Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.
The Year in Review
The number of international terrorist incidents rose in 1991 as a result of the Persian Gulf war, when terrorists in many regions of the world attacked targets belonging to the international coalition opposed to Saddam Hussein. Most of these were minor incidents, resulting only in property damage. War-related attacks brought the total number of international terrorist incidents in 1991 to 557, up from 456 in 1990. Fully half of the incidents in 1991 occurred during January and February, while Operation Desert Storm was under way. After the war, however, the number of terrorist incidents dropped sharply and actually fell below 1990 levels.
Several events in 1991 revealed the threat and extent of state-sponsored terrorism, particularly as practiced by Iraq, Libya, and Iran.
In the months following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Iraq issued repeated exhortations to terrorists to strike at coalition targets worldwide. Terrorists of many stripes embraced Saddam Hussein and publicly vowed to launch attacks in the event of war. During Operation Desert Storm, we recorded 275 terrorist incidents. Most of these attacks, however, were sporadic, uncoordinated, and low-level incidents. Only a small percentage resulted in deaths, significant injuries or property damage. The Iraqi Government was directly involved in several incidents, but the threatened massive wave of Middle Eastern terrorism that Saddam promised did not materialize; the numerous terrorist groups that had sworn allegiance to Saddam failed to act.
After an extensive investigation of worldwide scope, US and British authorities developed evidence that conclusively linked Libya to the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. On 14 November 1991 both governments issued indictments for two Libyan agents, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, charged with carrying out the bombing. In addition, French authorities issued warrants for four Libyan agents in connection with the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772 that killed 171 people, including seven Americans.
Nine long-held Western hostages were freed from captivity in Lebanon last year, including six Americans, and the remains of William F. Buckley and Col. William R. Higgins were recovered and returned to the United States. The hostages, including the two who died while in captivity, had been held by elements of the Iranian-supported terrorist group Hizballah, which receives substantial amounts of financing, training, and political direction from Tehran. The release of the hostages was achieved largely through the efforts of UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and his special envoy Giandomenico Picco. The releases apparently reflected a belief held by both the Government of Iran and the hostage holders themselves that the continued detention of the hostages served no purpose. The United States made no concessions to gain the hostages’ release.
At year’s end, two German hostages, Thomas Kemptner and Heinrich Surubig, remained captive in Lebanon. We continue to call for the immediate, safe, and unconditional release of all persons held outside the legal system in the region as well as an accounting of all those who may have died while in captivity.
During 1991 Iran continued to build closer ties to Palestinian terrorist groups and Islamic militant organizations. Iran has used conferences like “Intifadah and the Islamic World”—held in Iran during the period 19-22 October—to maintain contact with numerous terrorist groups. Subsequent to this conference, some such groups issued threats to participants in the Middle East peace talks.
Iran also continued its practice of assassinating dissidents; Iranian agents are the prime suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris last August, and the French Government has issued an international arrest warrant for an Iranian official suspected of supporting the operation.
Seven Americans died during 1991 in terrorist attacks:
- On 2 January in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) downed a US helicopter carrying three US military advisers who were en route to Honduras. Two of them, Lt. Col. David Pickett and crew chief PFC Earnest Dawson, were brutally executed after surviving the crash. The third, CWO Daniel Scott, died of injuries suffered in the shootdown. (The incident is considered terrorism because the three advisers provided administrative/logistic support from Honduras to US military personnel assigned to El Salvador and were thus noncombatants.)
- The Turkish terrorist group Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left or Dev Sol) murdered two Americans last year. On 7 February in Adana, Bobbie Eugene Mozelle, an American contract employee of the Department of Defense, was shot as he left his apartment on the way to his car. On 22 March in Istanbul, another American contract employee of the Department of Defense, John Gandy, was murdered when three gunmen entered his office, separated him from the other employees, and shot him in the head.
- On 12 March in Glyfada, Greece, US Air Force Sgt. Ronald Odell Stewart was killed by a bomb explosion outside his residence. The Greek terrorist group 17 November was responsible.
- US S. Sgt. Victor D. Marvick was killed in a car bombing in Ankara, Turkey on 28 October. The Turkish-based Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Attacks against US targets increased sharply in 1991 because of the Persian Gulf war (308 last year [versus] 193 in 1990.) The United States was a target in 55 percent of attacks last year as compared with 42 percent in 1990. Most of these attacks were low-level bombings that caused few casualties and little damage. US businesses such as banks and restaurants were most frequently targeted. Anti-US attacks in Western Europe numbered 93 last year, up sharply from 17 in 1990; most of these occurred in Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Numerous anti-US attacks also occurred in Peru and Colombia.
Terrorism decreased sharply in Asia (47 last year [versus] 92 in 1990) and in Africa (3 last year [versus] 53 the previous year).
There were far fewer terrorist casualties in 1991. Eighty-seven people died, as compared with 200 in 1990, and 233 were wounded, as compared with 677 in 1990.
There were only three international terrorist incidents in Africa in 1991, strikingly fewer than the 53 reported in 1990. This is largely explained by the partial or complete settlement of several insurgencies that had produced high levels of terrorism and domestic unrest. A successful peace accord was reached in Angola, negotiations moved forward in Mozambique, and the Marxist Ethiopian Government was over-thrown. The number of incidents in several other countries was down considerably, though the total collapse of the Somali and Liberian Governments leaves the long-term status of those nations in doubt. Negotiations on a transition to majority rule in South Africa were accompanied by a continued high level of violence, particularly among competing black groups, but with rightwing white groups presenting a growing threat of violence. The most disturbing development was the apparent presence in Sudan of many different international terrorist organizations, with the tacit support of the National Islamic Front-dominated government.
In the past year Sudan has enhanced its relations with international terrorist groups, including the Abu Nidal organization (ANO). Sudan has maintained ties to state sponsors of terrorism such as Libya and Iraq and has improved its relations with Iran. The National Islamic Front (NIF), under the leadership of Hassan al-Turabi, has intensified its domination of the government of Sudanese President General Bashir and has been the main advocate of closer relations with radical groups and their sponsors. The NIF has organized its own militia, the People’s Defense Force, modeled after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Sudan was one of the few states to support Iraq in he Persian Gulf war. Ties to Libya and Iran also were maintained, as evidenced by the visit to Sudan last June by Colonel Qadhafi and the visit last December by Iranian President Rafsanjani to Khartoum.
Terrorist and militant Moslem groups also have increased their presence in Sudan. The government reportedly has allowed terrorist groups to train on its territory and has offered Sudan as a sanctuary to terrorist organizations. In October, the government of Tunisia recalled its Ambassador from Khartoum to protest Sudanese renewal of a diplomatic passport for the leader of Tunisia’s An Nahda party, a group that Tunisia considers a terrorist organization. Sudan also played host to members of radical groups, such as the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), and allowed them to hold public meetings in Sudan.
There was one probable act of international terrorism in Zimbabwe in 1991. A bomb exploded at the Sheraton Hotel in Harare on 20 July, causing extensive damage to one floor and slightly injuring several people. The following day a previously unknown group, the Red Friday Liberation Movement, claimed responsibility, but the government’s investigation has not determined who planted the bomb or their motives.
During the Persian Gulf war, Zimbabwe assigned additional security personnel to Western embassies, including the American Embassy. Two Iraqis suspected of plotting a terrorist operation against the US Embassy were deported in January 1991.
The number of international terrorist incidents in Asia decreased from 92 incidents in 1990 to 47 in 1991, partly because of the Philippine Government successes against the Communist New People’s Army. The death toll from attacks by Sikh, Kashmiri, Assamese, and other militant groups in India continued to rise, with foreigners increasingly targeted or caught in the crossfire. Sri Lankan terrorists carried out several fatal attacks in the capital of Colombo and elsewhere and are believed responsible for the assassination of Congress-I party leader Rajiv Gandhi in India. There was an increased number of attacks against Western aid workers and moderate Afghans in northwestern Pakistan attributed to militant Afghan fundamentalist groups. Also, Iraqi terrorists and their surrogates attempted or planned attacks in several Asian countries, none of which resulted in serious injuries or death to any but the terrorists themselves.
Four international acts of terrorism occurred in Afghanistan in 1991, all directed at Western humanitarian organizations operating in the midst of civil strife. In January, a commander affiliated with the Afghan resistance group Hezb-I Islami kidnapped and briefly held four International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers. On 6 August, a Swiss employee of the ICRC was kidnapped by a member of an unidentified faction of the Afghan resistance about 60 kilometers north of Kabul; he was released 12 days later. Two Americans working for a British aid organization were seized by Afghan insurgents on 7 July in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan; one was released in October and the other in December. A French national working on a US AID project in Zabol province was kidnapped on 4 July and released on 16 July.
The level of indigenous terrorism was high throughout 1991, as Punjabi, Kashmiri, and Assamese separatists conducted attacks in a bid to win independence for their states. Violence related to separatist movements claimed at least 5,500 lives in Punjab and over 1,500 lives in Kashmir.
The separatists regularly assassinated civil servants, political candidates, and presumed government informers. Last spring in the Punjab, Sikh terrorists killed 23 candidates running for state and national office. Sikh terrorists also carried out random attacks and bombings, which included massacres of people aboard trains and busses. In Assam, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) was responsible for a spate of terrorist operations, particularly kidnappings. One such kidnapping targeted a Soviet technician, who was killed, as were several Indian kidnap victims. Kashmiri militants routinely planted bombs in and around bridges and communications targets and extorted money from local businessmen. They also kidnapped relatives of prominent officials and several foreigners.
Separatists also have stepped up attacks against journalists. In January, Sikh extremists declared war on the press in Punjab and forced reporters to stop calling them terrorists. Newsmen critical of Sikh terrorist tactics received death threats. Kashmiri groups also assassinated journalists, including the editor of the Urdu daily Al-Safa in April.
Although Assamese and Kashmiri terrorists limited their operations to their respective states. Sikh terrorists expanded their operations outside Punjab. In late January, Sikh terrorists bombed a movie theater in New Delhi injuring six people. Sikh extremists probably also were responsible for a bombing in New Delhi in late April that killed three people and wounded eight. In mid-October, a Sikh bomb killed at least 55 people and wounded 125 others at a Hindu festival in Uttar Pradesh, near the Nepalese border. In late August, four members of the Khalistan Liberation Front unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate the Indian Ambassador to Romania in Bucharest; Romanian antiterrorist experts killed one person and captured the other three. This was the first Sikh terrorist operation outside India since 1987. Separatists also conducted a spate of kidnappings of foreigners in a bid to attract international attention to their cause:
- On 31 March in western Kashmir, the Muslim Janbaz Force (MJF) kidnapped two Swedish engineers working at a hydroelectric project. The MJF had pledged o hold the pair until the United Nations or Amnesty International investigated alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir. On 5 July, however, the engineers escaped when they were left unguarded.
- On 26 June an obscure Kashmiri group, Pasdaran-I Inquilab-e-Islam, kidnapped seven Israelis and a Dutch woman who were visiting Kashmir. The Dutch national was freed shortly after captured. One of the Israelis was killed and two others injured when the Israeli prisoners jumped the kidnappers. One Israeli who did not escape was freed in early July.
- On 1 July, the ULFA seized a Russian mining engineer and 14 Indian nationals; the Russian later was killed as were several of the Indians.
- On 9 October Sikh terrorists kidnapped he Romanian Charge in New Delhi shortly after he left his home for work. The Khalistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility and demanded the release of three imprisoned Sikh terrorists. The diplomat was released on 26 November without the conditions being met.
- On 14 October the Kashmiri separatist group Al-Fateh kidnapped a French engineer in Kashmir. He was freed in early 1992.
The Sri Lankan separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is believed responsible for the 21 May assassination of Congress-I party president Rajiv Gandhi in southern India. Seventeen others also died in the bombing, which occurred while Gandhi was campaigning. The terrorist detonated explosives strapped to her waist as she approached and greeted Gandhi. The attack may have been conducted to avenge Gandhi’s decision in 1987, when he was Prime Minister, to dispatch more than 50,000 troops to Sri Lanka to quell the Tamil separatist campaign. Numerous LTTE members suspected of involvement in the operation have committed suicide to avoid capture by Indian authorities.
Iraqi terrorists or their surrogates probably were responsible for the bombing of the American Airlines Travel Agency, and Indian-owned agent of American Airlines, in New Delhi on 16 January. The blast caused extensive damage but no casualties. New Delhi plans to either extradite or prosecute two Burmese students who hijacked a Thai airliner to Calcutta in 1991; however, the Communist-led state government in West Bengal says the pair are “freedom fighters” and is resisting New Delhi’s efforts. India also has cracked down on LTTE elements in southern India following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
Westerners and moderate Afghans in northwestern Pakistan, particularly Peshawar, have increasingly become the targets of terrorist attacks. Although the sponsors of these attacks are not known, radical Afghan fundamentalist groups are suspected:
- On 24 February, a bomb blast in Peshawar at the office of the Swedish Relief Committee—a private voluntary organization (PVO) involved in cross-border work in Afghanistan—seriously injured an Afghan-Australian national who later died from the wounds.
- On 13 August, an Afghan-American USAID contractor was wounded in a shooting attack in Peshawar.
- On 30 October, an Afghan working for an Austrian PVO in Peshawar was shot and wounded.
- On 25 November, the Afghan director of the English language program of the International Rescue Committee, and American private voluntary agency, was shot and killed by unidentified assailants.
There were also numerous bombings in Pakistan’s major cities throughout the year. The Pakistani Government frequently attributed these attacks and other acts of violence to the intelligence services of India and Afghanistan. The United States is unable, however, to determine if the incidents were carried out by terrorists or criminals, or if there was external involvement.
Several terrorist attacks related to the Persian Gulf war and probably organized by Iraq or Iraqi sympathizers occurred in Pakistan in 1991. In January, gunmen fired at the Saudia Airlines office in Karachi, shattering windows but causing no casualties. In February a bomb exploded as it was thrown over the wall of the residence of the Saudi Consul General in Karachi, injuring a security guard. Later in the month a British-sponsored humanitarian organization in Peshawar was bombed.
During the Persian Gulf war, Pakistani authorities actively sought to counter possible terrorist threats. At least one Iraqi diplomat was declared persona non grata and two other Iraqis were arrested and expelled for their questionable activities. Pakistan has also cooperated with the US investigation of an additional suspect in the 1986 hijacking of Pan American flight 73.
There were continuing credible reports throughout 1991 of official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups engaged in terrorism in Indian-controlled Kashmir, as well as support to Sikh militant groups engaged in terrorism in Indian Punjab. This support allegedly includes provision of weapons and training.
The Philippine Government made major strides in its counterterrorist efforts in 1991, arresting over 80 middle- and high-level members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, he New People’s Army (NPA). Those arrested include Romulo Kintanar, chief of the NPA’s General Command, and most of the other members of the General Command. The government also successfully prosecuted two NPA operatives for the murder of US Army Col. James Rowe in April 1989. Both were sentenced in February to life imprisonment.
Primarily because of the arrests, the Communists were able to conduct only sporadic terrorist operations. The only attack against US interests occurred early in the year on 31 January, when the NPA planted bombs at the Voice of America (VOA) transmitter in Tinang; the devices were successfully disarmed. Communists in northern Luzon, however, continue to hold an American, Arvey Drown, who was kidnapped there in October 1990. They demanded the suspension of Philippine Government military operations in the region and the release of captured NPA members.
CPP leader Jose Maria Sison continues to reside in exile in the Netherlands. We believe that he is involved in raising money for his movement, mostly from sympathetic European leftist groups.
Philippine authorities aggressively worked against terrorists during the Persian Gulf war, particularly Iraqis who planned to conduct operations against Western targets in Manila. On 19 January, a bomb exploded close to the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center in Manila, killing the man carrying the device—an Iraqi national—and seriously injuring his partner, also an Iraqi. Following the attempted bombing, the Consul General of the Iraqi Embassy was expelled. Manila also rejected the credentials of an arriving Iraqi diplomat and forced him to depart. Two Iraqi students were also expelled.
One act of international terrorism ended in Singapore in 1991. On 26 March, four Pakistanis claiming to be members of the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) hijacked a Singapore Airlines flight shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpir, Malaysia and demanded the release of several people reportedly imprisoned in Pakistan. The PPP denied any involvement in the operation. The plane landed in Singapore, and local counterterrorist forces stormed the plane after six hours of negotiations proved futile. The hijackers were killed; all passengers and crew were unharmed.
Although the separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield in 1991, it continued to pose a terrorist threat.
In March 1991, the LTTE returned to urban terrorism with the car-bomb assassination of Deputy Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne in Colombo. Scores of innocent bystanders were killed or injured. A second car-bomb attack in June devastated the government’s Military Operations Headquarters, again taking many civilian lives. Interrogation of LTTE suspects reportedly revealed that future targets included government figures and major public utilities.
In India, a Madras court indicted the leader of the LTTE and his intelligence chief in connection with the 21 May assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Seventeen others also died in this bombing, which occurred while Gandhi was campaigning. Numerous LTTE suspects tracked by Indian police committed suicide to avoid capture.
The LTTE also continued to assassinate rival Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka and India. In rural areas, the Tigers massacred hundreds of Sinhalese and Muslim villagers to drive them from areas deemed part of a “Tamil Homeland.”
Western European Overview
1991 saw a marked resurgence of European leftwing terrorist groups, especially through attacks during the Persian Gulf war. Four Americans were killed in terrorist attacks in Europe this year—three were victims of indigenous leftist groups—as compared with none in 1990.
A particular concern was a surge in terrorist attacks against US, Western, and other interests in Greece and Turkey in 1991 by indigenous groups. The deadly 17 November organization carried out several bombing attacks in Greece and assassinated a US serviceman during the first quarter of 1991. In Turkey, the Turkish Revolutionary Left (Dev Sol) and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) were both involved in terrorist activities such as assassinations, bombings, and kidnap-pings. Two Americans died in such attacks. A third American was killed in a fundamentalist-related murder.
Looking to the future, Western Europe may experience a growth in rightwing terrorism as European integration progresses and international migration into Europe increases.
In January 1991, Belgium won the release of the last four Belgian hostages held by the Abu Nidal organization (ANO). However, the revelation that ANO spokesman and negotiator Walid Khaled, as part of the hostage settlement, had traveled to Brussels on the eve of the Persian Gulf war generated an intense domestic political reaction resulting in the reassignment for three senior aides to the Belgian Foreign Minister. According to several news reports, in exchange for the hostages who had been seized from the Silco yacht in 1987, Belgium also expelled convicted ANO terrorist Said Nasser after he had served his required minimum sentence, agreed to contribute more than $5 million in aid to Palestinian refugees, and provided two scholarships in Belgium to Palestinians.
During the Persian Gulf war itself, Belgium expelled seven Iraqi diplomats and increased security around foreign missions. There were no terrorist incidents in Belgium directly related to the Persian Gulf war.
Brussels was the scene of several incidents perpetrated by Turkish expatriates in 1991. To protest raids in Turkey against their organization, Dev Sol terrorists firebombed a Turkish bank and airlines office in July. Radical Kurds attacked a Turkish airlines office in August and a Turkish bank in December. In an unrelated development, the Belgian Parliament in March passed a motion calling for Turkey to grant full cultural and political rights for Kurds.
Three Irish suspects, who were arrested in an Antwerp safehouse in December 1990, were convicted of conspiracy against the British Government and possession of weapons and false papers in April. They were sentenced to one-(suspended), two-, and three-year terms. At least one of the three is suspected of being a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). In another case, Belgium requested the extradition from the Netherlands, expected in 1992, of Irishman Peter McNally, suspected of being a member of a PIRA splinter group and involved in the wounding in 1989 of an Antwerp policeman.
Several apparent political killings in Belgium that occurred before 1991 (Jewish leader Joseph Wybrand, Muslim Imam Abdullah al-Ahdal, Canadian “supergun” inventor Gerard Bull, and ethnic Albanian leader Enver Hadri) remained unsolved.
While international terrorist incidents were relatively few in France, in 1991 French authorities played a significant role in calling to account state sponsors of terrorism.
At the beginning of the Persian Gulf war in January 1991, France expelled 14 Iraqi diplomats and Embassy employees and 18 others suspected of planning terrorism or sabotage. This followed an earlier expulsion in September 1990 when France expelled 11 officials from the Iraqi Embassy in Paris after Iraqi soldiers sacked the French defense attache’s house in Kuwait. The government also implemented an ambitious antiterrorist plan during the Gulf crisis which provided augmented security for potential targets. There were only a few relatively minor bombings in France related to the war.
In August former Iranian Prime Minister Shapur Bakhtiar and his personal secretary were brutally murdered in Paris in an apparent act of state-sponsored terrorism. Four Iranians were arrested in France and Switzerland in connection with the assassination. In October, a French investigating magistrate issued an international arrest warrant for Hussein Sheikhattar, a high-ranking Iranian official, for his alleged role in the crime. The French investigation led also to the arrests in Turkey of several Iranians and Turks thought to be connected to the case. Both President Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Dumas postponed planned trips to Iran because of publicity linking the Iranian government to the murders.
The same French investigating magistrate also brought formal charges in October 1991 against four Libyan officials, including Colonel Qadhafi’s brother-in-law, for the terrorist bombing in September 1989 of a French UTA airliner over Niger that killed 171 passengers and crew. He also issued material witness warrants for two other high-ranking Libyan officials.
The French Government joined the United States and Britain, which had issued indictments against two Libyan officials for the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am Flight 103, in formally pressing Libya to renounce terrorism and cooperate with the investigations. The case against Libya for these two terrorist attacks effectively stalled an upturn in Franco-Libyan relations.
Basque terrorism continued to create problems in France. Within France itself, Basque terrorism in 1991 resulted in a score of property bombings aimed at developers (real estate offices and Spanish bank branches) and public buildings, all claimed by the French Basque organization Iparretarrak (IK). More than a dozen IK members, including its presumed leader, were sentenced to prison terms in 1991 for criminal associations. Some of them still face charges for murder and attempted murder of police officers.
Cooperation with Spain resulted in important setbacks for ETA Basque separatists operating out of France. During 1991 there were several Franco-Spanish ministerial meetings and summits where bilateral coordination against Basque terrorists was discussed. Many, if not most, ETA terrorists are thought to be French nationals or hiding in France. French authorities arrested nearly 40 of them in 1991—about half of them in December—including several recognized ETA cadres.
One Spanish ETA member was given a 17-year sentence in June after his trial in France. A Portuguese member of the Antiterrorist Liberation Group (GAL), a clandestine rightwing Spanish organization that hunted down suspected Basque terrorists in France during the 1980s, was sentenced to 15 years in France.
Various factions of the separatist Corsican National Liberation Front accounted for the plurality of terrorist attacks in France in 1991, mainly bombings of governmental and economic targets in Corsica and the French mainland. Corsican terrorism continued despite increased autonomy accorded the island in late 1990; in May 1991 the French Constitutional Council reversed a provision of the autonomy legislation that recognized a distinct Corsican people. At least some of the violence on Corsica may actually be another manifestation of organized crime.
Four IRA gunrunners were tried in 1991. Their vessel, the Eksund, and its cargo of Libyan guns and explosives had been seized by the French in 1987. The four were sentenced by the French court to prison terms of five to seven years. The ship’s captain, who had fled to Ireland in 1990, was sentenced in absentia in March 1991 to seven years.
Germany experienced few incidents of international terrorism in 1991, and its prosecution of numerous international terrorist suspects continued. Rapid political evolution in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as the continued assimilation of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), contributed to a significant increase in rightwing extremism and violence, especially against immigrants. German leftwing radical elements pursued their traditional anticapitalist and anti-imperialist agenda.
In its first lethal attack in more than a year, the radical leftist Red Army Faction (RAF) killed Detlev Rohwedder in his Dusseldorf home in April 1991. Rohwedder was the head of the government agency responsible for privatizing or closing thousands of state-owned companies in the former GDR and symbolized for the RAF the spread of capitalism to the former Communist states. In June, a Berlin housing official was killed by a letter bomb, possibly by pro-RAF militants protesting the elimination of cheap public housing in the united city.
To protest the Persian Gulf war, the RAF strafed the American Embassy in Bonn with approximately 250 rounds of automatic rifle fire in February. Only minor property damage resulted. Militants associated with the RAF and other left-wing radical groups, such as the Revolutionary Cells, mounted 10 other attacks during the war, such as firebombings against stores in Frankfurt and IBM and Coca-Cola targets in Freiburg. In March, a NATO pipeline was blown up by the Revolutionary Cells in yet another protest against the war.
None of the current generation of the RAF commando echelon has been captured. German authorities, however, did prosecute several RAF commandos, all but one of whom were arrested in 1990 after hiding for nearly 10 years in the GDR. In 1991, five were sentenced to prison terms and three were charged for terrorist crimes committed between 1977 and 1981. A renewed campaign by RAF prisoners to press authorities to collocate themselves generated relatively little outside support, possibly indicating weaker coordination and commitment among RAF prisoners, militants, and supporters.
Evidence linking the former East German secret police, or Stasi, to currently active members of the Red Army Faction did not emerge in 1991. Arrest warrants were issued in March for several former Stasi officers familiar with previous RAF activities.
There were no attacks by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) against British military targets in Germany in 1991. Several PIRA suspects were, however, extradited to Germany from the Netherlands in July and October to stand trial for anti-British attacks carried out there in the late 1980s. Two other suspected PIRA operatives were acquitted in Dusseldorf of an attempted bombing in 1988 of British army barracks in Duisburg; however, they will be tried on other charges.
Trials continued in 1991 for nearly 20 alleged members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) on charges ranging from membership in a terrorist organization to murder. Turkish, including Kurdish, radicals remained active in Germany in support of terrorist organizations operating in Turkey. Several were arrested when demonstrations against Turkish diplomatic or consular posts in Germany turned violent. Turkish airlines and bank offices in Germany were frequent targets of firebombings and violent protests as well. Ten German tourists were abducted by the PKK in Turkey for a week in August.
Two German relief workers were the final remaining Western hostages held in Lebanon at the end of 1991. For their release, the abductors demanded clemency for two Hizballah members jailed in Germany: Mohamed Ali Hamadi, the hijacker of a TWA flight in 1985 who is serving a life sentence for murder, and his brother Abbas Hamadi who was sentenced to 13 years by a German court for related crimes. The German Government has refused to make such concessions to the hostage takers.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) members Hafiz Dalkamoni and Abdel Fattah Ghadanfar were sentenced in June to 15 and 12 years respectively, by a German court for attempted murder in failed attacks against US military duty trains in 1987 and 1988. Dalkamoni’s trial for manslaughter in the death of a German bomb-disposal technician also began in 1991. The bomb technician was killed while examining a bomb prepared for use by the PFLP-GC in its planned campaign in the fall of 1988 against civil aviation. That campaign was thwarted by arrests made by German authorities in October 1988. Charges against Daher Faour, a suspect in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle disco in Berlin, were dropped for lack of evidence.
Germany expelled nearly 30 Iraqi diplomats, including all those assigned to the Berlin office, as part of a European campaign to deny Iraq the opportunity to foment terrorist attacks against Western targets during the Persian Gulf war.
Greece experienced 29 international terrorist incidents in 1991, compared with four in 1990. All but one of these were committed by Greek terrorists.
Four terrorist attacks resulted in fatalities. In March, the Revolutionary Organization 17 November killed a US Air Force sergeant with a remote-controlled bomb. In April, a bomb intended for use against the British Consulate in Patras exploded prematurely, killing the Palestinian bomb handler and six Greek bystanders. The perpetrators in both cases were believed to be targeting symbols of the allied coalition in the Persian Gulf war. In October, 17 November killed a Turkish diplomat to protest Turkey’s Cypriot policies; the same group killed a policeman in November.
These fatal attacks drew on three themes repeated in numerous other, nonfatal incidents. First, as a result of the Persian Gulf war there were more than a dozen terrorist attacks in Greece. Most were bomb or rocket attacks against material targets such as American and British corporate interests. 17 November alone committed seven of these in January. Similar attacks were mounted by the tandem of Revolutionary People’s Struggle (ELA) and the 1 May group during the Persian Gulf war.
A second theme is inspired by strong nationalist/Hellenist and anti-Turkish sentiments over Cyprus. 17 November’s shooting of the Turkish diplomat in October was preceded in July by a car-bomb attack that nearly killed the Turkish Charge in Athens. The latter occurred just before President Bush’s visits to Greece and Turkey, during which the Cyprus issue was discussed. ELA and 1 May joined with 17 November at that time to exhort Turkish terrorist organizations in their attacks against the Turkish Government. 17 November even linked its killing of the US airman to Turkish “occupation” of northern Cyprus. The visit of four Greek members of Parliament to a Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) training camp in Lebanon was seen as an expression of anti-Turkish solidarity with the Kurdish terrorist group.
Most of the terrorist attacks in Greece in 1991 drew on the third theme: the government’s economic austerity program. Greek terrorist organizations attacked the government for its policy of reducing the size of the public sector to conform with EC standards, viewed as endangering jobs. One policeman lost his life in such an attack by 17 November, and five policemen were injured in June by an ELA/1 May bomb intended for them. Targets of the anti-EC campaign in 1991 included private European corporations—such as Siemns, Lowenbrau, and Ciment Francrais—which were portrayed as exploiting Greece’s economically troubled public sector.
The Greek Government sought to increase counterterrorist cooperation with the United States and requested increased training and other assistance n 1991. During the Persian Gulf war, the Greek Government expelled several potential terrorists and supporters, including a number of Iraqi diplomats, and mounted an effective campaign to protect possible targets in Athens. In the wake of the fatal bombing in Patras after the war, 25 Palestinians were expelled including six PLO representatives. Five Palestinians were indicted for that bombing and are awaiting trial.
Greek authorities in March arrested Abdelrahim Khaled, wanted in Italy for the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking. Italy’s extradition request has been approved, but Khaled will first serve a lengthy jail sentence in Greece for narcotics trafficking crimes committed there. The trial of Palestinian Mohammad Rashid, accused in the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am aircraft, began in Athens in October and resulted in a conviction and lengthy jail term in early 1992.
Under provisions of the new antiterrorist legislation, the government invoked a ban on he publication of communiqués issued by terrorist organizations and prosecuted newspaper editors who defied the ban.
Irish authorities continued to work closely with Britain’s counterterrorist efforts. For Example, in April they uncovered a cache of PIRA guns and ammunition supplied by Libya and hidden in a farm north of Dublin. In July an Irish court sentenced Adrian Hopkins to eight years (of which five were suspended) after he pleaded guilty to running 150 tons of Libyan weapons and explosives for the PIRA as captain of the Eksund. Hopkins had fled to Ireland in 1990 from France where his vessel was seized in 1987. Caches of Libyan-supplied Semtex explosives, presumably hidden by PIRA in Ireland, have not been found, hoverer. Irish police did intercept a massive truck bomb in County Donegal on 8 July as it headed for the Ulster border. PIRA assembled its largest known vehicle bomb ever—nearly 4 tons of fertilizer and Semtex—in Ireland but abandoned it when it bogged down in a wet field in September.
International terrorist incidents increased in Italy from only one in 1990 to 32 in 1991. Most of these were attributed to the Spanish Basque separatist group ETA that, for the first time, attacked more than a dozen Spanish targets in Rome, Milan, and Florence. Some of the other incidents were because of Italy’s participation in the coalition forces during the Persian Gulf war. In July an Iranian-inspired knifing wounded the Italian translator of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in Milan.
To protest the Persian Gulf war, at least five firebombings in January occurred at a Pan Am office, a Ford dealership, a Coca-Cola warehouse, a British school, and an international bookstore. War-related vandalism was directed against a US-affiliated bank and vehicles owned by US Air Force personnel. Italian Autonomous Workers radicals may have been responsible for at least some of the firebomb attacks. There were no deaths or injuries as a result of these.
Like other European countries, Italy ordered home many diplomats and staff of the Iraqi Embassy and expelled other potential saboteurs and terrorists during the Persian Gulf war.
At the outset of the war, Italian authorities at the Rome airport arrested Khalid Duhan al-Jawary, who is wanted in the United States for attempted bombings of Israeli targets in New York City in 1973. A final decision on a US request for his extradition will be made in 1992.
Italy has definitively emerged from the difficult period (1976-84) during which domestic terrorism was prevalent. Nevertheless, President Cossiga had to abandon his proposal to pardon Renato Curcio, the founder of the Red Brigades, to symbolize that transition following the domestic protest it provoked.
Clemency and liberal parole were, moreover, invoked for several other incarcerated foreign terrorists in 1991. In January, two Palestinians who played supporting roles in the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro and were close o completing their terms, left Italy because of a blanket clemency act which reduced most sentences by two years. A juvenile participant in that hijacking, Bassam Al Ashker, serving a 17-year sentence, was accorded conditional freedom in June.
Greece gave final approval in December to Italy’s request for the extradition of Abdelrahim Khaled, arrested in March, who was already convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison by a Genoa court for his role in the Achille Lauro affair.
The trial and appeal of four PIRA suspects concluded in July 1991. All were acquitted in the 1990 murder of two Australian tourists, mistaken for off-duty British soldiers, in Roermond.
The Netherlands, like other West European countries, was the scene of violence by expatriate Turks. Dev Sol members or sympathizers are believed responsible for the firebombing in July of a Turkish bank and travel agency in Amsterdam. Turks rioted at a Turkish Consulate in July, and Turkish Kurds claimed responsibility for an August attack on a Turkish bank in The Hague.
There were no terrorist incidents in the Netherlands directly attributed to the Gulf crisis. Several Iraqi diplomats were expelled after the war began. The investigation into the murder of a Dutch diplomat in Tunisia in February 1991 remained inconclusive.
In November, the extremist Radical Anti-Racist Action (RARA) group set off powerful bombs at the Interior Ministry and at the house of a junior justice minister to protest Dutch political asylum policy. This was apparently RARA’s first attack since the late 1980s when its arson attacks, especially against Shell Oil, were intended to protest apartheid in South Africa.
Former Soviet Union
With the progressive dissolution of the Soviet Union, Soviet authorities were largely preoccupied with internal dynamics in 1991. Consequently, there was uncertainty about institutional responsibility for counterterrorism, particularly with the paring of the KGB. Nevertheless, Soviet authorities continued bilateral consultations with Western countries on terrorism, their concern sharpened by a perception of increased vulnerability to domestic political instability.
Political violence in certain areas of the former Soviet Union continued at a high level in 1991. Interethnic civil strife intensified between Armenians and Azerbaijanis as central authority weakened in the Caucausus. In April, a Soviet colonel responsible for logistics in the Caucausus was assassinated in Rostov, Russia. Soviet authorities subsequently arrested several Armenians in connection with the attack. Nearly 50 civilians were killed in attacks on trains and a bus in the Caucausus between May and August. A train proceeding through the Nakhichevan autonomous region of Azerbaijan en route to Armenia was hijacked in September; no casualties were reported. Several press reports describe an attempted bombing in Kiev’s only synagogue in December by unknown assailants using grenades and artillery shells. A black market of military weapons is growing with the further demobilization of many former Soviet military personnel, and this may contribute to the arsenals of dissident groups.
Incidents of airplane hijackings in the former Soviet Union decreased, however, from about 30 attempts in 1990 to about 10 in 1991. One notable hijacking, to Turkey in November, was a political gesture prompted by Russian President Yeltsin’s attempt to impose a state of emergency in the Checheno-Ingushetia Autonomous Republic. The Chechen president threatened Russia with terrorist retaliation, including attacks on atomic power stations.
In 1991 the Soviet Union maintained its relations with most state sponsors of terrorism—Syria, Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Cuba—although at lower levels. However, its military and economic dealings with these countries were increasingly commercialized. (Iraq was the exception; Soviet dealings with that country were governed by the various UN Security Council sanctions adopted in 1990 and 1991.) Economic and budgetary constraints, as well as the overall preoccupation with domestic matters, added impetus to the reevaluation, begun in the mid-1980s, of these ties. The announced intent to withdraw the Soviet brigade in Cuba and to sharply reduce arms deliveries to that country were perhaps the most dramatic evidence of this trend in 1991. With the final breakup of the USSR, the newly independent states exhibited little support for the former regime’s alliances with state sponsors. In October, Russian President Yel’tsin outlined an agenda for Russia strictly commercial relations with former client states, including Syria, Iran, and Cuba.
International terrorist incidents in Spain decreased to 10 in 1991 from 28 in 1990. Domestic terrorism in Spain, however, increased last year, in terms of the number of incidents and casualties. The Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) separatist terrorist organization accounted for the vast majority of these, resulting in 45 fatalities, as opposed to 25 the previous year. As in the past, most victims were members of the Civil Guard, National Police, military, and their families. The group appeared particularly intent on demonstrating its continued capabilities as Spain prepared to host the Barcelona Olympics, a World’s Fair, and several other major international events in 1992.
One of Spain’s smaller terrorist organizations, the Catalonian separatist group Terra Lliure (Free Land), renounced the use of violence. The First of October Anti-Fascist Group (GRAPO), a Marxist and anti-US organization, mounted only one confirmed attack and had two of its members arrested in 1991. More than 20 GRAPO prisoners officially ended an ineffective hunger strike in February. Iraultza, an anti-US Marxist Basque group, attempted three small bombings in March and April, but three of its members were killed in a premature explosion. A Galician separatist group was responsible for the destruction of about 10 high-tension towers; about 10 of its members, however, including the EGPGC leader, were arrested. A suspected EGPGC safehouse was discovered in Sao Martinho do Porto, Portugal.
The government directed most of its counterterrorism efforts against ETA with considerable effectiveness. Raids in Catalonia and the Basque provinces resulted in more than 40 arrests and six ETA members killed. Approximately 40 ETA members, both Spanish and French, were arrested in France in 1991, the result of increased cooperation between French and Spanish authorities. The autonomous Basque police, Ertzaintza, accounted for one ETA member killed and one arrested. The government’s success may have obliged ETA to strike less professionally at softer targets, accounting for the increase in civilian casualties. Seven children of police officials were killed by ETA bombs during the year, five in one explosion in May at a Civil Guard apartment building near Barcelona, which killed a total of nine and wounded more than 50.
ETA chose many material targets associated with Spain’s tourist industry in 1991. As in previous years, ETA mounted a summer campaign designed to disrupt railroad travel in Spain. ETA issued an exceptional warning to travel agencies in Europe to alert tourists to the hazards of travel to Spain. Spanish consulates, beach resorts, banks, travel agencies, airline ticket offices, tour buses, and educational institutes were targeted more than a dozen times in Italy and three times in Germany from May to August. These were ETA’s first attacks in Italy and Germany.
During 1991 Spain had very limited success in winning extradition of ETA suspects from abroad. Only a few low-level members were extradited from France, with Mexico and the Dominican Republic demurring.
Henri Parot, a prominent French Basque member of ETA’s Itinerant Command who was arrested in Seville in 1990 was given an additional extended sentence in 1991 for six murders.
Two members of a Spanish rightwing terrorist organization known as GAL were tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 1991 for attempted murder. GAL killed more than a score of suspected ETA members and supporters in France during the 1980s.
In October, the Swedish Security Police arrested a suspected Palestinian terrorist for his alleged involvement in the 1971 murder in Cairo of the Jordanian Prime Minister. The suspect had been living in a refugee camp in southern Sweden. Jordan’s request for extradition was turned over to Swedish judicial authorities for review.
An amended Terrorist Act became effective 1 July. The new act strengthens the ability of the Security Police and the courts to expel suspected foreign terrorists. It also eliminated the municipal arrest provision under which foreign terrorists who could not be expelled from Sweden were required to limit their movements to their local community absent specific permission for broader travel. Such individuals will, however, still be required to report regularly to local authorities and may be subject to surveillance.
A neo-Nazi group demanding the release of two supporters incarcerated for bank robbery claimed responsibility for the 20 December bombing of a pizzeria outside Stockholm, threatening more incidents if its demands were not met. Another bomb, possibly planted by neo-Nazi extremists, exploded in Stockholm’s main train station on 30 December, injuring a police officer. The bombing sparked a series of bomb threats in Stockholm and other cities.
The number of international terrorist incidents in Turkey rose from 12 in 1990 to 75 in 1991, the highest number for any country. Propelling much of this dramatic rise was the renewed emphasis placed on US targets by the leftist Turkish terrorist organization Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left or Dev Sol).
Many of Dev Sol’s anti-US targets—some 30 property bombings during the first quarter of 1991 alone—were part of a larger protest against Turkey’s strategic role in the international coalition against Iraq. During that time Dev Sol also killed two American civilian Defense Department contractors: Bobbie Eugene Mozelle in Adana in February and John Gandy in Istanbul in March. Dev Sol gunmen also seriously wounded an active US military officer in Izmir in February. In August, Dev Sol also assassinated a British businessman in Istanbul.
Since its reemergence in 1989, Dev Sol has focused most of its lethal attacks against the Turkish security establishment. In 1991, the organization killed nearly 30 policemen in Istanbul, including the deputy police chief. Dev Sol also killed four active or retired general officers. The Turkish Peasants’ and Workers’ Liberation Army (TIKKO), another leftist terrorist organization, is suspected in the deaths of five Istanbul policemen in 1991.
The Turkish Government responded vigorously against Dev Sol. In April, new antiterrorism legislation was enacted providing, among other things, for longer sentences for terrorists and restrictions on the publication of terrorists’ statements. Police raids in July in Istanbul and Ankara killed a dozen Dev Sol members and resulted in many arrests. These raids apparently preempted several anti-US and antigovernment attacks the organization had been planning for President Bush’s visit to Turkey later that month.
Despite government efforts, Dev Sol proved resilient because of its relatively large number of adherents in Turkey, thought to be more than 1,000 and the discipline of its core operatives. Dev Sol also reportedly tried to intimidate police, prison guards, and members of the judiciary. Sympathizers within Turkey’s large expatriate community in Western Europe raise funds and provide other logistic support for Dev Sol. A Dev Sol training camp in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon has also been useful as an offshore haven and for upgrading Dev Sol’s paramilitary skills.
A third American, US S. Sgt. Victor D. Marvick, was killed in Ankara in October 1991 in a car bombing claimed by an Islamic Jihad cell in Turkey to protest the Middle East peace conference in Madrid. The terrorists, thought to be supported by Iran, also seriously wounded an Egyptian diplomat the same day.
Despite the significant increase in the activity of Dev Sol, the preoccupying security concern for the Turkish Government in 1991 was the continuing separatist insurgency of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which accounted for over 900 deaths in the predominantly Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey. The plight of Kurdish refugees from Iraq after the Persian Gulf war heightened the world’s awareness of Kurds in general while creating an uncertain security situation in northern Iraq. The PKK exploited this circumstance to step up its military operations in the Kurdish region of southeast Turkey. From camps in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, as well as inside Turkey, the PKK mobilized large units against Turkish military and police outposts. Lethal attacks against civilians, ranging from women and children to a provincial subgovernor in 1991, diminished beginning in April in an apparent effort to increase PKK support among ordinary Kurds. PKK gunmen struck for the first time, however, at mainly military targets outside the southeast region, killing four and wounding more than a dozen in Adana, Istanbul, and Izmir. Turkish incursions against PKK camps in northern Iraq contributed to the military escalation in southeast Turkey.
Another departure for the PKK in 1991 was the taking of Western hostages. Propagandizing its jurisdiction over a self-proclaimed Turkish Kurdistan, the PKK kidnapped 10 German tourists in August; shortly after their release, the PKK seized a team of Biblical archeologists—three Americans and an Australian—and a British tourist, releasing them unharmed after three weeks.
Like Dev Sol, the PKK also has members and supporters among the expatriate Turkish community in Western Europe, some of whom, in the case of PKK, raise funds by drug trafficking.
There were no incidents of international terrorism in the United Kingdom in 1991. Sectarian violence in Northern Ireland increased, however, though still short of levels seen in the 1970s. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) again extended its terrorist campaign to the British mainland but was largely quiescent on the European Continent. Loyalist or Unionist paramilitary commandos in Northern Ireland significantly increased their attacks against Catholics in Ulster and mounted several terrorist operations in Ireland.
In 1991, 94 people lost their lives in the sectarian “troubles” in Northern Ireland, as compared with 76 in 1990 and some 60 in 1989. The increase is attributable to attacks by Protestant Loyalists who doubled the number of their victims in 1991. The Loyalists observed a cease-fire during the socalled Strand talks aimed at achieving some accommodation between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland, but they sharply increased their attacks when those talks broke down in July.
Outside Northern Ireland, PIRA mounted several attacks in England, including a mortar attack there that nearly hit a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in February. Two powerful bombs were aimed at military band concerts near London but resulted in the deaths of two PIRA bomb handlers instead. One civilian, however, was killed by a PIRA bomb on a London subway train in February. He was PIRA’s only fatal victim outside Ulster in 1991, as compared with six killed by PIRA outside Ulster in 1990. Loyalist terrorists from Ulster were responsible for more than a dozen firebombings in Dublin in 1991 and killed a pro-PIRA Sinn Fein Counselor in Ireland in May. Throughout the year, but particularly in December, PIRA planted scores of incendiary devices in commercial establishments and subway trains in London and other English cities—and threatened other assaults—in a campaign to cause damage and economic disruption during the busy pre-Christmas shopping period.
Convictions brought in 1976 in English courts against seven members of the Maguire family for a PIRA bombing campaign were overturned in June owing to serious procedural errors. In March, the Birmingham Six, also PIRA suspects, were released from prison, as had been the Guilford four in October 1990. The Home Secretary appointed a royal commission to review the legal system in light of these false imprisonments. PIRA member Desmond Ellis, extradited from Ireland in 1990 to stand trial for a 1981 PIRA bombing campaign in Britain, was acquitted of all charges.
John McCarthy, Jackie Mann, and Terry Waite, held hostage in Lebanon, were released in 1991. For the most part, author Salman Rushdie remained in hiding in Britain, however, as Iran’s death threats against him continued in force. Rushdie did travel to New York City in December to deliver a speech at Columbia University; this was his first international travel since the death threats were made in 1989.
At the start of the Persian Gulf war, Britain detained about 90 Iraqis and Palestinians as a security precaution, deporting many of them.
On 14 November the Lord Advocate of Scotland brought formal charges against two Libyan intelligence officers, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, for the bombing in 1988 of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Britain, along with the United States, formally demanded their surrender by Libya.
Eastern European Overview
Cooperation between the countries of Eastern Europe and the West on counterterrorist issues began in earnest with the fall of Communist regimes in 1989 and continued unabated in 1991. This cooperation was strengthened during the Persian Gulf crisis, as East European governments closed borders to suspected terrorists, monitored or expelled suspect alien residents, and took steps to protect US and other coalition government interests on their territories. Official procoalition stances by East European governments during the war increased the risk in several of these countries, as evidenced by numerous terrorist threats. However, only in Yugoslavia was there a war-related attack: a failed firebombing in February of a US Information Service office in Sarajevo by unknown assailants.
Incidents of international terrorism remained relatively few in Eastern Europe for the rest of the year as well. In Hungary, a caller claiming to represent “The Movement for the Protection of Jerusalem” said that the group set off a bomb in December near a bus containing Jews emigrating from the former Soviet Union to Israel. Two Hungarian policemen in an escort vehicle were severely injured in the blast. Several days before, a terrorist failed in his attempt to assassinate the Turkish Ambassador in Budapest. An anonymous caller claiming to represent the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility for that attack. In August, Sikh militants in Bucharest attempted to assassinate the Indian Ambassador to Romania, who had previously served as Director-General of Police in Punjab. Sikh extremists later kidnapped a Romanian diplomat in India, demanding the release of both the two assailants held by the Romanian authorities in the attack on the Indian Ambassador and three Sikh militants held by Indian authorities for other crimes. Although none of those demands was met, the Romanian diplomat was released seven weeks later. A Soviet commercial airliner was hijacked in January to Bulgaria, where the lone Soviet hijacker was arrested.
Soviet Consulates in Poland were the targets of firebombs after the Soviet crackdown in Lithuania and Latvia in January 1991. In Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania more than a dozen bombings were aimed at political party offices and security installations, especially during the first quarter of 1991. In July, seven Lithuanian border guards were shot dead execution style. Reactionary elements were probably responsible for the incidents in the Baltics.
The civil war that consumed Yugoslavia in 1991, however, generated serious concern that combatants or their sympathizers abroad would resort to international terrorism to continue the fight on other fronts. To discourage diplomatic recognition of Croatia, for example, Serbian extremist groups made threats against German and Austrian officials and interests abroad. Actual terrorist incidents were few, however, and included the firebombing, probably by Serb nationalists, of a Croatian church near Munich and the attempted firebombing, most likely by Croat nationalists, in November of Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Canada and Germany.
For political and budgetary reasons, police presence in the East European countries continued to decline in 1991, possibly reducing the control authorities wielded over the activities of potential terrorists. The United States and others sponsored training programs in antiterrorist techniques for law enforcement and other officials of several countries in the region. Police cooperation was the subject of several bilateral agreements between Eastern and Western European countries. All states in the region except Albania are members of Interpol. Czechoslovakia, which joined Interpol in 1991, also ratified the International Civil Aviation Organization Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection. (Semtex, a plastic explosive used in several terrorist incidents, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, is a product of Czechoslovakia.)
There were no prosecutions in Eastern Europe of suspects of international terrorism in 1991. Hungary did, however, extradite to Greece a suspected Greek terrorist in August.
Bulgaria cooperated with Western countries in investigating the alleged involvement of its former Communist government in the assassination in London in 1978 of dissident writer Georgi Markov and the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981.
Latin American Overview
A record number of international incidents occurred in Latin America during 1991, most in South America, while Central America and the Caribbean experienced only a handful of attacks against foreign interests. A considerable number of attacks in the Latin American region were inspired by the US role in the Persian Gulf war. Latin American terrorist groups conducted 224 attacks on foreign interests, continuing the upward trend of the past four years. It should be noted, however, that this figure represents only a small percentage of the total number of terrorist incidents in the region. In most countries with a terrorist problem, the primary targets of guerrillas and narcotraffickers have been domestic institutions—government employees, law enforcement personnel, politicians, and media representatives. Most of the attacks occurred in Peru, Chile, and Colombia. At least 30 people died—three were US citizens—and 62 people were injured in international incidents over the course of the year. Anti-US terrorism rose to 174 attacks—up from 131 in 1990. While the Persian Gulf war clearly was a factor in the large number of attacks in early 1991, 116 international incidents occurred after the end of Operation Desert Storm.
Bolivian terrorists hit power pylons belonging to a US-owned power company three times in 1991, all low-level bombing incidents. Domestic terrorism, however, increased almost sevenfold. More than 40 bombing incidents occurred. Among the targets were Bolivian Government buildings near the US Embassy. Five bombs detonated at the La Paz International Airport. The Nestor Paz Zamora Commission (CNPZ), part of the refurbished National Liberation Army (ELN), and several previously unknown terrorist groups claimed responsibility for a handful of the attacks, but most went unclaimed. The new groups included the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army (EGTK) and the Thomas Katari Communal Army (ECTK). Both advocate the return of Bolivia to precolonial forms of government and indigenous Indian culture.
The Bolivian Government initiated improvements in its domestic and regional counterterrorism programs, while publicly downplaying the increase in terrorist incidents. The government established various crisis management mechanisms and began developing a national counterterrorism strategy. The Bolivian police held high-level meetings with their counterparts from Chile, Peru, and Brazil to help improve coordination against cross-border terrorism. While these steps demonstrated greater political willingness to deal with terrorism than in past years, a severe lack of resources and investigative and judicial weaknesses continued to hamper the government’s ability to counter the growing terrorist problem. Nonetheless, eight members of the Zarate Willka Armed Forces of Liberation (FALZW) received stiff sentences for their role in the 1988 attack on Secretary Shultz’s motor-cade and the murder of two US Mormon missionaries in 1989. At the close of 1991, a trial was also under way for CNPZ terrorists who attacked the US Marine guard-house in La Paz in October 1990.
Since the end of the Pinochet regime in March 1990, several far-left groups, including the Communist Party of Chile (PCCH), have moved away from terrorist tactics, but other, more extreme organizations continue to use armed actions in pursuit of their political goals. Chilean terrorist organizations, which had targeted US interests in record numbers in 1990 and early 1991, were somewhat less active during the remainder of the year. There were 52 anti-US attacks in Chile in 1991, down from 61 in 1990. Of these attacks, more than half were conducted after the end of the Persian Gulf war. After a brief lull following the war, sporadic anti-US attacks resumed in May and became more numerous during the last quarter of the year. Attacks against Mormon churches increased in intensity toward the end of the year, involving more powerful bombs or bombs containing shrapnel clearly designed to cause serious injury and substantial damage. Three Chilean children were injured in one attack against a Mormon church in November. Two terrorist organizations, the dissident faction of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR/D) and elements of the Lautaro Youth Movement (MJL), were responsible for most of the political violence. Two previously unknown groups surfaced during the year—the Guerrilla Army of the People-Free Fatherland and the Joaquin Murieta Extremist Movement. During October, the Guerrilla Army of the People carried out several low-level domestic bombings and an armed occupation of the French News Agency. Several of its leaders were subsequently arrested.
Several significant anti-US and domestic incidents occurred in 1991. On 16 February, the FPMR/D fired a light antitank weapon rocket at a US Marine guard van, but it failed to detonate. Ensuing gunfire by the terrorists injured one Marine. Some domestic incidents were pegged to the release of the National Truth and National Reconciliation Commission Report (Rettig Report) which detailed human rights violations during the Pinochet regime. The FPMR/D assassinated a retired Army medical doctor and his wife the day before the release of the report. The assassination of Senator Jaime Guzman on 1 April was probably carried out by the FPMR/D, although the investigation is continuing. The MJL claimed responsibility for the murder of investigations police chief Hector Sarmiento Hidalgo in Concepcion on 15 March.
The Chilean Government is focusing more attention on Chile’s terrorism problem. Increased training and efforts by members of the police have improved their counterterrorism capabilities in the past year. During 1991, the police uncovered several safehouses and training sites used by Chilean terrorists and arrested several leaders and members of each of the country’s main terrorist organizations. Immediately after the Guzman murder, the Chilean Government created the Public Security Coordinating Council, an advisory group whose function is to unite the counterterrorism efforts of government agencies. In its first report to President Aylwin, submitted in September, the Council recommended the establishment of a permanent intelligence organization to coordinate the government’s counterterrorism effort. In December, President Aylwin announced a plan to set up an Under Secretariat for Public Security and Intelligence at the Interior Ministry to coordinate police efforts to combat crime and delinquency as well as terrorism. Implementing legislation will be taken up during the next session of Congress. The government has also appointed special investigating judges to try the more serious cases, such as the Guzman murder.
Terrorist incidents in Colombia continue to be perpetrated by three leftist insurgent groups loosely affiliated under the umbrella group Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordinator (CGSB), by narcotics traffickers, and by rightwing para-military groups.
There were 62 international terrorist incidents in Colombia in 1991, up from 28 in 1990 and 46 in 1989. While most of the violence in the country was domestic, the two main CGSB terrorist groups, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continued to target foreign workers for kidnapping. Three French and two Japanese engineers were kidnapped and held for ransom by the FARC during 1991. Three US engineers held since November 1990 by the ELN were released a year later. The majority of the international attacks in Colombia in 1991 were bombings of Colombia’s oil pipelines, particularly the Cano-Limon Covenas pipeline in northern Colombia, jointly owned by Ecopetrol and a consortium of US and West European companies.
The surrender of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin drug cartel, and many other members of his narcotics ring resulted in a sharp decrease in narcotics-related violence in Colombia. As a result, several paramilitary groups publicly demobilized, claiming that with Escobar behind bars the battle they had been fighting was over.
Peace talks between the Colombian Government and the CGSB continued in 1991, with little success. The end of the fifth round of talks in November prompted an increase in guerrilla attacks, primarily directed at domestic targets, as the terrorist groups sought to strengthen their negotiating position.
The Colombian Government made efforts toward improving the nation’s judicial system in the past year by forming special courts to handle terrorist and narcotics cases and approving a new antiterrorist statute that strengthens sanctions for terrorist crimes. The Colombian Government also imposed a new tax to fund counterinsurgency efforts.
The Government of Ecuador continued its policy of negotiating with the Alfaro Vive Carajo (AVC), a small, Marxist-Leninist extremist group, to encourage its participation in the legitimate political process. This effort resulted in a ceremony in February at which a handful of AVC members turned in 65 guns. In October, some of the members publicly announced their desire to join President Borja’s Democratic Left Party, while a dissident faction denounced the move to abandon clandestine terrorist activities. AVC members occupied the French Consulate in Guayaquil in January 1991 and the British Embassy in Quito in September 1991. The Ecuadorian Government chose not to prosecute those who seized the facilities, although one AVC member was charged with illegal possession of explosives in connection with an attempted bombing of the Social Welfare Ministry in May. Other minuscule extremist groups carried out five low-level attacks against foreign interests in Ecuador during 1991, four during the Gulf war.
The leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed a cease-fire agreement on 31 December with the Government of El Salvador, ending the decade-long civil war. Before the cease-fire agreement, there were three international terrorist incidents in El Salvador in 1991. One of the incidents, notably, claimed the lives of the only three Americans to die as a result of terrorist activity in Latin America in 1991. On 2 January, the FMLN downed a US helicopter carrying three US military advisers who were enroute to Honduras. Two of them, Lt. Col. David Pickett and crew chief PFC Earnest Dawson, were brutally executed after surviving the crash. The third, Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Scott, died of injuries suffered in the shootdown. The FMLN has refused to turn over the two individuals responsible. In July, a US Embassy security vehicle was fired on in San Salvador by suspected FMLN members.
A significant development in Salvadoran justice was the September conviction of two military officers for the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, marking the first time a military officer has been convicted for rightwing terrorism.
Leftist insurgent groups under the umbrella group Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG) accounted for much of the terrorist violence in the country in 1991. There were seven incidents of international terrorism, the same figure as in 1990.
The Gulf war prompted the most significant international terrorist incidents in Guatemala in 1991. Attempted bombings and shootings were directed against the Uruguayan, British, and Canadian Embassies, as well as the residence of the Japanese Ambassador in February. Four armed men fired shots at the US-affiliated Covenant House in July 1991. A series of threats against foreign media in Guatemala prompted representatives of several international news agencies to leave Guatemala City in August 1991.
The Guatemalan Government, with the support of the military, made some progress in direct talks with the leaders of the URNG during 1991. But the country’s ineffective criminal justice system and the intransigence of the URNG have proved to be major impediments to effective counterterrorist strategies.
Mexico, which had not experienced international terrorist incidents in the past several years, had five terrorist bombing attacks during August, apparently timed to coincide with midterm national elections. (The Government of Mexico considers the group that claimed responsibility for carrying out the bombings to be a criminal rather than terrorist organization.) Targets included US-owned banks and other commercial interests and a Japanese automobile dealership. No other attacks were perpetrated in 1991 against foreign interests.
The Clandestine Worker’s Revolutionary Party, Union of the Poor (PROCUP), a leftist extremist organization, claimed responsibility for all five attacks. PROCUP has been periodically active since its formation in 1970, but the Government of Mexico has, for the most part, effectively monitored and controlled its activities.
Terrorist activities of Peru’s two insurgencies, Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), have made Peru a dangerous country for foreigners. Of the 59 international attacks in Peru, 34 were against US interests. Most were probably perpetrated by the MRTA, although SL also claimed two attacks against US facilities. Violent terrorist attacks, which occurred on a nearly daily basis, were spread over much of Peru but were most heavily concentrated in Lima itself, where more than 600 terrorist attacks caused about 350 deaths. At least 2,800 people died during the year in an unknown number of terrorist attacks in the country; a record 422 people were killed in October alone. SL continued its campaign of assassinating teachers, clergy, engineers, development and human rights workers, Indian peasants, and political candidates, as well as government, police, and political party officials. SL killed at least 10 foreigners, none of them US citizens. Nine of the foreigners were missionaries, clergy, or economic assistance workers.
Despite extensive security precautions, President Alberto Fujimori was the target of two terrorist attacks in November by the MRTA. A letter bomb campaign directed against domestic targets occurred in Lima, the first of its kind in South America, resulting in the death of one pro-MRTA journalist and serious injuries to three other Peruvians. It is not clear which group, or groups, is responsible for the letter bombs. On 3 November, 17 persons were killed in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima by a group of armed men. Those responsible have not been identified, but local human rights groups attribute the act to a paramilitary group.
The troubled Peruvian justice system has proved ineffective in the fight against terrorism. In 1991 the Government of Peru prosecuted no cases involving international terrorism and few cases of domestic terrorism. A chronic lack of basic resources plagues the judicial system. Severe staffing and morale problems pervade the judicial and law enforcement communities because of meager salaries. Constant terrorist actions have left hundreds of policemen, soldiers, prosecutors, and judges dead, injured, or co-opted. The lack of properly trained personnel, a failure to employ modern investigative methods, and professional rivalries between the police and prosecutors are further impediments to terrorist prosecutions. Use of criminal forensics is inadequate, and the Peruvians lack an effective witness protection program. Imprisoned terrorists largely control the facilities where they are incarcerated.
The Government of Peru, nonetheless, has taken steps to strengthen its hand against terrorism. In November, the administration issued a series of legislative decrees designed to strengthen the government’s counterterrorism capabilities. Among these decrees, which were subject to review by the Peruvian Congress, are measures to reduce sentences in exchange for information, to increase the powers of military commanders in areas outside emergency zones, and to reorganize the police and intelligence services.
Middle Eastern Overview
The number of international terrorist incidents in the Middle East increased from 65 in 1990 to 79 in 1991, largely because of a spate of attacks in Lebanon during the Persian Gulf war.
International terrorism by Palestinians again decreased from 41 in 1990 to 19 last year. Although many of the Palestinian groups threatened to conduct terrorist operations against the international coalition opposing Baghdad’s invasion of Kuwait, few such attacks actually occurred. Most incidents recorded during the Persian Gulf war were bombing attacks outside the Middle East region, and most of these were against commercial property belonging to coalition countries’ firms. Few of these attacks were carried out against civilians.
There are several reasons why Palestinian terrorists did not carry out attacks in support of Saddam Hussein:
- Military operations disrupted the command and control links between Baghdad and the terrorist networks it had established.
- Enhanced security measures were widely implemented in most regions of the world.
- Coalition countries expelled Iraqi diplomats and intelligence operatives.
- The rapidity of the coalition advance into Iraq sealed Iraq’s defeat before operations could be coordinated.
Several Palestinian groups that threatened terrorism during the Gulf war were weakened during 1991. Abu Abbas, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), left the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee in September, although the PLF itself is still represented on the Committee. The PLF also failed to follow through on the terrorist threats it issued from Baghdad during the war. The Hawari organization, which was based in Baghdad, was seriously damaged by the death of its leader, Colonel Hawari, in a car accident on the road between Baghdad and the Jordanian border immediately after the war.
During 1991, nine long-held foreign hostages—six Americans and three British citizens—and the remains of Col. William R. Higgins and William F. Buckley were released by Iranian-supported Hizballah members in Lebanon. At year’s end, UN special negotiator Giandomenico Picco continued his efforts to secure the release of two German aid workers held in Lebanon and to negotiate an exchange of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners for missing Israeli servicemen in Lebanon.
Despite the decline in international incidents undertaken by Middle Eastern groups, domestic terrorism continued in Israel, the occupied territories, and Lebanon. The attacks appeared to be carried out by rejectionist groups and coincided with positive developments in the Middle East peace process. Internecine conflicts within and between Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist groups once again added to the violence.
Iran’s success in building closer ties to Palestinian terrorist groups poses a potential threat to international peace and security. Iran hosted a conference in October on the Palestinian problem, which generated a large amount of rhetorical protest against the Middle East peace talks.
A rocket attack was launched against the American Embassy in Beirut during the Madrid peace conference, and a bomb attack damaged several buildings at the American University of Beirut shortly thereafter.
Algeria has condemned international terrorism but considers some acts of violence by movements of national liberation to be legitimate. As an expression of this position, Algeria has refused to sign numerous international agreements intended to counter acts of terrorism. The Algerian Government permits a number of radical groups, including some that have been involved in terrorism, to maintain a presence in Algeria. This has occasionally led to security incidents (for example, the April 1990 attack by the Abu Nidal organization (ANO) on an ANO dissident and a bomb explosion at a PLO office in Algiers in the spring of 1991.) Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) leader Abu Abbas and a few other Palestinians affiliated with terrorist organizations attended the September 1991 meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers, but the Algerian Government made it clear that it would not tolerate terrorist activities on its territory.
In March a lone armed hijacker took over an Air Algerie flight on the ground in Algiers, holding its 44 passengers and six crewmembers hostage. The hostages were released unharmed a few hours later. In October an Algerian court handed down 10-year prison sentences to two men responsible for a similar hijacking in late December 1990.
Algeria was thrown into and internal political crisis in late December 1991 when Muslim fundamentalists won an over-whelming victory in the first round of National Assembly elections and were poised to win the second round and gain a majority in the Assembly. Since President Bendjedid’s resignation, the suspension of the second round of elections, and the crackdown on the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) by the military, there has been a serious upsurge in violent clashes between Islamist elements and the security forces.
There were no terrorist attacks against Americans or US interests in Egypt in 1991, despite concerns of such attacks in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
US and Egyptian security services cooperated closely on security and antiterrorism matters. During the Persian Gulf war, Egyptian security forces reported several apparent terrorist threats against US interests in Egypt. Egyptian security agents arrested a number of individuals suspected of planning terrorist acts against Egyptian or Western targets.
In early September, Egyptian authorities arrested armed agents of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) who had entered Egypt with the intention of committing terrorist acts. In November, Israeli security forces intercepted four armed Palestinians who had entered the Israeli Negev from the Sinai. It is quite likely that these terrorists entered Egypt from a third country with the intention of infiltrating into Israel for future terrorist attacks. There are unconfirmed reports that two bodies found on a Gaza beach in December were terrorists who drowned while attempting an attack that may have been launched from Egyptian territory.
The radical Islamic group Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyaa is believed responsible for a number of armed robberies of local Egyptian merchants in 1991 but has conducted no major terrorist incident since the October 1990 assassination of assembly speaker al-Mahgoub. This group seeks the violent overthrow of the Government of Egypt but is not known to have attacked US or other Western targets. More important, it receives support from Iran and has established networks with several counterparts in the Arab world and elsewhere.
Israel and the Occupied Territories
There were numerous attacks and attempted attacks in Israel and the occupied territories in connection with the Palestinian intifadah and the Arab-Israeli conflict, several of which coincided with key developments in the Middle East peace process.
Many small bombs exploded or were discovered and defused by Israeli authorities in the course of the year. There were several firebomb or arson attacks on coalition interests in the occupied territories early in the year, probably in reaction to the Persian Gulf war. On 12 April, a bomb exploded in East Jerusalem at the Damascus Gate just before a visit to Israel by Secretary of State Baker. In a similar incident on 16 September, two people were injured when a bomb exploded at an outdoor market in Beersheba.
Stabbing incidents in Israel and on the West Bank occurred throughout 1991. While some of the attacks were probably carried out by organized groups, others appeared to be the work of lone individuals. On 18 May, an apparent Islamic zealot stabbed and wounded three Israelis in West Jerusalem; a faction of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed responsibility. Several European tourists were also the victims of stabbings.
In 7 July, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for shooting and seriously wounding an Israeli who was transporting Palestinian workers to Israel from the Gaza strip. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility for a similar attack the following day, also in Gaza.
On 28 October, just days before the opening of the Madrid peace conference, gunmen opened fire on a busload of Israeli settlers on the West Bank north of Jerusalem. Two Israelis were killed and at least six wounded, including five children. Both the PFLP and a PIJ faction claimed responsibility.
On numerous occasions in 1991, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories attacked Palestinian civilians and property, often in response to Palestinian attacks. In late October, the son of slain Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane publicly threatened to “blow up” the Madrid peace conference. He was later arrested in Madrid along with two associates while distributing leaflets critical of Israel’s participation in the conference. Slogans from Kahane’s group Kach were found painted on the walls of the American Cultural Center in Jerusalem after a firebombing there on 28 October.
Israeli security forces intercepted over 20 attempted guerrilla infiltrations into Israel from Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt in 1991. Several of the attempted cross-border attacks were conducted by Lebanese groups and Palestinian fighters from factions both within and outside the PLO. Others appear to be the work of disgruntled individuals acting alone or with a few colleagues but with no discernible ties to any known terrorist group. In most cases, the infiltrators failed to penetrate the Israeli border, and the precise targets of the attacks were not clear.
In late-January, Palestinians fired several rockets over a three-day period at Israel from Lebanon. The rockets landed in the Israeli-controlled south Lebanon security zone. PLO Forces are suspected of perpetrating these rocket attacks in order to show support for Iraq.
On 13 September, a Swedish officer with the UN peace-keeping force (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon was killed and five other officers wounded in a gun battle between Israeli troops and their Lebanese allies and a group of Palestinian guerrillas attempting to infiltrate Israel by sea. The Palestinians landed in small boats in south Lebanon and took the UNIFIL officers hostage after failing to reach Israel, where they apparently intended to conduct a terrorist attack. One of the captured guerrillas admitted he was a member of Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO.
On 11 November, four heavily armed Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the Negev desert as they attempted to infiltrate Israel from Egypt.
The Lebanese Shia group Hizballah conducted several dozen attacks on Israeli soldiers in Israel’s self-proclaimed security zone in south Lebanon, which continued to be the site of numerous incidents.
Israel takes a strong stand against terrorism and terrorist state sponsors. The Israeli Government has made fighting terrorism a high priority and devotes a considerable proportion of its internal and external security resources to this effort. Israeli police and military forces are involved in planning and training to meet the terrorist threat.
Israeli counterterrorist efforts continue to target countries aiding, harboring, or failing to inhibit terrorists. Israeli military forces have launched preemptive and retaliatory airstrikes against suspected terrorist installations in neighboring Lebanon and have occasionally detained Lebanese nationals in an attempt to thwart attacks. At year’s end, Israel continued to hold outside the legal process Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, a Hizballah cleric from south Lebanon whom Israeli forces abducted in July 1989, apparently in an effort to exchange him for Israeli military personnel held by Lebanese and other groups.
Israel uses curfews and other restrictive measures to control violence in the occupied territories. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were sealed off from Israel on several occasions in 1991 when the threat was considered to be especially high, most notably during the Gulf war and during sessions of the Middle East peace talks. Israel has also responded to violent incidents by deporting to neighboring countries Palestinian activists who are deemed to be of security risks or accused of anti-Israeli offenses. The United States strongly opposes deportations as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israeli courts generally hand down strict prison sentences to those convicted of terrorist attacks. In May, a former member of the 15 May Organization and the Hawari Special Operations Group was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a failed attempt to blow up an El Al airliner in 1984. Mahmud Atta, a member of the Abu Nidal organization who was extradited to Israel from the United States in 1991, was sentenced to life in prison in October for a machinegun attack on an Israel bus on the West Bank in 1986. Later that month, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, founder of the Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas, received a life sentence plus 15 years after admitting to Israeli charges, including plotting the murder of two off-duty Israeli soldiers.
Militant Jewish extremist Rabbi Moshe Levinger was sentenced in January to four months in prison for assaulting a Palestinian family in Hebron. The sentence was later reduced for good behavior. In June an Israeli court approved the extradition to the United States of an American-born Israeli couple suspected of sending a letter bomb that killed an American woman in California in 1980. One of the two is also a suspect in the murder of an Arab-American activist in 1985. The extradition case was appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court in December.
Despite additional security measures provided by Jordanian authorities, tensions stemming from the Persian Gulf war led to a spate of attacks in early 1991 against business and diplomatic targets associated with countries taking part in the coalition against Iraq. Most such incidents were minor attacks apparently intended to cause property damage rather than casualties.
At least some of the attacks were apparently the work of a group of Islamic extremists known as Muhammad’s Army. In July, Jordanian authorities arrested dozens of persons suspected of belonging to the group, 18 of whom went on trial in October. In open court, the defendants admitted to conducting a series of attacks on Jordanian and Western interests, including two car bombings that seriously wounded the daughter of a local cleric in January and a Jordanian intelligence officer in July. They also confessed to planning attacks against US and other Western diplomatic facilities. Eight defendants, including two in absentia, were found guilty and sentenced to death. In December King Hussein commuted the death sentences for six defendants to varying prison terms; he let stay the death sentences on the two tried in absentia.
A variety of Palestinian factions maintain a presence in Jordan, including elements of the PLO and more radical Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Prominent members of the PIJ in Jordan publicly threatened attacks on US interests during the Gulf war.
There were a number of armed infiltration attempts across the Jordanian boundary with Israel in 1991. Some, such as an 8 February attack claimed by Muhammad’s Army, appeared to have been carried out by an organized group; others were most likely conducted by zealous individuals with no connection to any known political organization. One Israeli farmer was killed and three others wounded in a cross-border attack in April. A decline in cross-border raids in he latter half of the year may have been because of Jordan’s efforts to enforce tighter border security.
Kuwait has historically been a target of international terrorism and has had to cope with hijackings, bombings, and assassination attempts. It has been aggressive in bringing terrorists to justice. Before the 2 August 1990 Iraqi invasion, and consistent with its no concessions policy on terrorism, the Amir resisted pressure to pardon members of the pro-Iranian fundamentalist Dawa terrorist group imprisoned in Kuwait for a series of 1983 bombing attacks against US, French, and Kuwaiti interests. The Dawa terrorists either escaped or were freed during the Iraqi occupation.
During 1991 there were no significant acts of domestic terrorism in Kuwait. The government closed down offices of the PLO and all other Palestinian groups, including some associated with terrorism. The Palestinian groups, including some associated with terrorism. The Palestinian population in Kuwait also shrunk during the Persian Gulf war and its aftermath from approximately 350,000 to about 40,000, thus severely reducing the ability of these groups to operate in Kuwait.
The number of international terrorist incidents in Lebanon in 1991 rose to a high of 32, up from 10 in 1990 and 16 in 1989. Much of the increase reflected a low-level bombing campaign against foreign targets, largely French-owned banks, during the Persian Gulf war. These incidents caused only minor damage and few casualties. There also were a number of domestic terrorist incidents related to struggles between various Lebanese factions.
During much of 1991, the central government extended its control into south Lebanon. The Lebanese Government, however, has been unable to fully implement the Taif Accords, which provide for the extension of its authority nation wide. It has yet to move into the Bekaa Valley or east Lebanon or to expand into portions of the south dominated by Hizballah or the South Lebanon Army (SLA).
Syria, however, continues to maintain a sizable military presence in Lebanon, exercising control over portions of the north and the east. Israel and its client Lebanese militia, the SLA, control a region along the Israeli border.
Terrorism continues to plague Lebanon, and the year saw many violent attacks. Eight people died in a 20 March car bombing believed to have been an attempt on the live of the Defense Minister, the first such incident since the central government’s assumption of authority in Beirut. The year closed with a 30 December Beirut car-bombing incident in which at least 30 were reported killed and 120 injured. The year also saw a rocket attack on 29 October on the US Embassy and the 8 November bombing that destroyed buildings of the American University of Beirut. Both attacks are believed to have been protests against the opening of the Middle East peace talks. A French aid worker was abducted on 8 August to protest the release of British hostage John McCarthy. The Frenchman was freed three days later after Syrian troops and Lebanese armed forces exerted pressure on Hizballah strongholds in Beirut.
Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Libya continued to provide varying degrees of financial, military, and logistic support to radical groups engaging in terrorism in Lebanon. Several international groups including radical Palestinians, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Abu Nidal organization (ANO), and Abu Musa, as well as non-Palestinian groups, such as the Japanese Red Army (JRA), the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey’s Revolutionary Left (Dev Sol), and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), maintain training facilities in Lebanon, chiefly in the Syrian-garrisoned Bekaa Valley.
The Lebanese Government frequently has condemned terrorist acts and has repeatedly called for the release of foreign hostages but has been unable to rein in terrorists.
One bright spot over the past year was the winding down of the hostage problem in Lebanon. Iranian-backed elements of Hizballah freed six American and three British hostages and returned the remains of US hostages Col. William Higgins and William Buckley at the end of 1991 following a UN-orchestrated process involving frequent contact with Iran, Syria, the Lebanese Shia, Israel, and others. In return, many Lebanese held by Israel and the SLA were freed, but several hundred remain in captivity. Israel received through the UN conclusive information from Hizballah that two of its six missing soldiers were dead. The remains of another Israeli soldier killed in fighting in Lebanon in the mid-1980s were returned by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
At the end of 1991, two German relief workers who are also held by Hizballah—Heinrich Struebig and Thomas Kemptner—remained in captivity; their release has been linked to freedom for two Lebanese terrorists jailed in Germany. There had also not yet been a full accounting of all those held hostage who may have died while in captivity.
The defining event concerning terrorism in Saudi Arabia in 1991 was Operation Desert Storm and its aftermath. Throughout the Desert Shield/Desert Storm period, Saudi Arabia shared information on possible terrorist acts with other governments and made every effort to assist the international community in countering and preventing terrorism. The Saudi Government expelled Iraqi diplomats and attaches and closed its borders with Jordan and Yemen, countries it viewed as aligned with Iraq. It also tightened visa requirements for foreign workers from countries opposing the international coalition. Many foreign workers were expelled from Saudi Arabia, and others were transferred or fired from sensitive government positions. Saudi Arabia also employed additional security measures on Saudi Airline flights.
Despite the huge US military presence in Saudi Arabia, there was only one act of terrorism directed against US forces. On 3 February 1991, two US airmen and a Saudi guard were wounded in an attack on a military bus in Jeddah. Four Palestinians (one a naturalized Saudi) and two Yemenis were arrested. The incident is still under investigation, and the four Palestinians remain in custody.
The Saudi Government is still closely following the investigation of the February 1990 killing of three Saudi diplomats in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai Government has publicly blamed a non-Thai terrorist no longer in Thailand.
Thanks to the intensive but largely unobtrusive security precautions taken by Saudi security forces, the annual Mecca pilgrimage (hajj) passed without incident.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly spoken out and voted against terrorist acts in international fora. It has raised terrorism issues in bilateral discussion with governments it considers to be state sponsors of terrorism. Saudi Arabia decries acts of terrorism allegedly committed in the name of the Palestinian cause; it considers this cause to be a legitimate movement of national liberation and resistance to military occupation. Saudi Arabia suspended financial and political support for the PLO in late 1990 because of that group’s strong pro-Iraqi stance but then reportedly resumed transfer to the PLO of revenue from a tax on Palestinians working in the kingdom in late 1991.
The Republic of Yemen (ROY) is committed to cutting all ties to terrorist groups. A few groups, however, continue to maintain a presence in ROY territory, typically with the assistance of ROY officials who were previous officials of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). The PDRY was on the US Government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism until its unification with the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) to form the ROY in 1990.
The ROY is reportedly narrowing criteria and tightening procedures for issuing passports to non-Yemenis, including Palestinians, and has denied press reports that international terrorist Carlos was granted refuge in Yemen.
During the past year several incidents of international terrorism occurred in Yemeni territory, especially during the Persian Gulf war when Yemen was a strong supporter of Iraq. In January, during the Gulf crisis, the embassies of the US, Turkey, and Japan were attacked by unknown persons. The ROY condemned these attacks and increased protection of citizens and property of coalition member countries. In October unknown persons attacked the German and US Embassies in what was probably part of a wave of attacks that also included ROY government targets.