations made in late 1988, elements of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) stated their intention to increase terrorism—both domestic and international—in the capital. The guerrillas warned on several occasions that US personnel would also be targeted. Among the international terrorist actions were a number of gunfire attacks on US Embassy vehicles, rocket attacks on both USAID offices and the Sheraton Hotel, and the kidnapping of a local employee of a USAID-funded private volunteer organization. The hotel attack occurred just before the arrival of representatives of the Organization of American States who were meeting at the hotel in San Salvador for the organization’s 18th General Assembly. The increasing urban terrorism creates a high threat to Americans. In February, the clandestine FMLN radio station “Radio Venceremos” announced openly from Nicaragua the “legitimate targeting for assassination” of US military and civilian employees.
Along with demonstrating an ability to carry out large-scale military attacks, the FMLN turned increasingly to terrorism and economic sabotage to undermine the legitimately elected government of El Salvador.
In 1988, Salvadoran security forces organized a Joint Intelligence Operations Center (COCI), whose mission is to collect, integrate, and analyze intelligence relating to terrorist activities in metropolitan San Salvador and the surrounding area. The work of the COCI has led to more raids on safe-houses, the capture of more than 40 terrorists and collaborators, and the seizure of hundreds of FMLN documents.
The Salvadoran judicial system in 1988 remained plagued by antiquated laws, untrained or incompetent personnel, corruption, and intimidation. As a result, some FMLN suspects turned over to the courts by the police were released without being tried, and many killings remained uninvestigated. Judges often avoided controversial cases because of corruption or intimidation. The police seldom presented evidence other than the accused’s confessions obtained during detention. The number of unexplained murders, many similar to the rightwing “death squad” terrorist killings of the early 1980s, also rose in 1988, and few have received judicial scrutiny.
The legislative assembly failed to renew the State of Exception, which had expired in early 1987, although a proposal for renewal had been pending for some time. It was the State of Exception which had brought into effect the provisions of the special counterterrorism law, without which terrorism cases are prosecuted under normal criminal provisions of the penal codes, which are inadequate. Changes to these codes, proposed over a year ago to improve the handling of cases involving violent crime, have not been enacted.
The Salvadoran President’s decision in April denying amnesty to the three FMLN suspects in the 1985 murder of four off-duty US Marine guards remained under appeal to the Supreme Court at yearend. (The 1987 amnesty, designed to promote national unity, was broadly worded in its provisions and led to the release of suspected FMLN members convicted of or pending prosecution for terrorist crimes, as well as convicted death-squad members.)
A number of leftist guerrilla groups—most trained, armed, and logistically supported by Cuba and Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime, and assisted by guerrilla insurgents in El Salvador—were active in Honduras in 1988. There was a perceptible increase in terrorist incidents over the previous year. Salvadoran guerrillas continued to use several refugee camps in Honduras for logistic support and recruitment. These guerrillas were responsible for the politically motivated killings of two Honduran farmers suspected of reporting on their movements to the military.
An investigation has failed to yield the identities of those responsible for a machinegun and grenade attack in July against off-duty US military personnel in which five were injured outside a discotheque. The incident was claimed by the leftwing Popular Liberation Movement-Cinchoneros. Fourteen individuals suspected of having participated in planning the April attack on the US Embassy and burning of the consulate building in Tegucigalpa were subsequently released provisionally from prison at the President’s request. The investigation continues into the December bombing of the US Peace Corps headquarters, which has been claimed by a group calling itself the Patriotic Morazanista Liberation Front—the same group that claimed responsibility for the October killing of an American businessman and longtime resident in Honduras. Origins of this group remain unclear.
Several Hondurans believed to have been engaged in terrorist activities received asylum in Mexico. The Honduran Armed Forces carried out special counter-terrorist sweeps in areas of known subversive activity and monitored the activities of radical organizations. The Armed Forces, which have received training under the US counter-terrorism assistance program, set up a special counter-terrorist corps. Honduras also maintains a system of border inspections intended to interdict the transfer of arms and other logistics to regional terrorist and insurgent organizations.
The US Government strongly criticized Mexico’s decision in 1988 to release Puerto Rican terrorist William Guillermo Morales—jailed for killing a policeman—and deport him to Cuba. In deporting Morales, Mexico rejected a US extradition request, despite the fact that a Mexican court had earlier found Morales extraditable. Morales, a convicted Puerto Rican terrorist, had escaped a prison hospital in 1979 while serving a sentence of more than 100 years on explosive and weapons charges and was implicated in over 50 bombings by a Puerto Rican separatist group in the late 1970s. In its rejection, the Mexican Government stated that the US request charged Morales solely with possession of arms and explosives and not with terrorist activities.
In responding to Mexico’s action, Washington recalled its Ambassador from Mexico City, after which a dialogue at the presidential level was initiated. The United States also expressed anger over the initial Mexican characterization of Morales as a “political fighter.” A senior Mexican official later stated that Mexico did not condone the use of violence for political ends, nor did it endorse the notion that Morales was a “political fighter.”
Despite Mexico’s official policy of nonintervention in the affairs of other nations, the Salvadoran insurgent FMLN and Revolutionary Democratic Front are permitted to maintain offices in Mexico City.
Panama’s geographical position and role as a trade and banking center makes it a crossroads for the travel and transactions of various terrorist and insurgent groups. Some of this activity is facilitated by the Cuban and Nicaraguan Embassies and the Libyan people’s Bureau in Panama City. This activity is transient in nature, not involving direct participation by the Panamanian Government.
Congressional testimony and published accounts, however, implicate some Panamanian officials, including General Noriega, in the shipment of arms to such groups as El Salvador’s FMLN and Colombia’s M-19. The existence of a prior relationship between Noriega and M-19 was, in part, confirmed in July when M-19 asked Noriega to intercede with the Colombian Government regarding the kidnapping of the Conservative Party’s president, Alvaro Gomez Hurtado, whom M-19 held hostage.
Panama in 1988 made concerted efforts, both in private and in public, to improve relations with Libya. It has also taken some small steps toward establishing trading relations with North Korea, and it has also reequipped its army using Cuban help.
In Peru, the number of international terrorist incidents fell for the second year in a row. During 1988, there were 15 international terrorist actions, down from 41 in 1987. Attacks on US interests were also down, from 23 in 1987 to five in 1988. The sharp decline in international terrorist actions is partly because of arrests of SL cell members in Lima. In some cases, these arrests appear to have disrupted planned operations against international targets. Attacks by members of the Marxist-Leninist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)—primarily a Lima-based organization—also were down, particularly in the last six months of 1988. Although the reasons for the decline in MRTA attacks on international targets remain unclear, it is possible that the SL arrests caused the MRTA to be more cautious. The decline in international terrorism does not, however, reflect the true level of terrorist violence in Peru. Domestic terrorism continued to rise—with nearly 2,000 persons killed in 1988, according to Peruvian defense ministry statistics, more than twice as many as in 1987—because of increased SL actions against domestic targets, particularly in rural areas. In addition, a potentially dangerous terrorist situation was averted when police uncovered an ANO cell in Lima.
The major terrorist organizations operating in Peru, with the exception of the rightwing Rodrigo Franco Command, have suffered important losses through arrest by Peruvian security forces. The arrest and conviction of Osman Morote, reputedly the number-two SL leader, was among the more notable cases in 1988. While these arrests crippled the group’s urban activities, its actions in rural Peru increased significantly during the same period. Three of the group’s seven attacks on international targets took place in rural Peru, resulting in the deaths of one American and two Frenchmen. In June, SL guerrillas ambushed and killed an American working as a USAID contract employee on an agricultural project. In December, two French engineers working on a rural assistance project, were publicly executed by SL guerrillas, along with two Peruvians, and there was also an attack on a development project run by the European Economic Community.
The smaller, Cuban-linked MRTA, a group that had focused primarily on attacks against foreign interests, continued to pose a threat. During the first half of 1988, in addition to attacks on several foreign—including US—firms and attacks on two US-Peruvian Bi-National Centers, the group fired three mortar rounds at the residence of the US Ambassador in Lima.
In July, police arrested three suspected members of the ANO in Lima. The three were in possession of documents describing the US and Israeli Embassies and other national and international organizations, indicating that the ANO members may have been planning to target them for terrorist attacks. The ANO members remain under detention in Lima.
In the Peruvian criminal court system, terrorist prosecutions remain the single largest docket item, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all cases brought to trial. Of those, only 20 percent of the defendants are convicted, because of the lack of investigative capacity on the part of the police prosecutors, inadequate or contradictory counter-terrorist statutes, and conflicting jurisdictions over terrorist cases between various government ministries.
In November, however, the Peruvian legislature approved amendments to the existing counter-terrorism statutes. The new bill defines additional criminal acts not prosecutable under the old statutes, including criminal liability for “supporting, approving, or praising terrorist acts.” The legislation also lengthened minimum prison terms for most terrorist convictions.
A state of emergency exists in 43 of the country’s 181 provinces, where the military has the primary anti-subversive responsibility. In all other areas, including the cities of Lima and Callao, which are also under declared states of emergency, the civilian police have exclusive counter-terrorist enforcement responsibilities.
The police investigation of an April grenade attack on the US Embassy did not lead to legal action. In February, Venezuelan Government authorities clandestinely placed Cuban exile and alleged aircraft-bomber Orlando Bosch on a US-bound plane. Bosch, who has been accused of blowing up a Cuban aircraft in 1976 but was exonerated of the charge by a Venezuelan tribunal after having been held in jail for 11 years, was placed in detention following arrival in the United States and faces possible US deportation proceedings.
During the summer, American citizen and suspected Palestinian terrorist Mahmud Ahmed Atta challenged in a New York court his May 1987 extradition from Venezuela as illegal. (In early 1989, a US Court decided to accede to an Israeli extradition request that he stand trial there for a 1986 machinegun and firebomb attack on a bus in which one person died and three were wounded.)
Venezuela established a special security force along the border with Colombia in 1988 to deal with border attacks and kidnappings of Venezuelan ranchers by suspected Colombian guerrillas. The kidnappings have diminished since the unit’s formation and in an incident in June, the force killed three members of the Colombian guerrilla alliance, Simon Bolivar Coordinator.
Europe and North America Overview
In Western Europe, domestic and Middle Eastern groups staged 150 international terrorist attacks in 1988, a slight decrease from 152 in 1987. Western Europe ranked third in the number of attacks worldwide, with 17 percent occurring there. Of these, 18 were against US targets, resulting in 191 deaths and 11 injured, compared to no deaths and 38 wounded in 1987. Pan Am Flight 103 accounted for 189 of the fatalities to US citizens. Thirty of the international incidents resulted from Middle Eastern spillover, 81 were conducted by indigenous groups, and 39 attacks could not be attributed to a specific group. Indigenous groups operating against domestic targets accounted for most of the terrorist attacks, indicating they remain a major problem despite their generally less spectacular nature.
Continued counter-terrorism efforts throughout the region and a sharp decline in Middle Eastern spillover—a result of caution by state sponsors and the apparent decision by some Palestinian groups to focus operations in the Middle East—contributed to another year of little change in the number of incidents in Western Europe. Authorities in Italy, Spain, and France cooperated in several notable successes against indigenous groups, including the arrests of numerous members of groups like ETA and the BR; West German authorities broke up a major network of the PFLP-GC. Attacks associated with the spillover of Middle Eastern violence declined by approximately 30 percent in Western Europe in 1988. In contrast, Greece experienced an increase in terrorist activity in 1988.
In January 1988, Mahamed Salim Elhag was convicted of the assassination attempt in May 1987 that wounded a former Libyan Ambassador to Austria, who had become an opponent of Libyan ruler Qadhafi. Elhag received a 10-year sentence for the attempt. Although the assassin had been supported by the Libyan People’s Bureau in Vienna and had sought refuge there, the Austrian Government took no action to limit or close the bureau after its involvement became known.
The number of international terrorist incidents in Belgium increased from two in 1987 to four in 1988, but no Belgian interests were attacked. Northern Irish terrorists brought their violence to Belgium in August when they killed a British soldier. Unidentified terrorists attacked the ANC office in Brussels twice in 1988, firing shots into the office and placing a bomb outside the building housing the office. In February, several supporters of the French terrorists on trial in Paris briefly occupied the French Press Agency office in Brussels.
Belgium undertook several significant counter-terrorism measures during 1988. In January, it negotiated a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States that provides more expeditious cooperation in areas such as sharing legal and police information, locating suspects and witnesses, confiscating illegal gains, and serving warrants. Awaiting ratification, this treaty, which further reinforces cooperation between the United States and Belgium, follows other bilateral agreements, such as the 1986 treaty dealing with terrorism, and the 1987 extradition treaty.
Belgium has also continued efforts to reach agreement concerning standardized policies on visa controls, information sharing, and extradition matters with neighboring France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and West Germany. It has also agreed in principle with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council’s June 1988 statement that hijacked aircraft, once on the ground, should not be allowed to refuel and take off again for another destination.
In September, four members of the indigenous Euroterrorist group Communist Combatant Cells (CCC) and two members of the Revolutionary Front for Proletarian Action (FRAP), an offshoot of CCC, were tried for various terrorist crimes, including attacks on NATO and US military facilities. The two FRAP members received five-year sentences, and the CCC members were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Belgian authorities began developing a response to the presence of Northern Irish terrorists. Following the fatal attacks by suspected PIRA sympathizers on British soldiers in Belgium and West Germany, Belgian authorities sent forensic experts to West Germany to help in the investigation of the two suspects who had been arrested for the attacks. Belgian police in June arrested suspected PIRA member Patrick Ryan in Brussels for possession of false documents and possible involvement in terrorist activities. The Belgian Government denied a British request for extradition, stating that the British conspiracy charges were excessively vague and did not correspond to statutory offenses under Belgian law. Belgian authorities transported Ryan by military transport to Ireland, a decision that was publicly criticized by the United Kingdom.
Although not the victim of terrorist activities in 1988, Canada sought to strengthen and apply the rule of law in dealing with terrorism through its national and international cooperative efforts. In January, Canada and the United States signed a Joint Declaration on Counter-terrorism, which created a bilateral consultative group for cooperation. This group exchanges information on terrorism, coordinates counter-terrorism exercises and measures for managing transborder incidents, examines areas for joint counter-terrorism research and development, and cooperates on counterterrorism programs for third countries.
As 1988 chair of the Summit Seven Terrorism Experts meetings, Canada contributed to the further study of developments and trends in international terrorism and pushed for more progress in the area of civil aviation security. It joined with the United States in issuing the US/Canadian No-Takeoff Declaration in November, which established guidelines for dealing with hijacked airplanes. Canada cooperated with other countries in developing counter-terrorism measures for the Calgary Winter Olympics in February and for the Toronto economic summit in June.
Canada sought the extradition from the United Kingdom of a former Sikh resident of British Columbia who is accused of planting a bomb in June 1985 on an airliner departing from Canada, which killed two baggage handlers in Tokyo’s Narita Airport. (The extradition request was approved in early 1989 by a British court, although it is under appeal.)
Seventeen-year-old Sikh terrorist Harkirat Singh Bagga was convicted and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment for attempting to murder the Canadian Sikh publisher of a Canada-based Punjabi language newspaper.
A decision by Canadian immigration authorities to deport a previously convicted Palestinian terrorist from Canada is also under appeal. The terrorist, Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammed, had concealed on his Canadian immigration application a conviction in Greece for participation in a 1968 attack on an El Al aircraft at Athens airport in which one person died.
Spillover of terrorism from the Middle East accounted for four of the five international incidents in Cyprus in 1988. Most of the attacks were directed against Palestinians. In February three PLO officials were killed when a bomb exploded in their car, and a ship slated to carry Palestinian deportees to Israel was bombed at its dock in Limassol. Four other Palestinians were killed by a car bomb in Larnaca in September. The ANO is suspected in an attempt to bomb the Israeli Embassy on the island in May, but the bomb exploded away from the Embassy, killing one of the terrorists and two Cypriots. In May, Cyprus was caught up in the hijacking of Kuwait Airways Flight 422 when it landed at Larnaca airport.
There were two successful prosecutions of international terrorists in Cypriot courts. In January two of three suspects in the April 1987 Libyan-supported attack on a British warrant officer and his companion near Limassol were convicted and sentenced to seven and nine years, respectively. In July suspected ANO terrorists Omar Hawillo was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the explosion near the Israeli Embassy in Nicosia.
To find a way to prevent terrorists from coming to Cyprus, the government has been reviewing its visa and immigrations policies. Even so, Palestinian terrorist groups continue to have a presence on Cyprus and regularly transit the island to other destinations, particularly Eastern Europe.
During the Kuwait Airways hijacking incident in April, Cypriot authorities permitted the hijackers to refuel the airplane and leave after five days at Larnaca airport, during which time two hostages were killed. The US Government expressed its belief that the plane should have been kept in Cyprus and regretted the decision to allow it to leave as it probably prolonged the incident.
France experienced a slight increase in international terrorist attacks in 1988 over 1987, 15 compared with 11. Unlike previous years, however, no attacks were directed against US interests. Violence connected to various ethnic conflicts involving Kurdish radicals and opponents of North African immigration accounted for many of the recorded attacks. With the apparent demise of the Action Directe (AD) terrorist group and weakening of French Basque separatists, the Corsican National Liberation Front (FLNC) has become the most active French terrorist organization.
Kurdish radicals were involved in four of the international incidents in 1988. On 4 January, a West German consular employee was found shot to death in Paris. Although police found a leaflet in his coat pocket signed by the National Front for the Liberation of Kurdistan, the group denied responsibility for the murder and there were reports that his murder was a criminal, not a terrorist, attack.
France also experienced a spillover of violence from South Africa during the year. In March, the African National Congress (ANC) representative for France, Switzerland, and Luxembourg was murdered in her Paris office by an unidentified assailant. There was widespread press speculation that South Africa was behind her killing. The following day suspected terrorists from the ANC fired shotguns at the South African Consulate in Marseille. The ANC did not claim responsibility for the attack; graffiti found at the scene implied that the attack was in retaliation for the ANC representative’s murder. Despite an active investigation, no arrests have been made.
Since the arrests of key AD members in 1987 and of all of the known members of the French Basque group Iparretarrak in 1988, operations by French terrorists have reflected more local concerns. Businesses owned by North Africans and hotels used by North African workers in France were the targets of several attacks that indicated a growing discontent with the large number of immigrants from the region. A beer distributor in Toulon, a restaurant in Cannes, and hostels for immigrant workers in Cannes and Nice were bombed. A Romanian citizen was killed and 12 other persons were injured by the bombing in Nice in December. Corsican separatists shifted to the use of more sophisticated and lethal tactics in 1988 in their pursuit for independence from France. In addition to low-level bombings of businesses, government buildings, and non-Corsican French police, the FLNC carried out six attacks against Corsican policemen, wounding five in a single attack with a remotely controlled bomb. The group also expanded its operations to French soil, setting off 10 bombs in Marseille during March and April. The leftist anarchist group Black War claimed four attacks in 1988, including the bombing of the offices of the Paris court bailiff association, which seriously injured two persons. The group has carried out attacks on French businesses, offices of rightwing French groups, and a civilian association that fights terrorism.
Both the center-right Chirac government and the successor Socialist Rocard government have continued the general thrust of a strong counter-terrorism policy established in 1987, and French police scored a number of successes during 1988. Early in the year, police in Corsica arrested Jean-Andre Orsoni, who is believed to be one of the top leaders of the FLNC. The FLNC itself declared a four-month truce in April and indefinitely extended it in October. In February the police arrested Phillipe Bidart, the leader of Iparretarrak, in addition to several other of its members, but others may be hiding in Spain. Authorities have also cracked down on the more powerful and lethal Spanish Basque Fatherland and Liberty Organization (ETA), arresting in February approximately 12 individuals accused of participating in ETA’s logistic support network in southern France. A Paris court on 10 December convicted them of criminal conspiracy to aid and abet the activities of ETA.
Although AD was largely dismantled in 1987, French authorities apprehended several of the group’s supporters in November. In September the police arrested an alleged member of the Italian Red Brigades (BR), Giovanni Alimonti, accused of murdering Italian senator Alberto Rufilli in 1987. Alimonti is awaiting extradition to Italy.
France continues working with other European countries to counter terrorism. French and Spanish border police coordinate efforts to thwart Basque ETA terrorists from using France as a safe-haven, and French security authorities exchange information with their Belgian, West German, Spanish, and British counterparts, among others. France has also hosted a seminar for the chiefs of hostage rescue and special action teams.
The Rocard government, which came to power in May, retained the counter-terrorism judicial structure of the previous Chirac government. These reforms centralized in a specialized section of the Paris Prosecutor’s Office the investigation and prosecution of terrorist crimes, replaced jurors with a panel of professional magistrates for terrorism cases, and increased the amount of time terrorist suspects could be held incommunicado.
The conviction in October in absentia of Colonel Hawari—the head of the terrorist Special Operations Group of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah—was a major international terrorist prosecution in France during 1988. Hawari was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for criminal association and for complicity in transporting arms, ammunition, and explosives. Two other Hawari operatives, including one also sentenced in absentia, were given prison terms. In other trials, a French court in February convicted 19 operatives of AD for criminal association.
The Rocard government altered the handling of ETA suspects who, under the former government, would have been expelled to Spain under an emergency expulsion mechanism, which has been little used before 1986. These expulsions, which numbered nearly 200 over the previous two years, were halted in favor of employing regular judicial procedures to expel or extradite suspected ETA sympathizers to Spain. To demonstrate that it will not tolerate ETA activities emanating from France, authorities have revoked the political refugee status previously held by several ETA suspects, including longtime ETA leader Santi Potros.
The release in early 1988 of three French hostages held in Lebanon had been preceded by the release from a French jail of Mohammed Muhadjer, a Lebanese Hizballah member suspected of participating in the wave of Hizballah-organized bombings in Paris in 1986. Speculation increased that the Chirac government had arranged a “deal” with Iran on the hostages when France resumed diplomatic relations with Iran and repaid a portion of a large loan that had been in contention for a number of years. The French Government denied any deal had been made. The US Government publicly stated it would be sensitive to any action seen as rewarding the taking of hostages. In July the United States expressed concern to France that the Iranian appointed as Ambassador to Paris was believed by the US Government to have been associated with those who held US Embassy personnel hostage in Tehran during the period 1979-81.
Domestic and international terrorist organizations increased their activities in Greece, using more lethal means against a growing number of targets. US officials were particularly at hazard, and one US Embassy officer was assassinated. There were no significant counter-terrorist successes by the Greek Government. In addition, justice ministers twice overturned Greek court decisions to extradite terrorists wanted by Italy.
Domestic groups were responsible for three attacks against US personnel in 1988. In January, the Revolutionary Organization 17 November—the most lethal and anti-American of the Greek terrorist groups and the only major West European group against which there have been no successes—attempted to kill a US Drug Enforcement Administration official in Athens. On 28 June the group carried out a second attack, killing the US defense attaché, Navy Capt. William Nordeen, with a powerful car bomb as he was leaving his home for work. Since it first surfaced in 1975, 17 November has killed three US officials and 10 Greeks. No member of the group has ever been arrested in connection with any of its attacks. In August, 17 November demonstrated its sophistication and daring in a daylight raid of an Athens police station that netted it automatic weapons. The Revolutionary People’s Solidarity, a lesser known organization that had last carried out an attack in 1983, exploded a black-powder bomb in an Athens discotheque in March that wounded five US soldiers, four British citizens, and five Greeks. A caller claimed the attack was intended to show solidarity with the Palestinians and Nicaraguan Sandinistas.
Domestic terrorists also targeted Greek and Turkish interests. The Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) attacked an Athens police station because it alleged the officers were protecting local drug dealers. It also bombed several private and government offices to protest the EEC meetings held in Greece during December. A new group, Social Resistance, expressed disapproval of the Greek Government’s handling of a major financial scandal by bombing offices of the two leading political parties. Also, in protest of the Athens visit of the Turkish Prime Minister, 17 November attacked Turkish interests in 1988 for the first time. On 23 May its bombs destroyed two Turkish diplomatic cars, while bombs under two other cars failed to detonate.
Transnational groups were responsible for six of the nine international incidents in Greece during the year, including one of the “spectacular” terrorist attacks carried out by Middle Eastern terrorists in 1988. On 11 July an undetermined number of terrorists, believed to be ANO members, began firing at passengers and throwing grenades that started fires on The City of Poros day-excursion ship as it was sailing toward its port near Athens. The attack left nine persons from several West European countries dead and nearly 100 wounded, none American. Earlier that day, at the ship’s pier, a bomb exploded prematurely in a parked car, killing the two occupants, who were apparently connected to the ship attack. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the subsequent investigation pointed to the ANO as the attacker. Libya has been linked to the 11 July incidents. For example, a submachinegun recovered from the ship and another from the bomb-damaged car, were purchased by Libya in 1976. According to Greek officials, a known ANO member linked to the attacks used a Libyan passport to enter Greece.
While the Greek Government has issued statements condemning terrorism, it refused in February to extradite an Italian BR terrorist, and, in December, also refused Italy’s extradition request for an ANO member held in Greece in connection with a 1982 attack on a Jewish synagogue in Rome. According to press reports, the ANO terrorist was flown out of the country to Libya. This action by Greece could encourage the ANO to press Greece and other governments to release other jailed ANO prisoners. In both of these extradition cases, the then justice minister cited the supposedly “political” character of the crimes as the basis for overruling the courts. Following the al-Zomar release, the US Secretary of State expressed his sense of disappointment and outrage over the decision. In carrying out the attack on The City of Poros, the ANO may have been attempting to pressure Greece to release three ANO members in Greek jails. In December a Greek court released two suspected members of ELA, who had been detained during an investigation of a terrorist killed in a shootout with Greek police in 1987. Greece remained reluctant to criticize directly other nations that are responsible for terrorist acts.
The government has reportedly increased the resources and priority it assigns to combating terrorism, and Greek ship owners have been in the forefront internationally in proposing and implementing improved security measures on passenger vessels. However, in 1988 there was only one arrest and conviction of a suspected terrorist—that of an Arab with West German citizenship who was found with explosives secreted in his car on an Israeli-bound ferry, and he was sentenced to three years in prison—the detention of another, and no extraditions.
In May 1988 the Greek Government detained terrorist Mohammed Rashid, a member of the PLO’s Hawari Group, wanted in the United States for the 1982 bombing of a Pan American airliner over the Pacific in which a Japanese youth was killed. (Rashid was at the time a member of the anti-PLO 15 May group.) In October an Athens court found Rashid extraditable. At yearend, the case was on appeal before the Greek Supreme Court, with the final decision ultimately resting with the Greek Minister of Justice. The United States considers the Rashid extradition case to be a significant bilateral issue and an important indication of Greece’s commitment in fighting terrorism.
During the second half of 1988, Greece chaired the activities of the Trevi Group, a coordinating body of law enforcement officials of the European Community, and hosted its semiannual ministerial meeting in Rhodes in December. This meeting, which focused on counter-terrorism coordination, was clouded by the al-Zomar release on the eve of the meeting and by a series of bombings by Greek terrorist groups to protest the European Community’s Rhodes Summit.
Although Irish courts dismissed a few British extradition requests for suspected PIRA members on legal technicalities, a number of convicted PIRA terrorists have been extradited to the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in late November criticized both the Irish and Belgian Governments for failing to extradite to Britain suspected PIRA member Patrick Ryan, whom London was attempting to extradite for conspiracy to murder because of his alleged involvement in various bombing plots. In December, Dublin rejected the British extradition request but retains the option to prosecute Ryan in Ireland. A Dublin court in April sentenced members of the O’Hare kidnap gang to prison terms of seven to 40 years. The gang, led by renegade Irish National Liberation Army figure Dessie O’Hare, had kidnapped Belfast dentist John O’Grady.
Incidents of international terrorism in Italy declined from six in 1987 to three in 1988, fewer even than in 1986, which had four. The most significant of the attacks was directed against the USO club in Naples on 14 April. A car bomb exploded outside the club, killing a US Navy enlisted woman and four Italian citizens and wounding 14 others. The Organization of Jihad Brigades—believed to be associated with the JRA—claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack was one of several around the world that probably were intended to protest the bombing of Libya in 1986.
Italy continued to make significant inroads against its primary domestic terrorist threat, the BR. The BR struck once in 1988 before Italian authorities countered with damaging arrests of members of the Fighting Communist Party (PCC) wing of the group, part of a continuing string of successes against the BR since 1987. On 16 April the PCC murdered Christian Democratic Senator Roberto Ruffilli, a close associate of the Italian Prime Minister, in his home. An intensive investigation by the police led, in June and September, to the arrests of 20 PCC terrorists in Milan and Rome, some of whom were accused of killing Ruffilli. These arrests were among approximately 75 made of BR members throughout Europe in 1988, bringing to about 200 the arrests of Italian terrorists in the last two years. Although the arrests probably have disrupted the group’s operations, a communiqué in December from one of the BR cells indicated it is rebuilding.
Italy achieved unprecedented cooperation from some other West European governments in its fight against the BR. Many of the terrorists were arrested in Spain—particularly in the Barcelona area—and France and extradited to Italy. The Greek Government, however, denied the Italian extradition request for an Italian BR terrorist, Maurizio Folini, who was subsequently released from prison following completion of his Greek sentence.
The Italian judiciary continued to maintain a firm line against terrorism in 1988. In March, the court of appeals upheld the convictions on weapons charges of two Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction (LARF) terrorists and sentenced them to an additional three years. Italy’s highest court in May upheld the sentences of the terrorists responsible for the 1985 Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking. An appeals court in November upheld the conviction of the sole surviving ANO terrorist involved in the 1985 Rome airport massacre and the in absentia conviction of Abu Nidal for organizing the attack. In December, Italian authorities, along with other governments including the United States, strongly protested the Greek decision denying the extradition of ANO terrorist Abdel Osama al-Zomar, wanted for the grenade and machinegun attack on a Rome synagogue in 1982. This attack resulted in the death of a two-year-old boy and the wounding of more than 35 others.
In other cases, an Italian court in June sentenced Muhammad Hamdan to 17 years for his role in attempting to place a bomb in front of the Syrian Embassy in London in 1984. In July a court in Bologna sentenced to life four rightwing extremists for their role in the bombing in August 1980 of Bologna’s railroad station, which had killed more than 80 people. In October an Italian court sentenced 26 BR terrorists to life imprisonment for a series of killings, including that of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978. Another 128 BR members and sympathizers received prison sentences ranging from two to 30 years. At the end of the year, a trial was under way for those accused of participation in a neofascist bombing of the Naples-Milan passenger train in 1984.
Italy has actively promoted international cooperation against terrorism in many international forums, including the European Community’s Trevi Group (the Community’s Organization of Interiors, Public Order, and Justice Ministers), the International Maritime Organization, the World Tourism Organization, and the Economic Summit Seven. It has also sought to promote better bilateral cooperation with its neighbors and with the United States and to draw states along the North African littoral, particularly Egypt, into closer cooperation against terrorism and narcotics trafficking. To contain a domestic sectarian terrorist bombing campaign in the Alto Adige region along its northern border with Austria, Italy sought the aid of Austrian authorities, who subsequently arrested several extremists resident in the Austrian Tyrol region believed to have assisted in this terrorist activity.
There were no terrorist attacks in Malta in 1988. The trial of the surviving ANO terrorist in the 1985 Egyptair Flight 648 hijacking, Omar Mohammed Ali Rezak, was held in November. Rezak pled guilty to the hijacking and the willful homicide of one US citizen. He was sentenced to 25 years—the maximum under the law. (An appeal of the term of the sentence was pending at yearend.) The US Government publicly applauded the trial results. Malta has important commercial ties to nearby Libya and hosts a sizable Libyan population, both resident and visitors.
PIRA carried out two attacks against British soldiers in the Netherlands in 1988, accounting for all of the country’s international incidents for the year. On 1 May gunmen killed one soldier and wounded two other soldiers outside a bar near the border with West Germany. Thirty minutes later, outside another nightclub, PIRA detonated a bomb that killed two British airmen and wounded a third. PIRA uses the Netherlands as a staging ground for many of its operations in Western Europe because it can find sanctuary/support among the large number of Irish workers living there. An attack against a NATO officers club in West Germany in 1987 was launched from the Netherlands. The Dutch Government collaborated closely with Britain and West Germany in investigating the incidents and taking measures to prevent future attacks.
The Dutch Government confronted some domestic terrorist problems during the year. It continued efforts to bring to justice members of the radical Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action Group (RARA) who had resorted to acts of violence, including bombings against commercial property, in their effort to force Dutch corporations to stop doing business with South Africa. Eight RARA suspects were arrested in April; one was later convicted while the others were released because of insufficient evidence. (The convicted RARA suspect, however, was released by an appellate court in January 1989 because of a technicality.)
Spain suffered the largest number of terrorist attacks in Western Europe again in 1988 and was fourth highest in the world, with 56 incidents compared with 47 in 1987. Five Spanish Basque and Catalan separatist groups were responsible for the largest share of the international incidents in Spain, with most directed against French business interests. Several of the groups, however, also attacked US interests.
ETA claimed responsibility for most of the international attacks in Spain. The targets and tactics utilized by the group varied; the majority of attacks were bombings and arsons of French car dealerships to protest Paris’s cooperation with Spain’s counter-terrorist efforts against the group. ETA probably was responsible for several incidents in which French-made vehicles were set afire.
ETA maintained its reputation for staging bold operations and causing indiscriminate casualties in its attacks on Spanish targets. It bombed the Civil Guard headquarters in Madrid, killing two persons and wounding 45 passers-by; fired rocket-propelled grenades at a Civil Guard barracks in Llodio; and murdered a retired Spanish Air Force general and several policemen.
Lesser known domestic groups also operate in Spain and carry out attacks against US interests; however, they were less active in 1988. Terra Lliure, for example, scaled back its attacks from six in 1987 to one in 1988 but has continued to target the Spanish Government and police with numerous bombings of office buildings and police barracks. Iraultza, a small anti-NATO group composed of elements from the Basque Communist movement in Spain, targeted a Ford automobile showroom in its one international attack for the year. The Asemblia Izquierda Tudelana, another leftist group opposed to US military presence in Spain, chose a US Air Force vehicle as the target for its one attack in 1988. The Catalan Red Liberation Army may have been responsible for only one attack in 1988, the bombing of the British Consulate in Barcelona. In 1987—when the group first appeared—it was responsible for four bombings, including attacks on the US Consulate and a USO club in Barcelona that killed one US citizen and wounded several Spanish nationals.
The First of October Anti-Fascist Group (GRAPO), which has occasionally attacked US targets in Spain and was seemingly dormant for a few years, appears to be resurfacing as a terrorist threat. GRAPO launched two attacks in 1988, both directed against domestic targets. It assassinated a Spanish businessman and killed one policeman and wounded another in a raid on a government office in Madrid to steal identity cards.
US interests also were the targets for several attacks in Spain during 1988, apparently by transnational groups. On 15 April, a bomb exploded and a second was discovered at a US Air Force communications facility near Humosa. No group claimed responsibility, but the timing on the second anniversary of the US air strikes against Libya in 1986 suggests the possibility of involvement by Libyan sympathizers. West German terrorists were connected to two operations apparently targeted against US citizens. In March, a bomb attached to a moped exploded on a Madrid street corner where US Air Force flight crews catch a bus to the Torrejon Airbase; however, no US citizens were injured. In June, a bomb attached to another moped exploded prematurely while being armed by three terrorists outside a discotheque in Rota that US servicemen frequent. After a short gunfight with a local policeman, the terrorists escaped but left behind evidence indicating that they were members of the West German Red Army Faction terrorist group. The Anti-Imperialist International Brigade (AIIB)—a group connected to the Japanese Red Army—continued to operate in Spain, taking responsibility for a failed attack on the US Embassy on 4 July.
Spain took several steps on the legal front against terrorism in 1988. The United States and Spain are preparing the groundwork for negotiations toward a treaty of mutual legal assistance. The Spanish Government announced in December a $380 million plan to modernize the police, including the strengthening of counter-terrorist programs.
During 1988, Spain repealed its tough counter-terrorism law following a 1987 court ruling that certain sections were unconstitutional. Most of the provisions of that law have since been incorporated into the country’s ordinary penal code. The new provisions permit terrorist suspects to be held up to five days before charges are filed.
Spanish courts continued to mete out strong sentences to convicted ETA terrorists. In March, four ETA members were sentenced to 74 years each in prison on arms and explosives possession charges and for destruction of property. Also in March, an ETA militant was sentenced to 50 years for murder, attempted murder, and other offenses. The Spanish Government rejected in January and November truce offers from ETA.
The Spanish Government has held intermittent talks with ETA in Algeria over the last two years in an attempt to end the violence. These talks were terminated after ETA kidnapped a prominent businessman, and the government has stated that there will be no more contacts so long as the attacks continue. (The businessman was freed, and in January 1989 the Spanish Government resumed talks with ETA in Algeria designed to end the violence without acceding to ETA’s political demands.)
Since 1987, there has been close and effective cooperation between the Spanish and French Governments in the fight against ETA. The close level of cooperation is expected to continue as the new French Government reformulates its policies regarding asylum, extradition, and other activities of foreign political dissidents residing in France.
Switzerland suffered four international terrorist attacks in 1988, compared with one in 1987. Police in Bern defused a bomb discovered on the grounds of the Yugoslav Embassy in March, and, in November, a bomb injured five passersby, including two vacationing US citizens, in downtown Geneva. The bomb exploded outside a building housing an Aeroflot office and two Middle Eastern banks and was claimed by a previously unknown group, the Socialist-Nationalist Front.
In 1988, Switzerland participated in several international counter-terrorist initiatives. It signed two international conventions dealing with counter-terrorism, the Protocol to the Montreal Convention of 1971 for Combating Illegal Acts Directed Against the Safety of Ships at Sea, which it signed in February, and the Convention on Combating Illegal Acts Directed Against the Safety of Ships at Sea, which it signed in March. Switzerland joined with other members of the Council of Europe in establishing an expert’s committee on applying criminal law to terrorist acts and worked to include counter-terrorism language in the final act of the Vienna CSCE meeting.
At the end of 1988, Hussein Ali Muhammad Hariri, the accused hijacker of an Air Afrique aircraft in July 1987, remained in custody pending trial. (In late February 1989, he was given a life sentence.) In November, when a Swiss national of the Red Cross was taken hostage in Lebanon and the abduction appeared to be designed to pressure Switzerland for Hariri’s release, the government publicly declared it would not submit to such pressure.
Swiss legal statutes prevented extradition of one terrorist following the arrest in June of a former member of Italy’s Red Brigades. Switzerland denied a request for his extradition to Italy because the suspect held Swiss citizenship, which, under Swiss law, precluded extradition. The suspect remains in custody while Swiss authorities work with Italian investigative agencies to assemble evidence to try him in Switzerland for the terrorist offenses of which he is accused.
Switzerland’s situation as an international diplomatic, financial, business, and transportation center with relaxed entry controls makes it susceptible to unsanctioned use by terrorist states, groups, and individuals as a base or transit point. Major terrorist groups are able to obtain access to Swiss banking and medical facilities. Switzerland assisted US authorities in their investigation of Japanese Red Army (JRA) member Yu Kikumura, who had been arrested in New Jersey with antipersonnel bombs. In response to a US Government request under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, the Swiss made Kikumura’s banking records available. In April 1988, the Swiss Government was publicly criticized by Swiss media when it became known that Seyed Mohammad Hossein Malaek, whom it had accepted as Iran’s Ambassador in Bern, had been identified as one of the Tehran Embassy hostage-takers during the period 1979-81. The United States expressed its disappointment over this matter to the Swiss.
Twelve international terrorist attacks were staged in Turkey in 1988, a decrease of five from 1987. The Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) was responsible for numerous attacks against Turkish Government officials, police, and soldiers. The group also continued to attack civilian and economic targets, particularly in the villages in southeastern Turkey. Large-scale arrests of radical leftists by Turkish security authorities in 1981 have hindered the activities of domestic groups such as Dev Sol and Dev Yol, but they may be attempting to rebuild. During 1988 the groups engaged in numerous low-level bombings to protest the trials of accused terrorists. Turkish security measures probably also are responsible for the PKK and other Kurdish groups choosing venues elsewhere in Western Europe for their attacks against Turkish interests.
There were a number of counter-terrorism prosecutions in Turkey in 1988, including the Kirikkale munitions plant bombing trial, in which eight individuals were sentenced to 30 years for placing a bomb that killed eight persons. The ANO was involved in this plot, and a Jordanian diplomat originally indicted was released because of diplomatic immunity and returned to Jordan. (The case was thrown out of court on appeal in early 1989.) Two Libyans convicted of attempting to blow up the NATO officers club in Ankara appealed their case. (The appeals court upheld the conviction in early 1989.) At yearend, the trial was continuing for a Hizballah member who had brought 100 kilograms of explosives into Turkey in 1987 to use against interests of the United States and other countries. Going on also was the trial of individuals associated with the group Muslim Brotherhood; they were accused of involvement in importing explosives from Iraq to Syria through Turkey. Two Iranian diplomats accredited to Ankara were expelled, while two other Iranian diplomats not accredited in Turkey plus two other Iranian nationals will go on trial for the attempted kidnapping of an anti-Khomeini activist. (They were tried and sentenced in February 1989.)
Twenty-six persons were arrested in November for an alleged plot to kill a former Ankara martial law commander. A splinter group, the Turkish Communist Party, is implicated in this plot. Investigations continue into the murder in October of a Saudi diplomat in Ankara (Iranian-associated interests are suspected of attacks on this and other Saudi diplomats elsewhere) and into the low-level bombing attempts in Istanbul and the attempt to place a bomb in an American teacher’s car in Izmir.
The United Kingdom was the scene of what is probably the most devastating and deadly terrorist incident of 1988—the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December, which resulted in 270 deaths. This was one of four international attacks that took place in the United Kingdom during the year, compared with four in 1987 and 1986. Ninety-three deaths resulted from the conflict in Northern Ireland, the same as in 1987. More than 40 of these were civilian deaths. PIRA was responsible for a substantial increase in the number of casualties to British Army personnel, both in Northern Ireland and in Western Europe, and to Northern Ireland’s security forces. Thirty-nine soldiers and policemen were killed in 1988, compared with 27 in 1987. PIRA lost 12 of its members to various causes, including clashes with the security forces and premature detonation of bombs. Many of the explosives used by PIRA probably were supplied to the group by Libya.
PIRA appeared to be embarking on a wider campaign against nonofficial British targets at the end of the year, while stating that military personnel would continue to be key targets. Several bombs were detonated in housing areas in Northern Ireland assigned to families of British servicemen on duty there, and a PIRA bomb factory was discovered in London in December.
In 1988, the United Kingdom maintained its longstanding policy of not granting concessions to terrorists. Britain continues to be an active participant in international and regional bodies working against terrorism. There was a close cooperative and consultative relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States on counter-terrorism matters. The United Kingdom continued in 1988 to provide training and other assistance to several countries to improve their capabilities to combat terrorism.
UK authorities are still investigating the poisoning in January of a man of Iraqi origin who died shortly after dining with other Iraqis in London. Before he died, the victim told police that the other Iraqis had poisoned him. The authorities have confirmed that two of the other diners had been sent to Britain by the Iraqi Government and left immediately after the incident.
Sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland have generated a spiral of violence and terrorism by both Protestants and Catholics although most terrorist incidents were perpetrated by PIRA. British authorities worked with their counterparts in West Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium following PIRA attacks on British soldiers in those countries in 1988. Later in the year, German police arrested two suspected PIRA members believed to have been involved in several of these incidents. The United Kingdom also worked closely with Spanish authorities in February in tracking three PIRA members who were planning to detonate a large bomb at a public square in Gibraltar, a British dependent territory. The British thwarted the attack, killing those involved.
In December, the British Parliament approved legislation strengthening existing laws to combat terrorism. It renewed and made permanent the 1984 Prevention of Terrorism Act, gave the government new powers to seize terrorist funds, to combat racketeering as a means of raising terrorist funds, and to prevent the laundering of money intended for terrorist groups. For Northern Ireland only, it reduced the remission of sentences allowed for convicted terrorists from one-half to one-third.
The legislation also renewed the authority of the government to detain suspected terrorists for up to seven days without formal charges or arraignment. Because the European Court of Human Rights had declared this practice illegal in November, Great Britain invoked the provisions of the European convention on human rights, which allow it to cite “special circumstances” and thus maintain the practice.
In February, British police arrested a Sikh wanted in Canada for suspicion of involvement in the 1985 explosion at Japan’s Narita Airport in which two baggage handlers were killed. Canada requested the suspect’s extradition since the bomb-rigged baggage was taken from a flight that had originated from Toronto. A British court ordered his extradition, but that decision is being appealed.
International terrorist attacks increased marginally in 1988 from 1987, with 25 incidents compared with 24, and the number of Middle Eastern spillover incidents increased from three in 1987 to four in 1988. Only two relatively minor incidents were against US targets. The number of domestic terrorist incidents declined by 40 percent, suggesting that West German counter-terrorist efforts have been successful and that there may be ideological disarray among radical West German leftists.
A variety of groups were responsible for the international attacks. Leftwing West German groups carried out six attacks against French official and business interests in order to show solidarity with a hunger strike by AD terrorists on trial in France. PIRA carried out three attacks on British military forces stationed in West Germany. Bombs damaged two barracks, injuring 12 British soldiers and a West German civilian. In the third incident, an alert British serviceman discovered a bomb under his car before it detonated. Kurdish separatists kidnapped a former member of their group, who escaped after being beaten.
Middle Eastern terrorists were responsible for at least four of the attacks in 1988. Islamic fundamentalists or Palestinian radicals may have carried out attacks in Frankfurt against the Jewish Community Center and a Saudia Airlines ticket office in April, and a video store owned by an Iranian businessman was bombed in June. West German authorities developed evidence, after they arrested 14 members of the Damascus-based PFLP-GC in October, that the Palestinian cell may have been responsible for two bombings in West Germany of US military trains en route to West Berlin. Among the armaments seized were an antitank grenade launcher, six submachine guns, explosives, and a bomb triggered by a barometric switch. Although only two of the Palestinians remained in detention at yearend, having been charged with criminal conspiracy and illegal arms possession, the arrests may have prevented a major terrorist incident.
Domestic terrorists focused their energies in 1988 against the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Conference held in West Berlin in September. The RAF failed in its first attack since October 1986, when it attempted to murder a senior Finance Ministry official. The attack, coming one week before the Berlin IMF conference, was probably an attempt to intimidate the participants. Other elements in the RAF that usually follow up such attacks with their own operations failed to do so in this instance, suggesting there may be a rift within the organization. The RAF issued a communiqué after the attack that contained a joint statement with the Red Brigades. The statement indicated that the two groups had forged an ideological alliance, presumably to supplant the relationship with AD that was disrupted in 1987 by the arrests of the AD members. West Germany’s other significant terrorist group, the Revolutionary Cells, apparently continued to suffer from the arrests of some of its members in 1987 and was virtually inactive during 1988.
The trial of Lebanese national Mohammad Hammadi began in July in a heavily guarded Frankfurt courtroom. Hammadi is being tried for air piracy and the murder of US Navy diver Robert Stethem during the June 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 to Beirut. The US Government had requested Hammadi’s extradition, but the West German Government decided to try him instead. A verdict is expected in April 1989. To the extent that Hammadi’s group, Hizballah, has targeted West German interests in Lebanon in the past, it is conceivable that they may target West Germany after the end of the trial. Abbas Hammadi, Mohammad’s brother, was convicted in April in Dusseldorf for complicity in the kidnapping of two German citizens in Lebanon, which he had engineered in an attempt to get his brother released following his arrest. Abbas was sentenced to a 14-year prison term.
Two RAF terrorists were pardoned in 1988 by the Rheinland Palatinate minister-president after having served 16 to 17 years of their life sentences for murder. In announcing the pardons, the minister-president stated that both had renounced their terrorist views. RAF member Eva Haule-Frimpong, formerly on West Germany’s most-wanted list, plus two other RAF members were sentenced to prison terms in June. Haule-Frimpong was sentenced to 15 years for attempting to blow up a NATO school in Oberammergau in 1984 and for membership in the outlawed RAF. her codefendants were sentenced to 10 year and four year prison terms for another bombing attack and for RAF membership.
Police in August arrested two alleged PIRA members whose involvement is suspected in attacks on British soldiers in Belgium and in West Germany. A major effort remains under way to apprehend those involved in the attempted assassination of a Finance Ministry official, Hans Tietmeyer, in September.
Following the release in September of Rudolf Cordes, the last German hostage held in Beirut, the West German Government stated it had made no concession to gain his release.
The Yugoslav Government continues to publicly oppose terrorism and to implement measures aimed at establishing greater controls over the entry and stay of foreigners to prevent the misuse of its territory. It has also evidenced a greater willingness to seriously cooperate with other countries in investigating terrorist incidents. Yugoslavia has generally been more responsive in securing its borders against terrorists, but there still is room for improvement.
Yugoslavia’s geographic position, the large numbers of visiting foreign tourists, and the approximately 15,000 students there from Middle Eastern countries continue to limit the government’s ability to prevent the transit of potential terrorists across its territory. Yugoslavia maintains good relations with countries such as Libya, Iran, and North Korea, which are supporters of international terrorism. The government has denied, as has the United States, the assertion of Libyan ruler Qadhafi, carried in a US newspaper, that notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal was living in Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia, however, continues to appear on the itineraries of suspected, arrested, and convicted terrorists. For example, Mohammed Rashid, a member of the PLO’s Hawari Group, was arrested as he arrived in Greece from Yugoslavia, and a member of the PFLP-GC team rounded up in October in West Germany was arrested at a West German airport after a flight from Yugoslavia. Some of the suspected ANO team that attacked The City of Poros day-excursion ship had also reportedly come from Yugoslavia. On the other hand, we believe that the Yugoslav Government may be prepared to expel terrorists operating in its country. An apparent exception is Khalid Abdel Nasser, whom the Yugoslav press has acknowledged is living in the country. Nasser, the son of former Egyptian President Nasser, is being tried in absentia in Egypt on charges of membership in an organization that engages in terrorism. The organization, Egypt’s Revolution, has conducted terrorist acts, including the targeting of US diplomats.
International terrorism in Asia rose in 1988, up from 170 incidents in 1987, to 194. Sixty-five percent of the incidents occurred in Pakistan. As in 1987, most of the attacks were the work of the state-sponsored Afghan Ministry of State Security (WAD). About 10 percent of Asian incidents occurred in the Republic of Korea. In 1987 we recorded two international incidents in South Korea; however, in 1988 student unrest led to 21, mostly minor, attacks against US interests, including four against the American Cultural Center and one against the US Embassy. International terrorist acts in the Philippines made up 6 percent of the total for Asia and included the kidnapping of an American couple by alleged members of a Muslim separatist splinter group. There were four incidents in India, most notably the bombing of a Citibank office in New Delhi and an armed attack on an Alitalia air crew in Bombay. Separatists in both India and Sri Lanka continued to employ terrorist tactics, but against domestic targets.
Australia was the site of four international incidents, all protesting South Africa’s racial policies and conducted by two Australian citizens. Two of the attacks wee directed at US Embassy officials. A car used by the defense attaché and two belonging to the Embassy’s First Secretary sustained minor burn damage, and a South African diplomat’s car was destroyed by the two Australians.
Australia, a staunch supporter of efforts to end terrorism, encouraged other members of the South Pacific Forum to increase intelligence and police liaison to deter terrorist incidents in the South Pacific.
Four international terrorist incidents took place in India during 1988 compared with two the previous year. In March a watchman discovered grenades and bottles of flammable liquid at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Bombay. Police found no evidence to establish a motive or identify suspects. Later that month, a lone gunman fired shots and hurled grenades at an Alitalia Airlines crew aboard an airport bus and wounded the captain. A previously unknown group, the Organization of Arab Fedayeen Cells, claimed responsibility, but the ANO is believed to have conducted the attack. In April police arrested a Sri Lankan Tamil militant suspected of detonating a powerful bomb at a television relay center in Madura, Tamil Nadu. The explosion killed one person and seriously injured another. In early May, a powerful bomb exploded at a Citibank branch in New Delhi, killing one person and wounding at least 13 others. No group claimed responsibility, but Indian authorities believe a non-Indian group, possibly the JRA using the AIIB cover name, conducted the attack.
Sikh violence rose dramatically in 1988. Sikh extremists in the Punjab were responsible for the deaths of Congress (l) and other political party officials, religious leaders, Hindu villagers, and moderate Sikhs. They also staged attacks in the Punjab’s neighboring states of Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana. In Jammu and Kashmir, Muslim separatists stepped up their campaign of violence that culminated in a series of bomb blasts in late October. The Indian Government claimed Pakistani-trained terrorists operating out of Kashmir were responsible.
Throughout 1988, New Delhi continued to pursue its “law and order” policy as its key response to Sikh terrorism. In November, the Indian Parliament extended President’s Rule in the Punjab through April 1989, leaving all state enforcement authority in the hands of the central government. Indian and Pakistani officials pursued their discussions aimed at controlling terrorism and smuggling along their borders, and the new government in Pakistan pledged closer cooperation with India to control Sikh terrorist activities.
Judicial proceedings are under way against several accused terrorists, while others are detained pending charges. An ANO terrorist believed responsible for the March attack on an Alitalia Airlines crew in Bombay is in Indian custody awaiting trial. In November, Indian courts heard the final appeals of the two convicted assassins of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. (They were executed in January 1989.) The Indian request to the United States to extradite two Sikhs reportedly involved in the 1986 assassination of a retired Indian Army chief of staff is still before the US courts.
Two international terrorist attacks took place in Japan in 1988. In both cases, domestic organizations not known to operate outside Japan were responsible. In early March occupants in a passing car fired a single shot through a window of the Chinese Consulate General in Fukuoka but caused no injuries. Police suspect a rightist group, Mizoshita. In the second attack in late March, a bomb blast shattered the front window of the Saudia Airlines office, located in a building housing a company engaged in construction projects for the new Tokyo international airport at Narita. Police suspect the radical leftist group Chukaku-ha because of the group’s violent opposition to Narita. They believe the airline office was not the intended target.
JRA activists continued to pose a dangerous international terrorist threat during 1988, using cover names such as the Anti-Imperialist International Brigade and the Jihad Brigade. JRA attacks in 1988 included the bombing in April of a USO club in Naples, Italy, and possible involvement in the bombing of a US Air Force communications facility near Humosa, Spain. The JRA also is suspected of participation in the bombing of the Citibank branch in New Delhi in May. The arrest in April of Yu Kikumura by New Jersey authorities may have thwarted a JRA bomb attack in the United States, the first known indication that the JRA could conduct an operation in North America. Kikumura pled guilty to all charges and received a 30-year prison sentence. However, the JRA staged no attacks during the Toronto economic summit in June or the Seoul Olympics in late summer, as feared, possibly because of the arrests of Kikumura and two other important JRA members.
During 1988, the JRA maintained its worldwide operations, including sustaining links to Libya and North Korea. The timing of JRA attacks or intended attacks in 1988 suggested that Libya probably continued to support the JRA. In addition, the JRA, the majority of whose members are located in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, may have reestablished links to the original Japanese Red Army Faction, now based in North Korea. JRA members continued to travel in or through Western and eastern Europe, Southeast and Northeast Asia, and North America to stage operations and maintain links to other terrorist groups. For example, they reportedly have transited Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Greece for travel outside their base in Lebanon. In addition, their travels revealed JRA efforts to establish an international support network through a series of cells, called the Anti-War Democratic Front (ADF). Japanese authorities have identified ADF cells in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Japan.
In the aftermath of the Korean Airlines (KAL) Flight 858 bombing, in which the two North Korean perpetrators used fraudulent Japanese identity documents, the Japanese Government issued a strongly worded public indictment of North Korean complicity and initiated trade and other sanctions against Pyongyang. Both US and Japanese sanctions were partially lifted in late 1988. Japan also cooperated in assuring security for the Seoul Olympic Games.
Japan and Korea closely coordinated their respective security policies for the Olympics as part of this cooperation, Japan provided protection for foreign athletes who trained in Japan before the Seoul Games. Japan also organized an Asian regional conference in June dealing with crime, narcotics, and terrorism, at which it was agreed to step up counter-terrorism cooperation in preparation for the Seoul Olympics.
Japanese authorities were particularly active in developing and implementing a strategy against the JRA, which included discussions with several governments. The year saw a series of successes against the JRA that, including the arrest in 1987 of Osamu Maruoka, resulted in a major—though probably not permanent—setback to the terrorist group. In May, Yasuhiro Shibata, one of the original Yodo-Go hijackers of a JAL aircraft in 1970 who had been living in North Korea, was arrested in Tokyo. In June, Hiroshi Sensui was arrested in the Philippines, where he was probably attempting to establish a JRA network, and extradited to Tokyo. Japanese authorities cooperated with US authorities in the criminal investigation of JRA terrorist Yu Kikumura. Japanese assistance made it possible to positively identify Kikumura and to establish his JRA links.
Reflecting the growing firmness of the Japanese Government’s position on terrorism, the Justice Minister stated in June that, in the event of a terrorist incident, Japan would refuse to comply with terrorist demands.
International terrorist incidents for Pakistan in 1988 held at about the same level as 1987: 127 incidents, compared to 136. As in the past, almost all the attacks appeared attributable to the Soviet-backed WAD. The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), on the border with Afghanistan, continued to be the primary venue for terrorist attacks, with encampments of Afghan refugees and anti-regime fighters the main targets. Pakistani courts have aided the government’s counter-terrorist efforts by sentencing terrorists to lengthy prison sentences. Following a particularly vicious bombing in June in Peshawar that killed 14 people, the Pakistani Government denounced Sovietbacked Afghanistan for training operatives for subversion in its country and gave a UN group based in Islamabad a list of camps in Afghanistan that it alleged were involved.
WAD bombings in 1988 also extended to major population centers outside the NWFP, approximately 1987’s range of terrorist operations to again include Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Quetta. Typically, these attacks took place at transportation terminals with a high potential for casualties, areas frequented by Pakistani civilians and, in some cases, foreigners. Foreigners do not appear to have been the primary targets of the WAD bombings; rather, the attacks probably were meant as a warning to the Government of Pakistan for its support to the Afghan resistance. None of the attacks caused casualties at the level of the 1987 bombing of a crowded Karachi market that claimed 70 lives.
A bombing lull in March probably was intended to influence negotiations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Geneva. Conversely, the resumption of bombings in Islamabad in October, the first significant terrorist operations in the capital in 1988, probably was meant to show displeasure over the continuation of Mujahedin military pressure within Afghanistan after the Soviet agreement to withdraw. Neither of these terrorist campaigns appears to have influenced Pakistani Government policy. As the fortunes of the Kabul regime weaken, the prospects of terrorism from this source will probably decrease.
Mujahedin actions in Afghanistan have been directed against military targets of the Soviet forces and Kabul regime. Although the Mujahedin groups have attempted to avoid civilian casualties, their rocket attacks this year against military installations in major Afghan cities have resulted in a large number of civilian deaths and injuries.
As in 1987, there were a few attacks attributable to Iranians or local Shia supporters of the Khomeini regime. The principal targets of the attacks were domestic opponents of the Shias and representatives of governments deemed hostile to Iran. In one such possible instance, the Saudia Airlines office in Karachi was blown up without loss of life in April.
The five ANO terrorists responsible for the Pan Am hijacking in Karachi in September 1986 were convicted in July and sentenced to death. The hijacking attempt left more than 20 persons dead, including two US citizens. The five terrorists were tried and convicted by a special court constituted by the federal government in 1987. Four of the hijackers were also given 10 consecutive life sentences for the murder of the passengers. The death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment as part of Prime Minister Bhutto’s December judicial relief order.
The Pakistani Government participates in the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, most recently in a training program dealing with interdepartmental coordination, organization, and training. Other Western governments also provide counter-terrorism training to Pakistan.
In the Philippines, the number of international terrorist attacks for the year declined by about 40 percent from 1987, with 12 incidents noted. Attacks against US targets also declined, and no American casualties were incurred. The threat to US personnel, nevertheless, remains high as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) New People’s Army (NPA) “sparrow” assassination units continue to monitor the activities of US officials.
The general reluctance of terrorist teams to attack Americans over the past year can be ascribed to a range of possible underlying motives, but their abeyance may be a result of high-level CPP/NPA directives. The negative public reaction to the killing of US servicemen outside Clark Airbase in 1987 may have dissuaded the NPA from repeating such seemingly indiscriminate “hits” and led to concentrating on finding more politically justifiable targets. Alternatively, party leaders may have assessed that the time was not yet right to open an active anti-American front. Successes in 1988 by the Philippine Government’s counter-insurgency program—such as the arrest of numerous highly placed Communist figures—may also have heightened operational caution. The hardening of US military facilities and the protective measures taken by US personnel in view of the high threat are additional factors impeding terrorist action.
International terrorism in the Philippines in 1988 tended to be intertwined with financial motives, as was the case with attacks against multinational corporations—probably for nonpayment of protection money to guerrillas.
Some terrorist attacks that took place in 1988, nevertheless, suggest that reprisals were being taken against foreign nationals perceived to be involved in counter-insurgency activities, a pattern that probably will persist. An Australian national was killed, probably by NPA guerrillas, because he was believed to be assisting the Philippine military. A small bomb was set off in the building housing the Israeli Embassy—with minimal damage—by suspected NPA agents after the organization had publicly denounced Israel for aiding the government’s counterinsurgency program.
The Philippine Government took a number of practical measures in 1988 to deal with terrorism spawned by the Communist insurgency, including stepped-up raids of suspected safe houses. It augmented its security forces in Manila, with increases in personnel, vehicles, and radios. The authorities also arrested a considerable number of Communist leaders during the year. Despite the authorities’ success in capturing NPA leader Romulo Kinntanar in March, he escaped from prison eight months later. Criminal charges were filed against several soldiers in connection with the prison escape.
In June, authorities arrested JRA leader Hiroshi Sensui and deported him to Japan. It is believed that Sensui was setting up a terrorist base in Manila. A Philippine immigrations official later stated that JRA members were using Manila as a “transit point” while awaiting orders for terrorist attacks.
Members of radical student and dissident organizations perpetrated 21, mostly low-level, attacks against US interests in South Korea; in 1987 two such events were recorded. Demonstrations culminating in firebomb attacks on US military and diplomatic facilities—with four incidents at the American Cultural Center in Seoul—caused minimal damage and no US casualties.
South Korean concern about international terrorism heightened considerably in anticipation of the September 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, especially after the November 1987 destruction of KAL Flight 858 by North Korean agents. That act of state-sponsored terrorism stimulated a debate on North Korean terrorism in the UN Security Council in February, and South Korea successfully moved a condemnatory resolution in the ICAO.
The security of the Olympics, in large part, was the result of protective measures carried out by the Korean Government, in cooperation with other governments and countries such as Japan that provided logistic and transportation support for the Games. Another important factor undoubtedly was the pressure on North Korea from both the Soviet Union and China to let the Olympics—in which they participated—proceed without incident. South Korean officials periodically met with their counterparts in the United States and other countries to discuss practical cooperation to prevent terrorist incidents before and during the Olympics.
South Korea co-hosted with the United States an Asia-Pacific Regional Aviation Security Conference in June that included representatives from eight nations, the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA) and ICAO. The conference promoted cooperation between the airlines and airport authorities and planned for aviation security during the Olympics.
At yearend, government authorities initiated prosecution of Kim Hyon Hui, the confessed North Korean agent responsible for the KAL Flight 858 destruction. Press reports suggest that after a trial, Kim may be pardoned for her cooperation in exposing North Korean culpability. Although South Korea has a longstanding policy of lenient treatment for North Korean agents who renounce their previous activities and allegiances, the country’s responsibilities under the terms of the Montreal Convention obligate it to prosecute Kim.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is believed to have been responsible for the only international terrorist incident to occur in Sri Lanka in 1988. In August, LTTE guerrillas reportedly killed an Indian Red Cross official and his driver and wounded another official when their jeep blew up in a landmine explosion.
The level of violence rose in Sri Lanka during 1988 despite continued efforts to quell LTTE insurgents and to control the resurgence of Sinhalese extremism. Despite numerous sweeps that resulted in the capture of many Tamil insurgents and their weapons, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) has been unable to suppress the militants completely. While the IPKF directed operations against the LTTE, Sri Lankan security forces attempted to control the spread of Sinhalese violence in the south. The major radical Sinhalese group, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, or People’s Liberation Front), encouraged by Sinhalese resentment over the presence of Indian troops in Sri Lanka, escalated its antigovernment, anti-accord campaign of violence in 1988. Despite government efforts to address JVP grievances and bring the JVP into the political mainstream, JVP members attacked ruling United National party and other political party meetings, assassinated politicians, attacked military posts and police stations, called strikes and curfews, and attempted to disrupt elections by attacking voters.
The Sri Lankan Government enacted laws in 1988 giving its security forces broad new powers to combat the JVP. In addition, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations remained if effect throughout 1988.
Several court cases in Sri Lanka were in process during 1988 that stem from two ongoing insurgencies. Charges against four accused suspects in the August 1987 grenade attack in Parliament were expected to be filed at yearend. Two persons died in that attack. The court case against three Tamils accused of the May 1986 bombing of an Air Lanka plane continued in 1988. Twenty-eight persons died in that bombing.
Large numbers of suspected Tamil militants were unconditionally released in 1988 in a program begun in 1987 following the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. A total of nearly 4,000 such suspects, previously held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations, have been released.
All members (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives) ratified the convention of the South Asian Association on Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on suppression of terrorism in 1988. This convention categorizes offenses under the 1970 Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civilian Aviation, and the 1973 New York Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons as Acts of Terrorism. The SAARC convention provides for extradition among member states and recommends cooperation against terrorism through such measures as consultations, intelligence, and other exchanges.
The Taipei district court in October sentenced two hijackers to three and one-half years in prison on air piracy charges, even though the public prosecutor in the case had recommended suspended sentences. The two defectors from the People’s Republic of China, claiming to be “freedom seekers,” had hijacked a civilian airliner in May to Taiwan using a toy gun and fake explosives. Immediately following the hijacking, the US Government publicly urged Taiwan to live up to its international obligations by ensuring that the hijackers were brought to justice. The two were convicted in October and sentenced to three years in prison, although in December the district prosecutor filed an appeal for leniency in the High Court.
The Kuwait Airways flight hijacked in April en route to Kuwait originally departed from Bangkok International Airport. The hijackers may have received logistic support from the Iranian Embassy in Bangkok, possibly with the assistance of a local criminal organization comprised primarily of non-Thais. Separate investigations by three Thai government agencies could not determine whether or how the hijackers were able to bring weapons on board the aircraft. It is possible, however, that because of the lateness of the hour, a thorough secondary inspection of passengers and hand-carried luggage had not taken place before boarding.
The Royal Thai Government cooperates informally with several countries on international counter-terrorism matters and has held discussions with the United States on counterterrorism assistance.
Sub-Saharan Africa continued to trail other regions in total numbers of international terrorist incidents, but experienced an increase from 30 for 1987, to 52 in 1988. The increase came largely from a fivefold acceleration of cross-border raids on Zimbabwean villages by the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (RENAMO). Armed attacks and kidnappings rose proportionately because of the increase in RENAMO raids. Most other international attacks were committed by local insurgents, as in previous years. When involved, Europeans—aid workers or missionaries—tended to be targets of opportunity caught up in insurgent operations. There were no American deaths as a result of international terrorism but five injuries.
Suspected South African Government agents continued bombing attacks against ANC facilities in countries bordering South Africa. South African attacks may well have extended outside the region; an assassination attempt occurred in February against an ANC representative in Brussels, and in March, the ANC representative in Paris was killed by an unidentified assailant.
Benin-based Libyan diplomats have used the country in the past as a staging area for subversive and terrorist operations in West Africa. After the disclosure of a Libyan-sponsored terrorist operation in February uncovered in Dakar, Senegal, the Government of Benin initiated steps to limit Libyan activities. In June, the Libyan Ambassador, who has been implicated in the Dakar incident, abruptly left Cotonou.
Steps taken by the Benin Government to control Libyan movement into and out of the country included stricter visa controls. Benin also clamped down on Libyan activities at the capital’s airport following reports that Libyan diplomats had used their status to gain access to the tarmac and other restricted areas. The authorities also monitored the activities of a commercial company in Cotonou that had reportedly been used to store Libyan weapons and explosives. In conjunction with the clampdown on Libyan activities, the government reassessed its counter-terrorism capabilities and has since sought Western counter-terrorism training and assistance.
Djiboutian authorities in 1988 continued their investigation of the previous year’s bombing of the Café L’Historil, in which 11 persons were killed, including five French soldiers. An indictment against the self-confessed terrorist, now imprisoned in Djibouti, is expected.
A Hizballah arms cache discovered in August in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan pointedly reminded West African security officials that their countries continue to attract the interest of Middle Eastern terrorists. Although the target of the group that was to have used the cache remains unknown, the incident demonstrates Hizballah’s abiding interest in developing an overseas infrastructure to support future terrorist operations.
During the papal visit in September, a splinter group of the outlawed Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) crossed the border and seized a busload of pilgrims who were traveling to Maseru for the papal visit. After 36 hours, the hostage drama ended when Lesotho and South African security forces stormed the bus, during which three of the four hijackers and three pilgrims were killed. A fourth hijacker later died of wounds received during the assault. Following that incident, Lesotho formally requested US hostage negotiation training.
In 1988, Mozambique continued to suffer from domestic attacks conducted by RENAMO insurgents. International programs remained RENAMO targets of opportunity, with Italian agricultural projects coming under attack in two instances. Virtually all incidents involved looting. Despite assistance by troops from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Malawi, the Government of Mozambique has made few inroads toward neutralizing the RENAMO threat.
The Mozambican Government claims that support for RENAMO comes from South Africa. The US Government has maintained there is a pattern of support and communication between South Africa and RENAMO. In 1988, however, the Nkomati Peace Accords—signed in 1984 between South Africa and Mozambique pledging to end assistance to RENAMO and the ANC—were formally reactivated after a summit between South African President Botha and Mozambican President Chissano. The two countries established a joint security commission to investigate violations of the Nkomati accords.
South African concern about the ANC presence in Mozambique has led to raids against alleged ANC targets in the Maputo area. In April, Albie Sachs, a human rights lawyer and ANC member, was crippled by a bomb planted in his private automobile. South African complicity in this attack is suspect.
Two known Libyan terrorists along with a Senegalese national were arrested on 20 February 1988 at Dakar Airport for possession of weapons and explosives. The two Libyans had come from Cotonou, Benin. Following a detention of four months, the Senegalese Government released the Libyans without trial, citing lack of evidence. The United States, both publicly and through official channels, expressed its extreme disappointment at Senegal’s release of the terrorists, and stated that the action raised “questions about the country’s commitment to the struggle against international terrorism.”
Despite this setback, Senegal continued to upgrade security at its ports of entry. Fifteen Senegalese security personnel received counter-terrorism training in the United States under a State Department-Federal Aviation Agency program. The Senegalese also maintain a close relationship with French counter-terrorism and security agencies, receiving training and participating in regular information exchanges.
The struggle against apartheid, although largely nonviolent, has generated a cycle of violent repression by the government and violent resistance by the black opposition, which has resulted in some acts of terrorism. The leadership of the ANC, while disavowing a strategy of deliberately targeting civilians, has not punished any of its members for violating this publicly stated policy. The US Government has strongly counseled the ANC against further acts of violence of this nature. The increasing implantation of minilimpet mines in crowded urban settings where high casualties must be anticipated, however, suggests a possible shift in tactics or, perhaps, an inability of the ANC to exert central control.
The South African Government has attacked ANC facilities in neighboring countries, such as the March commando raid in Gaborone, Botswana, in which four persons were killed. Some of these countries have also accused South Africa of launching terrorist attacks, such as the car bombing in early January outside a house used by the ANC in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in which two persons died and three were injured, and at least two bombings in Zambia directed against the ANC, which has its headquarters in Lusaka.
Despite denials, South African involvement is widely suspected in the murder of ANC Paris representative Dulcie September in March, and the assassination attempt on ANC member Albie Sachs by car bomb in Maputo in April. The US Government has expressed serious and repeated concern to the South African Government about the incidents of cross-border violence.
In the South African court system, opposition activists are frequently charged with terrorism rather than political offenses. According to the South African Human Rights Commission, the courts in the first nine months of 1988 passed judgment on 60 people for “terrorism,” convicting 34. In the widely publicized Delmas treason trial in November, eight opposition activists wee charged with and convicted of “terrorism.”
In October, the Khartoum high court found guilty and sentenced to death the five terrorists accused of the 15 May machinegun and explosives attacks at the Acropole Hotel and the Sudan Club, in which eight persons died and more than 20—including three Americans—were wounded. The terrorists, who had confessed to being ANO members, are appealing the sentences.
A Sudanese Government statement in July implicated an Iraqi diplomat in the assassination of Iraqi Shia opposition leader Mahdi Al-Hakim, who was killed in a hotel lobby in Khartoum while attending an Islamic political party conference in January. The investigation of the assassination ended when the Iraqi diplomat departed from the country after a Sudanese request that his diplomatic immunity be lifted for questioning was denied.
As external political headquarters of the ANC, Zambia continues to be a venue of South African reprisals. Two instances in 1988 of bombings directed against the ANC were the likely work of South African agents. A facility associated with the South-West African People’s Organization also was bombed by unidentified agents. The past year was also marked by an upsurge in RENAMO attacks in Zambia similar to those conducted into Zimbabwe.
Almost all international terrorist incidents reported in 1988 for Zimbabwe involved cross-border REMANO incursions from Mozambique. Killings of civilians during these raids appear indiscriminate and on the increase, up from 37 in 1987 to at least 55 in 1988. Typically, RENAMO raids were made against remote villages by armed guerrilla groups of fewer than 20 persons. Villagers routinely were kidnapped to act as porters for carrying off booty. Attacks were primarily to punish Harare for its support of the Chissano regime and to acquire food and supplies.
In a downturn from last year, local dissidents were responsible for only one attack against foreigners in which one missionary was killed.
Six alleged South African agents, accused of participating in a string of bombing attacks against suspected ANC targets in Harare and Bulawayo, were charged before Zimbabwean courts in 1988. In July one of the defendants was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison. Three others were convicted in November and sentenced to death, although the sentences are being appealed. Two others await trial. The south African Government has charged that the ANC launches attacks from Zimbabwe, but the Zimbabwean Government counters that it has made concerted efforts to control ANC activity within its borders.
A Mozambican accused of being a RENAMO terrorist was convicted in November for murder, armed robbery, and possession of arms, stemming from an attack in April 1987. This was the first trial in Zimbabwean courts of an alleged RENAMO terrorist.
Domestic dissident violence and civilian attacks in Matabeleland effectively ended after the amnesty was declared in April by the Zimbabwean Government and the unity agreement reached between two opposing political groups. More than 100 dissidents previously involved in violent activity—including the rebel leader involved in the November 1987 massacre of white missionaries—turned themselves in during the period of the amnesty.