Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.
The Year in Review
During 1996 there were 296 acts of international terrorism, the lowest annual total in 25 years and 144 fewer than in 1995. In contrast, the total number of casualties was one of the highest ever recorded: 311 persons killed and 2,652 wounded. A single bombing in Sri Lanka killed 90 persons and wounded more than 1,400 others.
Two-thirds of the attacks were bombings or firebombings. Only about one-sixth of the total number (45) resulted in fatalities. Approximately one-fourth (73) were anti-US attacks, and most of those were low-intensity bombings of oil pipelines in Colombia owned jointly by the Government of Colombia and Western companies but seen as US targets by Colombian terrorists.
Approximately one in four attacks (76) recorded last year were part of an ongoing terrorist campaign being waged by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Germany. Most of these attacks were minor bombings that produced no casualties and caused little damage. The level of PKK attacks during 1996 was significantly lower than in previous years.
Among the significant attacks during the year:
- On 25 June a large fuel truck exploded outside the US military’s Khubar Towers housing facility near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US citizens and wounding some 500 persons.
- On 17 December terrorists belonging to Peru’s Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took over the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima during a diplomatic reception, taking some 500 persons hostage, including eight US officials who were released after five days. The group’s primary demand was the release of convicted MRTA terrorists from prison. At year’s end, 81 hostages remained in captivity, and attempts to resolve the siege peacefully were ongoing.
- There were several deadly bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS). On 25 February a suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem, killing 26 persons, including three US citizens, and injuring at least 80 others, including another three US citizens. On 3 March a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device on a bus in Jerusalem, killing 19 persons, including six Romanians, and injuring six others. On 4 March a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside Dizengoff Center, a large shopping mall in Tel Aviv, killing 20 persons and injuring 75 others, including two US citizens.
- The deadliest attack of the year occurred in Sri Lanka on 31 January, when terrorists belonging to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rammed an explosives-laden truck into the Central Bank in the heart of downtown Colombo, killing 90 persons and wounding more than 1,400 others. Among the wounded were two US citizens, six Japanese, and one Dutch national. The explosion caused major damage to the Central Bank building, an American Express office, the Intercontinental Hotel, and several other buildings.
- On 9 February a bomb detonated in a parking garage in the Docklands area of London, killing two persons and wounding more than 100 others, including two US citizens. The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the attack.
Twenty-four US citizens died in international terrorist attacks last year, more than twice the number that died in 1995. Nineteen were killed in the 25 June truck bombing of the US military housing facility near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. This was the highest number of US citizens killed in a single act of international terrorism since the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103, in which 189 US citizens died. Five US citizens died in bus bombings and drive-by shootings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Two hundred and fifty US citizens were wounded in acts of terrorism around the world last year, five times the number injured in 1995.
There were no international terrorist attacks in the United States during the year.
On 19 July a US district court in Washington, DC, convicted Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq of air piracy in connection with the 1985 terrorist hijacking of Egypt Air Flight 648. The Athens-to-Cairo flight was diverted to Malta by Rezaq and two other hijackers. On the plane, Rezaq separated US and Israeli passengers from the others and shot them in the head at point blank range. One US citizen and one Israeli died; two US citizens and one Israeli survived their wounds. When Egyptian commandos stormed the plane, dozens more died. Rezaq, the sole surviving hijacker, was tried and convicted in Malta on various charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but he was released after serving only seven years. With cooperation from the Governments of Nigeria and Ghana, FBI agents arrested Rezaq in Nigeria in 1993 and brought him to the United States to be tried for air piracy. Rezaq, a member of the Abu Nidal organization, claimed at his trial that he had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was therefore insane at the time he hijacked the airplane. He further claimed that, because of his insanity, he could not be held criminally liable for his conduct. The jury found Rezaq guilty and rejected his claim that he was insane at the time he committed the crime. In October Rezaq was sentenced to life imprisonment.
On 5 September Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah were convicted of a terrorist conspiracy to plant bombs aboard a number of US passenger airliners operating in East Asia. Yousef also was found guilty of placing a bomb aboard a Philippine airliner bound for Tokyo in December 1995 that exploded in midair, killing one person and injuring several others. This bombing was intended as a “trial run” for the planned multiple attacks against US aircraft, which were to take place over two days. Yousef is awaiting trial on charges that he was involved in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
On 22 September an Asian country turned over to US custody suspected Japanese Red Army terrorist Tsutomu Shirosaki to stand trial for a 1986 mortar attack against the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Eleven international terrorist attacks occurred in Africa during 1996, one more than during the previous year. Most took place in Ethiopia, where there were several deadly bombings and armed attacks.
Addis Ababa was the site of two deadly hotel bombings in 1996. On 18 January an explosion in a hotel frequented by diplomats and foreign visitors killed four persons and injured at least 20 others, among them several foreigners. A bomb exploded in a second hotel on 5 August, killing two persons and injuring 17, including a Belgian citizen. Antigovernment groups are believed responsible for both attacks.
On 8 July gunmen shot and wounded the Ethiopian Transport and Communications Minister in Addis Ababa. An ethnic Somali Islamic extremist group, al-Ittihaad al-Islami, claimed responsibility for the shooting.
In October unidentified assailants shot three foreigners in a shopping area in the eastern city of Dire Dawa. A German was killed on 5 October, and on 16 October a French national and a Yemeni were killed. Although no claims of responsibility were made, local officials blamed Islamic extremists for the attacks.
On 24 October gunmen attacked a Sudanese refugee camp in Uganda near the border with Sudan, killing 16 refugees and wounding five others. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
Although terrorism remains a concern in East Asia, national reconciliation efforts in Cambodia and the Philippines, and successful prosecutions in Japan, have helped reduce the terrorist profile in the region. Continuing defections by Khmer Rouge troops in Cambodia have reduced their numbers considerably, although the Khmer Rouge is still considered active and dangerous. Talks between the Philippine Government and a major insurgent group there have resulted in a peace agreement, although another major insurgent group has continued attacks in the southern Philippines, and terrorist groups continue to plague that nation. In February the Philippines hosted an international conference on counterterrorism at Baguio, which was attended by representatives of 20 nations, including the United States. The prosecution of a series of leaders of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, based primarily on the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway, and the continued pursuit of Aum leaders still at large have dealt a heavy blow to that group. Terrorist activities by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) in Indonesia and by insurgent groups in a number of East Asian countries continue to pose a threat.
In South Asia, terrorist training camps located in Afghanistan remain open. The fate of the four Western hostages, who were kidnapped in July 1995 by Kashmiri militants believed to be associated with the Pakistan-based Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA), remains unknown. Reports from Kashmiri militant sources maintain that the hostages were killed in December 1995, although these reports have not been confirmed.
In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued to carry out extremely violent attacks in its ongoing campaign to cripple the economy and target government officials. A truck bomb destroyed the Central Bank, killing some 90 persons and wounding hundreds more. A commuter train was bombed, and a bus was ambushed, killing more than 80. The LTTE continued to assassinate political opponents, both civilian and military.
The Indian and Pakistani Governments each claim that the intelligence service of the other country sponsors bombings on its territory.
Plagued by the absence of a cohesive central government and ongoing fighting among rival factions, Afghanistan remained a training ground for Islamic militants and terrorists in 1996. Ahmed Shah Masood, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf all maintained training and indoctrination facilities in Afghanistan, mainly for non-Afghans. They continue to provide logistic support and training facilities to Islamic extremists despite military losses in the past year. Individuals who trained in these camps were involved in insurgencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Kashmir, the Philippines, and the Middle East in 1996.
The Taliban militia, which took over the capital city, Kabul, in September, has permitted Islamic extremists to continue to train in territories under its control even though they claimed to have closed the camps. The group confiscated camps belonging to rival factions and turned them over to groups such as the Pakistan-based Kashmiri terrorist group Harakat ul-Ansar.
Saudi-born extremist Usama Bin Ladin relocated to Afghanistan from Sudan in mid-1996 in an area controlled by the Taliban and remained there through the end of the year, establishing a new base of operations. In August, and again in November, Bin Ladin announced his intention to stage terrorist and guerrilla attacks against US personnel in Saudi Arabia in order to force the United States to leave the region.
Continuing defections throughout 1996 have greatly reduced the number of Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Defectors are in the process of being integrated into the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Nevertheless, Khmer Rouge hardliners conducted numerous violent attacks, primarily against Cambodian military forces, and were also responsible for the killings, kidnapping, and abduction for forced labor of civilians.
In March the Khmer Rouge kidnapped a British citizen who was involved in clearing mines. Rumors of his death have been denied by Khmer Rouge spokesmen. There has been occasional Khmer Rouge rhetoric suggesting that Westerners especially are being targeted for terrorist acts, but a terrorist campaign specifically directed at Westerners has not developed.
India continues to face security problems because of the insurgency in Kashmir and separatist movements elsewhere in the country. Numerous small bombings and assassination attempts against local politicians occurred throughout the year, but particularly during the fall, when the first legislative assembly elections since 1987 were held in Kashmir and the newly elected state government was installed. A militant group based in Pakistan calling itself the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front (JKIF) claimed responsibility for car bombings in New Delhi in January and May and a bus bombing in Rajasthan in May that killed at least 40 people. Kashmiri militants, believed to be associated with the Pakistan-based Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA), may have killed the four remaining Westerners—one US citizen, two Britons, and one German—whom they captured in July 1995 hiking near Srinagar, Kashmir, although their deaths have not been confirmed. Another US citizen managed to escape, but a Norwegian hostage was killed in 1995.
The Government of India has been largely successful in controlling the Sikh separatist movement in Punjab State, but Sikh groups claimed to have worked with the Kashmiri JKIF to bomb targets in New Delhi.
Other insurgent groups in the northeastern state of Assam and the southern state of Andhra Pradesh attacked security officials, rival political leaders, civilians, and infrastructure targets throughout 1996. Insurgents in Assam damaged oil pipelines for the first time in November. In Andhra Pradesh, the Naxalite People’s War Group staged several attacks on police and local political leaders from September through November after a previous ban on the group was reimposed.
The Indian and Pakistani Governments each claim that the intelligence service of the other country sponsors bombings on its territory. There were reports that official Pakistani support to militants fighting in Kashmir, including the HUA, continued well into 1996. Pakistan alleged in a detailed press report that India sponsored a series of bombings in Pakistan’s Punjab Province from late 1995 to mid-1996 in which at least 18 civilians were killed.
The prosecution of Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara and other cult leaders continued in 1996. Several additional Aum Shinrikyo members who had been implicated in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway that killed 12 persons were arrested in Japan in 1996.
Five former cult officials have testified in court that Asahara instructed them to carry out the subway gas attack and other killings. In addition to the murder charge stemming from the gas attack, Asahara faces 16 other charges ranging from kidnapping and murder to illegal production of drugs and weapons.
Although no longer active in Japan as a terrorist group, Japanese Red Army members remain at large elsewhere around the world.
Terrorist-related violence continues in Pakistan as a result of domestic conflicts. Sectarian violence, including bombings, continued throughout the year in Sindh, Punjab, and in the North-West Frontier Provinces, resulting in about 175 deaths. Although the government has quelled much of the violence in Karachi, it has yet to produce a political settlement that would provide a lasting peace. The Pakistani Government has attributed most terrorist acts in Karachi either to the ethnically based Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) or to the Shaheed Bhutto group of the Pakistan People’s Party, which was led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s brother until his death in a clash with police on 20 September.
The Government of Pakistan acknowledges that it continues to provide moral, political, and diplomatic support to Kashmiri militants but denies allegations of other assistance. Reports continued in 1996, however, of official Pakistani support to militants fighting in Kashmir. One Pakistan-backed group, the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front (JKIF), claimed responsibility for three bombings in and near New Delhi in early 1996 that killed at least 40 persons. There also are reports that militants associated with the Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA) may have killed four Westerners kidnapped in Kashmir in July 1995.
Pakistan alleged in a detailed report in the press that India had sponsored a series of bombings in Pakistan’s Punjab Province from late 1995 to mid-1996, in which at least 18 persons were killed. In July authorities arrested a Pakistani national who claimed that Indian intelligence agents recruited him and provided him with explosives for the bombings. In mid-November a court in Lahore sentenced one individual to death and another to life imprisonment for their involvement in the bombings.
The Philippine Government scored a major triumph when it concluded a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group, ending its 24-year insurgency. Negotiations with the second-largest insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), proceeded slowly, however, and clashes continued between MILF and government forces in the southern Philippines. The MILF and the smaller, extremist Abu Sayyaf Group are both fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Earlier in the year, a wave of bombings in Mindanao was attributed to Muslim extremists; several of the attacks targeted Christian churches. For the most part, these attacks have been limited to the southern Philippines, but in February a grenade attack in the Makati business district of Manila wounded four persons and damaged the local headquarters of both Shell and Citibank. Police suspect the Abu Sayyaf Group. Other terrorist groups in the Philippines include the Alex Boncayao Brigade, which claimed responsibility for the assassination of a former provincial vice governor in June 1996, and the New People’s Army. These three groups were believed to have been planning attacks during the APEC conference, held in Manila in November; a bomb was discovered and defused at Ninoy Aquino International Airport that week. No group claimed responsibility, and no arrests were made.
The successful prosecution in the United States of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef on charges of plotting to bomb US passenger jets in Asia and the Pacific was due largely to outstanding cooperation from the Philippine Government. At the same time, persons convicted of terrorist acts in the Philippines are among those eligible to apply for amnesty under a national reconciliation program set up for former rebels who committed crimes in pursuit of political objectives.
In February the Philippines hosted the Baguio Conference, an international conference on counterterrorism. The 20 nations represented there, including the United States, issued a communique expressing their collective commitment to combat terrorism in several important ways.
The separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued its campaign of violence in 1996, attacking economic and infrastructure targets and assassinating political opponents. The LTTE exploded a truck bomb near the Central Bank in Colombo on 31 January, killing some 90 persons; bombed a commuter train on 24 July, killing 70; and ambushed a bus in September, killing 11 civilians. The group staged a suicide bomb attack on the Minister of Housing in Jaffna in July. Although the minister survived, 25 persons were killed, including a Brigadier General.
The LTTE has refrained from targeting Western tourists, but a front group—the Ellalan Force—continued to send threatening letters to Western missions and the press.
Europe and Eurasia Overview
The total number of incidents in Europe in 1996 declined significantly from 272 in 1995 to 121 in 1996. Most of the terrorist acts in 1996 were nonlethal acts of arson or vandalism against Turkish-owned businesses in Germany. These acts are widely believed to be the work of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The number of terrorist acts instigated by the PKK was down significantly in 1996.
In 1996 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resumed a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, breaking a 17-month cease-fire. Loyalist paramilitary groups maintained their cease-fire but are considering a resumption of violence in response to IRA bombings.
Algerian extremists are believed responsible for France’s most devastating terrorist attack during 1996, when a bombing on a Paris commuter train during rush hour on 3 December killed four persons and injured more than 80. Although no one claimed responsibility for the incident, similarities between this attack and several bombings claimed by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in 1995 lead authorities to suspect Algerian extremists.
France was also the scene of several assassinations during 1996. An Iranian who served as Deputy Education Minister under the Shah was shot to death near Paris on 28 May; he had published writings opposing the Islamic regime in Tehran. On 5 August unidentified assailants brutally murdered the local chief representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a delegate of the “Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Government” in Paris. Local Kurd leaders blamed Iraqi or Iranian state agents for the crime. On 26 October suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) gunmen shot and killed the LTTE’s international treasurer and a companion in Paris.
France and Spain worked vigorously against the separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group in 1996, arresting at least three dozen members and sympathizers and uncovering several weapons caches. Among those arrested was Juan “Isuntza” Aguirre Lete, who is accused of being the mastermind behind a plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos in Majorca in 1995.
Unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the Consulate of Serbia and Montenegro in Milan, Italy, in mid-April. The building suffered only minor damage, and there were no injuries.
The Greek Government made no headway in its pursuit of Greek terrorists. The indigenous leftist Revolutionary Organization 17 November and other domestic terrorist groups continued to threaten US interests and to target Greek business interests. In Turkey, the number of terrorist incidents committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) decreased significantly due to the group’s almost yearlong self-imposed unilateral cease-fire. After the cease-fire ended in the fall of 1996, the PKK stepped up attacks against military and civilian targets, using the tactic of suicide bombings. The Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, known by the Turkish initials DHKP/C—the successor to the group formerly known as Devrimci Sol—perpetrated a spectacular terrorist act in January with the assassination of a prominent Turkish businessman.
In Eurasia, the total number of terrorist incidents increased from five in 1995 to 24 in 1996. In Bosnia, several small-scale terrorist incidents occurred; the prime targets were international and multinational organizations assisting in the country’s postwar transition. Ethnic tensions in the countries of the former Soviet Union continued to produce terrorist acts in many of these. In Russia, the ongoing hostilities between the government and Chechen rebels resulted in the taking of hostages and other acts, and Tajikistan was also the site of acts of violence against noncombatants. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia also experienced ethnic-related terrorist activity.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Several small-scale terrorist incidents occurred in Bosnia in 1996; the prime targets were international and multinational organizations assisting in the country’s postwar transition. A grenade was tossed into an International Police Task Force (IPTF) vehicle in November; there were no injuries. In August security officials in Sarajevo, tipped off by a telephone warning, defused a bomb in a building housing offices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A bomb exploded outside IPTF headquarters in Vlasenica in July, damaging three vehicles and breaking some 30 windows in nearby buildings. That same month an assailant threw a handgrenade at a vehicle belonging to a member of the local OSCE office in Banja Luka; the blast destroyed the car and damaged a nearby building. The perpetrators of all of these attacks remain unidentified, but disgruntled members of the former warring factions are suspected.
On 15 February, Implementation Force (IFOR) troops raided a joint Bosnian-Iranian intelligence training facility in Fojnica and detained 11 persons, including three Iranians. Searches of the camp revealed classrooms and an extensive armory. Evidence collected at the site—including boobytrapped children’s toys—indicated that at least some of the training was in terrorist tactics.
A Croatian court sentenced five Bosnians on 21 June to prison terms ranging from four months to two years following their conviction on charges of plotting to assassinate Bosnian rebel leader Fikret Abdic. The Bosnians, who were arrested on 4 April in a town on the Dalmatian coast, allegedly planned to kill Abdic as he drove along a coastal highway. The group reportedly possessed a variety of weapons—including at least one hand-held grenade launcher, grenades, and machineguns—and was to receive financial remuneration for the assassination. Croatian officials claimed that the Bosnians had made statements implicating local Bihac and federal Bosnian security authorities as the masterminds of the plot; Sarajevo vociferously denied the charges.
The most devastating terrorist attack in France during 1996 was a bombing on a Paris commuter train during rush hour on 3 December that killed four persons and injured more than 80, some of them seriously. The bomb, a gas canister filled with explosives and nails, was designed and timed to cause extensive casualties. Although no one claimed responsibility for the incident, similarities between this attack and several bombings tied to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in 1995 lead authorities to suspect that Algerian extremists were responsible.
Several assassinations took place in France during 1996. An Iranian who served as Deputy Education Minister under the Shah was shot to death at his apartment near Paris on 28 May. The victim, Reza Mazlouman, had political refugee status in France and reportedly was active in opposition movements against the Iranian regime. At France’s request, German authorities arrested an Iranian national in Bonn two days later on suspicion of participating in the assassination; the Iranian was extradited to France in October. A second assailant escaped and is believed to be in Iran. On 5 August unidentified assailants brutally murdered Jaffar Hasso Guly, the local chief representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a delegate of the “Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Government,” in his home in Paris. Local Kurd leaders blamed Iraqi or Iranian state agents for the crime.
Suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) gunmen shot and killed Kandiah Perinbanathan, the LTTE’s international treasurer, and a companion in Paris on 26 October. Sri Lankan authorities said the treasurer may have been killed for extorting funds from his assailants.
French authorities worked vigorously against the separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group in 1996, arresting at least three dozen members and sympathizers—some of whom were later released—and uncovering several weapons caches. In a key arrest in November, French customs authorities nabbed Juan “Isuntza” Aguirre Lete as he tried to run a checkpoint set up at a tollbooth. Madrid has accused Isuntza of masterminding a plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos in Majorca in 1995. Joint French-Spanish operations in July and November resulted in the capture in France of several ETA members and supporters, including Daniel Derguy, believed to be ETA’s chief French operative; Julian “Pototo” Achurra Egurola, the head of the group’s logistics wing; and Juan “Karpov” Maria Insausti, who Spanish authorities say is ETA’s chief recruiter and explosives trainer. French officials also arrested Maria Nagore Mugica, one of Spain’s most wanted criminals, at Charles de Gaulle Airport in May. Nagore belonged to various ETA command cells—including the group’s chief cell in Madrid—between 1990 and 1993 and is suspected of involvement in several bombings. A French court authorized her extradition to Spain in December.
Antiterrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere announced in September the completion of his investigation into the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772 over Niger. Arrest warrants—including two issued in 1996—are outstanding for a total of six Libyan Government officials, including a brother-in-law of Libyan leader Mu’ammar Qadhafi, for their alleged participation in the bombing. Bruguiere traveled to Libya in July to interview numerous secret service officials. Tripoli allowed him to return to France with a replica of the boobytrapped suitcase used in the bombing, as well as timers and detonators believed similar to those used to set off the explosives.
German prosecutors put their star witness, exiled former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, on the stand in the trial of five men—four Lebanese and an Iranian—accused of murdering four Iranian dissidents in a gangland-style shooting at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in 1992. Bani Sadr told the court in August that Iran’s religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the killings of the three exiled Iranian Kurdish leaders and their translator and that President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani signed the order. He also referred to a suspected former Iranian intelligence officer (so-called Witness C and later identified as Abolqasem Messbahi), who also was called to testify. Statements in the prosecution’s summation in November, which implicated Iran’s senior leadership for directing the Mykonos killings, led to demonstrations in front of the German Embassy in Tehran and threats against the prosecutors. In March prosecutors issued an arrest warrant against Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahiyan in connection with the killings. A Berlin state court has spent almost three years hearing evidence in the Mykonos case. (Guilty verdicts for four of the accused were announced in April 1997.)
Suspected Palestinian terrorist Yasser Shraydi was extradited from Lebanon to Germany in May to stand trial in connection with the La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin in 1986. In October three other suspects in the case were arrested and are in German custody. Arrest warrants also were issued against four former Libyan diplomats and intelligence officers believed to have been involved in the bombing. German prosecutors, who have stated that this bombing was a case of state terrorism directed from Tripoli, hope to begin the trial in mid-1997.
The number of terrorist acts instigated by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) decreased significantly in 1996. Security Services Chief Klaus Gruenewald had visited PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in August 1995 to demand the cessation of PKK violence on German soil. PKK-attributable violence in Germany continued at a negligible level until early March when, on the occasion of Kurdish New Year’s Day, PKK-affiliated demonstrations in Dortmund and other cities turned violent and injured several German policemen. Ocalan blamed the incidents on the German police but, in view of negative German public reaction, later apologized and promised to halt further PKK incidents in Germany. Earlier in the year, Ocalan had threatened to use PKK suicide bombers in Germany and also issued death threats against Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Kinkel, but he later retracted these statements. This reflects his dual strategy of threatening to carry out violence in Germany, on the one hand, and trying to operate within the parameters of German law, on the other.
The Red Army Faction (RAF) has not been active in Germany for the past several years, although German authorities continue to pursue and prosecute RAF members for crimes committed during the 1980s. Following two years of hearings, the German courts convicted RAF member Birgit Hogefeld in November of three counts of murder—including the 1985 murder of a US soldier and the subsequent bombing attack at the US Rhein-Main Airbase—and four counts of attempted murder. She was sentenced to life in prison. Christoph Seidler—who was alleged to be, but claims never to have been, a member of the RAF—the main suspect in the 1989 car-bomb killing of Deutsche Bank chief executive Alfred Herrhausen, turned himself in to German authorities in November but was later released and a longstanding arrest warrant lifted.
German authorities scored a coup with the arrest of two suspected members of the shadowy leftist Anti-Imperialist Cell (AIZ) in February. The two men—Bernhard Falk and Michael Steinau—are awaiting trial. The AIZ had claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks on the homes of second-tier conservative politicians in 1995, the last occurring in December 1995. Because no further incidents have occurred since the February arrests, the German Government believes the AIZ is no longer a viable threat.
The Greek Government continues to make no headway in its pursuit of Greek terrorists, in particular, the Revolutionary Organization 17 November that is responsible for numerous attacks against US interests, including the murder of four US officials. On 15 February an antiarmor rocket was fired at the US Embassy in Athens, causing some property damage but no casualties. Circumstances of the attack suggest it was a 17 November operation. On 28 May the IBM building in Athens was bombed, resulting in substantial property damage but no casualties. An anonymous call later claimed responsibility on behalf of the “Nihilist Faction,” which first surfaced earlier in the year with bomb attacks against the residence of a supreme court prosecutor and a shopping mall in downtown Athens.
The Greek Government also continues to tolerate the official presence in Athens of two Turkish terrorist groups—the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan, which is the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), formerly Devrimci Sol, which is responsible for the murder of two US Government contractors in Turkey.
The Greek judicial system continues to be hampered by obstacles to the prosecution of terrorists. The latest pending piece of legislation authorizes judges to exclude the testimony of a defendant against a codefendant in a criminal proceeding—including terrorist cases—which would make it difficult to obtain convictions against members of terrorist groups.
Under the terms of another Greek law that allows for release after two-fifths of a sentence has been served, on 5 December the Greek Government released convicted terrorist Mohammed Rashid from prison and expelled him from Greece. Rashid had been in jail for his role in the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am aircraft in which a 15-year old Japanese citizen was killed. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which was subsequently reduced to 15 years. The United States deplored the early release of this convicted terrorist, calling the court ruling “incomprehensible.”
The Greek Government, however, also demonstrated some willingness to extradite non-Greeks in two high-profile cases: after completing a five-year Greek prison sentence on various charges, Abdul Rahim Khaled was handed over to Italian authorities pursuant to his conviction in absentia in 1987 by an Italian court for his part in the Achille Lauro hijacking; and Andrea Haeusler, a German citizen, faced extradition to Germany on charges stemming from her alleged participation in the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. (She was extradicted in January 1997.)
Unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the Consulate of Serbia and Montenegro in Milan on two successive nights in mid-April. The building suffered only minor damage, and there were no injuries. Following the second set of attacks, an anonymous caller telephoned the Milan police and reported the incident. Italian authorities also found traces of a poster saying “Free Bosnia” on the wall of the Consulate.
In a multicity operation on 7 November, Italian National Police officers arrested more than two dozen suspected members and supporters of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) following a yearlong investigation. Authorities have charged the suspects, who include Algerians and other North Africans, with weapons trafficking, counterfeiting documents, and facilitating the illegal entry into Italy of Algerian terrorists. Police reported that some suspects were in possession of hardcopy and computer manuals regarding the preparation of explosives and the use of weapons.
On 24 April a group calling itself GN 95 detonated a bomb at a Shell gas station in Warsaw, killing a policeman who was preparing to defuse the device. GN 95 later justified the explosion by stating its opposition to the expansion of foreign investments into Poland. The group demanded $2 million from the Royal Dutch Shell Group.
Russia has sought to combat terrorism in a number of ways both overseas and at home. Moscow participated in a G-7/P-8 ministerial conference on counterterrorism in Paris in July and in a follow-up conference in October. Russian security authorities also conducted exercises of their counterterrorist components. The Russian prosecution of three Armenians for involvement in four bombings of Moscow-Baku passenger trains in 1993 and 1994 led to convictions and jail sentences.
The Russians have not made any headway, however, in their investigation of a series of bombs placed in public transportation vehicles in Moscow and elsewhere in the country, or of a bombing that leveled a nine-story apartment building in Kaspiysk, killing more than 50.
Several other terrorist acts took place in Russia during 1996. In January a Chechen group took as hostages up to 200 noncombatants in Pervomayskoye. On 7 August in St. Petersburg, a gunman shot and wounded Finnish Deputy Consul General Olli Perkheyentupa outside a hotel; no one claimed responsibility. In Vladivostok, a South Korean official was murdered on 1 October; Seoul suspects that North Korean agents were involved. On 17 December six Westerners who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered in Novyy Atagi. In late December authorities arrested several suspects, but released them without charging them.
The separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) organization conducted its biggest campaign against Spanish tourist sites in years—a total of 14 bombings or attempted bombings in July and August. In the most devastating attack, 35 persons—including approximately two dozen British tourists—were injured on 20 July when a bomb exploded in a waiting room at an airport near the coastal city of Tarragona. Authorities also believe that ETA, which occasionally targets French businesses in Spain, was responsible for a package bomb that exploded in a Citroen car dealership near Zaragoza in July, injuring the owner and his son. In March police defused a car bomb placed in front of a French-owned store in Madrid following a telephone warning from a caller claiming to represent the Basque extremist group. ETA also continued to attack Spanish military, police, and economic targets throughout 1996.
The Aznar government, which came to power in May, has vowed to work diligently to neutralize ETA and has put special emphasis on strengthening cooperation with other states—particularly France—in this effort. In May press reports indicated that France planned to assign a police attache to its Embassy in Madrid to coordinate daily cooperation with Spain. Moreover, Madrid and Paris signed an agreement in June that allowed for the establishment of four joint police stations—three on the French side of the border. Meanwhile, Spain persuaded France to help reform a European extradition treaty in the European Union to allow “simple membership in an armed band” to be sufficient cause for extradition.
Spanish authorities extradited Achille Lauro hijacker Majed Yousef al-Molqi to Italy in early December. They had captured al-Molqi on 22 March in southern Spain after he failed to return to an Italian prison in February following a 12-day furlough for good behavior. In 1986 an Italian court sentenced al-Molqi, a Palestinian affiliated with the Abu Abbas faction of the Palestine Liberation Front, to 30 years in prison for killing Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound US citizen, during the hijacking of the Italian luxury ship in 1985.
Madrid struck a blow against the Algerian Armed Islamic Group’s (GIA) infrastructure in Spain with the arrest of suspected GIA member Farid Rezgui on 14 June. Rezgui reportedly had some 30 sets of false Italian, French, Spanish, and Algerian identification documents in his possession, presumably for use by GIA members to facilitate their movements in Europe. Authorities reportedly also found magazines published by GIA and other Islamic extremist groups, as well as video and audiocassette tapes of speeches by Islamic leaders, including Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the Egyptian extremist al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya.
Unidentified assailants conducted attacks against Russian servicemen stationed in Tajikistan, as well as their dependents. On 4 June several gunmen shot and killed two Russian servicemen’s wives while the victims were visiting a cemetery in Dushanbe. No one claimed responsibility. On 15 August a remote-controlled explosive device with 2.5 pounds of TNT destroyed a Russian military truck. One serviceman was killed and one was wounded. On 20 November gunmen shot at two Russian servicemen getting off a bus in a Dushanbe neighborhood. Both servicemen were seriously wounded. Two days later assailants ambushed a bus of Russian border guards in Dushanbe using grenade launchers and handgrenades, killing the bus driver and injuring several border guards. On 20 December members of an armed independent gang kidnapped UN and other officials and demanded that several of their supporters be returned to them. The hostages were subsequently released.
The number of terrorist incidents committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey in 1996 declined significantly due to the group’s unilateral cease-fire from December 1995 until the fall of 1996. Nonetheless, the PKK was responsible for sporadic terrorist attacks during the cease-fire period, most notably, the 30 June suicide bombing against a Turkish military parade in Tunceli. The attack killed nine security forces personnel and wounded another 35. The suicide bombing marked the first time the PKK had used this tactic even though PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had threatened earlier in the year to use suicide bombings against Turkey’s Western cities in an effort to drive away tourists.
Since the end of the cease-fire the PKK has stepped up its attacks against military and civilian targets in southeastern Turkey. The most noteworthy incidents include two more suicide bombings—in Adana and Sivas—in late October that killed two civilians in addition to eight security forces personnel. The suicide bombing in Sivas is of note because the city, well outside of the southeast, is in an area that the Turkish Government previously considered to be relatively secure. In two other incidents four schoolteachers were murdered outside of Diyarbakir in October and three tourists—including a US citizen—were kidnapped outside of Bingol in September. The US citizen and his Polish traveling companion were later released unharmed. There is no word on the status of the third hostage, reportedly an Iranian. The killing of schoolteachers and kidnapping of foreigners are traditional PKK terrorist acts but had not been seen in almost two years.
The number of violent PKK activities in Western Europe also was down in 1996, particularly after German Security Services Chief Klaus Gruenewald visited Ocalan in late 1995 to demand the cessation of PKK-instigated violence in Germany. PKK violence continued at a negligible level until early March when a PKK-affiliated demonstration in Bonn turned violent, injuring several German policemen. Ocalan later apologized for the incident and promised to suspend further PKK incidents on German soil.
The Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)—the successor group to Devrimci Sol—pulled off a spectacular terrorist act in January with the high-profile assassination of prominent Turkish businessman Ozdemir Sabanci in his high-security office building in Istanbul. Previously, DHKP/C had managed only a few low-level assassinations against unprotected Turkish targets. The group also conducted several drive-by shootings of policemen in Istanbul. Although the drive-by shootings are not characteristic of DHKP/C’s usually intensive surveillance and planning, its successful murder of Sabanci suggests that it is acquiring greater capabilities and that it could once again become a real threat.
In 1996 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resumed a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, breaking a 17-month cease-fire. The Continuity Army Council (CAC)—also known as the Irish Continuity Army—a hardline Republican movement formed in 1994 to protest the IRA’s cease-fire announcement in August of that year, also resumed its campaign of violence. Loyalist paramilitary groups maintained their cease-fire but remained combat ready and were considering a resumption of violence in response to the IRA bombings.
The IRA broke its cease-fire on 9 February, detonating more than 1,000 pounds of a homemade explosive mixture in a flatbed truck under a platform of London’s Docklands light railway. The bomb killed two, injured more than 100, and caused extensive damage to five blocks of office buildings. On 18 February an IRA terrorist lost his life when a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely in a bus in London. Nine persons were injured and the bus was destroyed. On 9 March a small improvised explosive device detonated inside a trash bin at the entrance to a London cemetery near a British Defense Ministry building. No one was injured. The IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb three days later.
On 24 April coded calls led police to a bomb containing about 30 pounds of plastic explosive under London’s Hammersmith bridge. Police were evacuating the area when the two detonators exploded but failed to set off the plastic explosive charges; bomb squads disarmed the devices. The next night the IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb, calling its failure to explode “unfortunate.”
A large fertilizer-based car bomb exploded near a shopping center in Manchester on 15 June, injuring more than 200 persons and causing an estimated $300 million in structural damage. The explosion coincided with a celebration in London marking the queen’s official birthday.
IRA terrorists attacked a British army barracks in Osnabruck, Germany, on 28 June, with three mortar rounds launched from a truck-mounted rocket launcher. One of the shells hit the barracks, causing considerable damage but no injuries. The other two shells did not explode and were disarmed. The IRA also claimed credit for two vehicle bombs, each comprising about 800 pounds of homemade explosives, that exploded on the grounds of the British Army headquarters in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on 7 October. The two blasts killed one serviceman and injured 31. Dual bombings are an IRA signature; the second bomb, placed in the path of victims fleeing from the first bomb, exploded about 10 minutes later.
The CAC claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded on 14 July at a hotel in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. About 40 people were injured in the blast. In similar incidents, on 29 September and 22 November, the CAC planted car bombs loaded with homemade explosives in Belfast and Londonderry, respectively. Following warning calls, army explosives experts found the vehicles and detonated them in controlled explosions.
Ulster peace talks have seen little progress. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, is barred from the talks until the IRA accedes to an unconditional cease-fire. The decommissioning of Republican and Loyalist weapons is also a major sticking point to the talks.
Latin America Overview
Terrorists from the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) took over the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, during a diplomatic reception on 17 December. More than 500 persons were taken captive, including eight US officials, numerous foreign ambassadors, prominent Peruvians including the Foreign and Agriculture Ministers, six supreme court justices, high-ranking members of the police and military, as well as members of the Peruvian and international business community. Most hostages were freed in the first several days after the attack, including all of the US officials. At the end of the year efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully were under way.
Peru hosted the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism in Lima in April. Sponsored by the Organization of American States, the conference, which reflected heightened inter-American cooperation against terrorism, adopted the Declaration and Plan of Action, which strongly endorsed the characterization of terrorist acts, regardless of motivation, as common crimes rather than political offenses.
Colombian guerrillas continued in 1996 to foment violence directed at that country’s infrastructure and armed forces. Efforts by the Colombian Government to negotiate a peace agreement were spurned by the guerrillas. There was a high level of domestic political violence, but international terrorist incidents declined, from 76 in 1995 to 66 in 1996. The guerrillas continued to use kidnapping for ransom as a major source of income. At year’s end, guerrillas held four US citizens hostage.
In Mexico, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) carried out a series of small-scale attacks, killing 17 persons including several civilians, and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) signed an agreement on indigenous peoples’ rights with the government.
Investigations into three major acts of international terrorism in Latin America—the 1992 bombing attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center building in Buenos Aires, and the 1994 bombing of a commuter airliner in Panama—continued without significant progress.
The Government of Guatemala and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) ended their 36-year armed conflict, the hemisphere’s longest running, with a final peace accord signed 29 December.
During 1996 the Argentine Government continued its investigation into the bombing in 1994 of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) in which 86 persons were killed and about 300 were injured. In July the investigating judge ordered the arrest of one former and three current police officers from Buenos Aires Province. On the basis of leads developed after the 1995 arrest of Carlos Telleldin, accused of involvement in illegally obtaining the van used in the bombing, these officers were charged with possession of that van and were accused of being part of a police extortion ring that received the van as part of a down payment on an extortion debt owed by Telleldin. The policemen, however, have not been charged with complicity in the AMIA attack. The Argentine Government throughout the year reaffirmed its commitment to resolve this case and established a special congressional commission to follow and assist the court’s investigation.
The Supreme Court’s investigation into the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires failed to develop new leads. Interior Minister Carlos Corach on 27 November increased from $2 million to $3 million the reward offered to develop new leads in the investigations of the 1992 and 1994 bombings.
The Interior Minister negotiated and began implementing border security measures with Brazil and Paraguay to help address the growing security concerns in the “triborder” area where the frontiers of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet. Argentina adopted a machine-readable passport as part of its program to control the improper use of its passports.
Colombia continued to grapple with widespread violence in 1996, suffering numerous terrorist bombings, murders, kidnappings, and narcotics-related violence. Drug traffickers, leftist insurgents, paramilitary squads, and common criminals committed with impunity scores of violent crimes. Although most of the politically motivated violence was directed at domestic targets, Colombia recorded 66 international terrorist incidents during 1996, a drop from 76 such incidents in 1995. The most frequent targets of international terrorist attacks were the nation’s oil pipelines, which are operated in partnership with foreign oil companies.
The nation’s two main leftist insurgent groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN)—showed little interest in pursuing serious peace talks with the government, preferring to press their violent agenda.
Throughout the year ECOPETROL, the national oil company, was forced to shut down production repeatedly due to ELN attacks. Foreign oil company employees were kidnapped and held for ransom as part of the guerrillas’ continuing war of terror against the Colombian oil industry. ELN carried out 45 attacks against the oil pipeline, justifying its actions by claiming the government is giving away its precious oil reserves to foreigners.
The ELN and FARC staged numerous attacks against police and military installations throughout the year. In a 15 April attack on an army patrol in Narino Department, guerrillas killed 31 soldiers. In a countrywide offensive conducted in late August and early September, the ELN and FARC launched a major offensive in reprisal for the government’s efforts to eradicate coca. At least 150 persons were killed in the attacks, including an unknown number of civilians. On 30 August the FARC overran a Colombian Army base in Putumayo Department, killing 27 soldiers and taking prisoner more than 60 others. By year’s end the soldiers had not been released. A guerrilla attack in Guaviare Department on 6 September left 22 soldiers dead.
Narcoterrorists are suspected of placing a 173-kg car bomb on 5 November outside a Cali business owned by the family of a senator who advocated reinstating extradition of Colombians to the United States. Although the bomb did not explode, flyers found at the scene threatened US citizens and businesses as well as Colombian supporters of extraditing Colombian nationals.
Colombian guerrillas earn millions of dollars from ransom payments each year. Nearly three dozen foreigners were kidnapped by guerrillas during the year. In one major kidnapping, members of a group with possible terrorist links abducted Juan Carlos Gaviria, brother of former Colombian president and current Organization of American States General Secretary Cesar Gaviria. At the request of Cesar Gaviria and the Colombian Government, Cuba in June agreed to admit nine of the terrorists in exchange for the safe release of Juan Carlos Gaviria.
The United States issued arrest warrants against 12 members of the FARC for the murders of two New Tribes Missionaries, Steven Welsh and Timothy Van Dyke, who were killed while being held hostage by the FARC in June 1995. Four other US citizens remained hostage in Colombia at year’s end: three missionaries from the New Tribes Mission who were abducted in 1993, and a US geologist who was kidnapped in early December. (The geologist was killed in February 1997.) Two other US hostages were released in May and June.
Some individual fronts of the FARC, and to a lesser extent the ELN, have symbiotic links with narcotraffickers, especially to the east of the Cordillera Oriental. In some instances, guerrillas have been known to provide security for coca fields, processing facilities, and clandestine shipping facilities. Drug-related activities—along with kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and robbing banks—help generate needed revenues to finance the groups’ terrorist activities.
Guatemala’s 36-year insurgency, the oldest in the hemisphere, formally came to an end 29 December with the signing of a final peace accord between the Guatemalan Government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) guerrillas. The URNG is an umbrella organization formed in 1982 when four separate guerrilla/terrorist groups joined together: the Revolutionary Organization of the Armed People (ORPA), the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and factions of the Guatemalan Labor (Communist) Party (PGT).
President Alvaro Arzu, who took office in January, assigned top priority to achieving a final peace accord in 1996. Negotiations resumed in an atmosphere of mutual confidence, and both sides suspended offensive military actions in March. Major agreements on economic and military issues were signed in May and September, although negotiations were temporarily suspended in October following the URNG’s kidnapping of the 86-year-old handicapped wife of a prominent businessman. The victim was released unharmed in exchange for the release of a high-ranking guerrilla commander. The commander of ORPA accepted responsibility for the kidnapping and resigned from the URNG leadership, enabling negotiations to resume.
Despite the ongoing negotiations and the March suspension of hostilities, which held for the remainder of the year, isolated incidents by renegade URNG elements, or by common criminals claiming to be URNG, were reported. Several terrorist bombings by unknown perpetrators occurred; at least two persons died, and several were injured in the bombings. Several explosive devices were accompanied by URNG leaflets.
As part of the peace accords, URNG guerrillas will demobilize in the first half of 1997, under verification of UN military observers. Ex-URNG members will then form a legal political party.
The self-proclaimed Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) unveiled itself in the southwestern Guerrero State on 28 June during a ceremony marking the anniversary of a state police massacre of local peasants. The EPR has conducted smallscale attacks in several states, mostly against Mexican military and police outposts, public buildings, and power stations. The group has killed at least 17 persons, including several civilians. The Zedillo government has characterized the EPR as a terrorist group.
The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched no violent attacks in 1996. On 16 February EZLN representatives signed an agreement in southeastern Chiapas with the Mexican Government on the rights of indigenous people and made a commitment to negotiate a political settlement.
During 1996 Mexico moved to facilitate the extradition of suspected ETA terrorists by implementing its amended extradition treaty with Spain.
Panamanian authorities have made no arrests in connection with the bombing in July 1994 of a commuter airliner that killed all 21 persons aboard, including three US citizens. Panamanian officials continue to cooperate closely with the United States in the ongoing investigation.
In the 1992 murder case of US Army Corp. Zak Hernandez, suspect Pedro Miguel Gonzalez remains in custody. The case has been before a Panamanian Magistrate for over a year, awaiting a decision on whether to proceed to trial. The two other suspects remain at large.
Elements of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) maintain a presence along the Panama-Colombia border and often cross over to Panama’s Darien Province to hide from the Colombian Army and to obtain supplies.
The Peruvian Government’s largely successful campaign against terrorism suffered a setback with the takeover of the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima on 17 December. In this attack, Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) terrorists captured more than 500 hostages, including eight US officials, numerous foreign ambassadors, prominent Peruvians, including the Foreign and Agriculture Ministers, six supreme court justices, and high-ranking members of the police and military, as well as members of the Peruvian and international business community. The heavily armed terrorists boobytrapped and mined the Japanese Ambassador’s residence. Most hostages were freed in the first several days after the attack, including all of the US officials. At the end of the year, 81 hostages were still being held.
The MRTA’s main demand was the release by the Peruvian Government of imprisoned MRTA members in Peru, a demand that stalled attempts to resolve the hostage situation. The crisis was exacerbated when an Uruguayan court denied extradition requests from Peru and Bolivia and released two MRTA members detained in Uruguay. The MRTA hostage takers in Lima released, almost simultaneously, the Uruguayan Ambassador from captivity. At year’s end, efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully were under way.
The Government of Peru hosted the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism, sponsored by the Organization of American States, in Lima in April. This conference adopted the Declaration and Plan of Action, which strongly endorsed the characterization of terrorist acts, regardless of motivation, as common crimes rather than political offenses.
Sendero Luminoso was significantly weakened when its founder Abimael Guzman was arrested in 1992, but it continued to carry out bombings and assassinations in 1996 against domestic targets. As in the previous year, in 1996 most terrorist violence took place in the Upper Huallaga and Apurimac Valleys, but even there Army-sponsored self-defense militias helped counter the terrorists. There were two international terrorist incidents in Peru in 1996: a car bombing of a Shell oil warehouse on 16 May and the MRTA hostage seizure in December.
Throughout 1996 Peruvian security forces captured several important terrorist suspects, including Elizabeth Cardenas, a.k.a. Comrade Aurora, a senior Sendero Luminoso leader who was arrested in December. In another blow against international terrorism, the Peruvian police in May arrested Yoshimura Kazue, a leading member of the Japanese Red Army wanted for her role in the 1974 seizure of the French Embassy in The Hague. She was subsequently deported to Japan. On 11 January Miguel Rincon, MRTA’s second-highest ranking leader, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Middle East Overview
Spectacular and horrific bombings in Dhahran, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem dominated terrorist incidents in the Middle East in 1996, and nearly doubled the number of terrorist casualties to 837 from 445 in 1995. The truck bombing of the residential building occupied by US military personnel participating in the Joint Task Force/Southwest Asia near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on 25 June killed 19 US citizens and wounded over 500 persons. Several groups claimed responsibility, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Saudi Government continue their investigations into the incident.
In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, suicide bombs in February and March killed 65 persons, including three US citizens. The radical Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) was responsible for three of the bombings, and HAMAS and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) both claimed responsibility for a fourth. In December the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the shooting of an Israeli woman and her son. Israeli extremists were responsible for several attacks in 1996 that resulted in the deaths of at least two Palestinians.
Following the February and March bombings, 29 world leaders from the Middle East, Europe, North America, and Asia met in March and held the “Summit of the Peacemakers” in Sharm ash Shaykh, Egypt. They pledged to support the Middle East peace process and to take practical steps to expand regional cooperation against terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority continued its efforts—in cooperation with Israeli authorities—to combat the threat posed by terrorist groups such as HAMAS and the PIJ and to root out those who plan and carry out these attacks.
The Egyptian Government cracked down on extremist violence and significantly reduced terrorist incidents at the country’s popular tourist sites where attacks had occurred during the previous two years. Fatalities from security incidents in Egypt decreased in 1996. However, extremist violence in upper Egypt and some outlying areas continued. In Cairo, 18 tourists were shot and killed by members of al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group or IG). Also, the men responsible for carrying out the assassination attempt against President Mubarak in June 1995 remain at large.
In Algeria, political violence and random killings continued on a large scale around the country, causing major loss of life. Car bombs targeting Algerian municipalities, a press center, schools, and cafes were set off regularly. Indiscriminate killing of civilians at false highway checkpoints or in outlying towns were almost daily occurrences. Terrorists often targeted the families of members of government security services.
The Armed Islamic Group (GIA) kidnapped and subsequently killed seven French monks when its demands for the release of GIA members were not fulfilled. Otherwise, attacks against foreigners in Algeria decreased in 1996. Algerian extremists are believed to be behind a deadly bombing of a Paris commuter train in which four persons died and some 80 other passengers were wounded. Elsewhere in North Africa, there were few terrorist incidents.
In Lebanon, the security situation improved as the government continued its efforts to expand the rule of law to more of the country. Lebanese courts are increasingly active in prosecuting terrorists. One was convicted of terrorist attacks on Kuwaiti interests in Beirut in the early 1990s, and two others for the car-bombing death of the brother of a senior Hizballah official. A military appeals court upheld the conviction of the murderer of a French military attache killed in 1986, and another court extradited to Germany a man accused in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. A Lebanese court upheld the conviction for kidnapping of two men involved in the 1976 kidnapping and murder of two US diplomats—but then released the two under a Lebanese amnesty law. Terrorist groups, especially Hizballah, continued to operate with relative impunity in large areas of Lebanon, particularly the Al Biqa’ (Bekaa Valley), southern Lebanon, and Beirut’s southern suburbs.
The internal security situation in Algeria has improved since 1994, but the incidence of domestic terrorism, which is among the world’s worst, remained high. At least 60,000 Algerians—Islamic militants, civilians, and security personnel—have been killed since the insurgency began in 1992.
Government security forces made substantial progress against the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS)—the reported military wing of the Islamic Salvation Front—that primarily attacks government-related targets. The government was less successful against the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the most radical of the insurgent groups, which continued terrorist operations against a broad spectrum of Algerian civilian targets in 1996, including women, children, and journalists.
The GIA continued to target foreigners in 1996 and killed at least nine, a sharp decline from the 31 foreigners the group killed in 1995. The total number of foreigners killed by the GIA since 1992 exceeds 110. Most were “soft” targets, including a former Bulgarian attache, who was found beheaded in a forest in mid-November. Although no claims were made for his murder, Algiers blamed the GIA for his death. In August the GIA claimed responsibility for the murder of the French Bishop of Oran, who was killed by a bomb placed outside his residence.
Earlier in 1996 the GIA kidnapped and later beheaded seven French monks from their monastery near Medea. The GIA issued a communique claiming that the monks had been killed because Paris had refused to negotiate with the insurgent group. Algerian extremists are suspected in an explosion in a Paris subway on 3 December that killed four and wounded more than 80. The bomb used in that attack was similar to those used by the GIA in its bombing campaign in France in 1995.
The Algerian Government prosecuted numerous cases of persons charged with committing terrorist acts or supporting terrorist groups in 1996. In July, for example, four men accused of committing murder on behalf of terrorist groups were sentenced to death. Algiers also continued its limited clemency program. Members of militant groups who had surrendered to the authorities for committing murders received 20-year prison sentences instead of the death penalty; those found guilty of membership in terrorist groups received shorter-than-normal prison sentences. President Liamine Zeroual told the Algerian press that, as a result of this program, nearly 2,000 Algerians had surrendered to authorities by September.
The security situation in Bahrain deteriorated somewhat early in the year but showed signs of improvement at year’s end. Antiregime unrest was generally limited, with a few notable exceptions. In the worst incident, seven South Asians were killed in a 14 March arson attack on a restaurant. On 1 July three Bahrainis were convicted and sentenced to death, and five others received lengthy prison sentences for this incident. There were several other attacks, including some using small bombs and incendiary devices. Most of the unrest has consisted of burning tires, exploding propane gas cylinders, and acts of vandalism. Security forces, in return, have conducted a crackdown, killing more than 20 Bahrainis and arresting more than 2,000 since the unrest began in November 1994. At the end of 1996 the scope and intensity of the unrest diminished, though this may be temporary.
Only two incidents directly involved US citizens. On 28 August a US student rented a car that had an improvised incendiary device in the gas tank. The device failed to operate. On 16 September a US citizen’s car, parked in front of a luxury hotel in downtown Manama, was firebombed. In neither case, however, does it appear the US citizens were targeted because of their nationality.
Manama in June publicly announced the discovery of an active Bahraini Hizballah cell that was recruited, trained, and supported by Iran. Diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Iran have been strained since the announcement. Bahrain retaliated by recalling its ambassador from Tehran and by restricting commercial services and air transportation between the two countries.
Islamic extremist violence fell in 1996. The number of fatalities—including noncombatants (105), police (59), and extremists (38) killed—fell sharply from 375 in 1995 to 202. Most incidents continued to occur in the provinces of upper Egypt. In spite of improved security, however, al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group or IG) succeeded in conducting a shooting attack against foreign tourists at a Cairo hotel in April. Although this hotel attack generated the largest casualty count from a single incident in Egypt’s modern history, the total number of deaths from extremist violence dropped sharply in 1996 after increasing steadily during the previous four years.
The IG continued its pattern of hit-and-run attacks in upper Egypt against police and suspected police informers and its robberies of jewelry stores to finance its operations. Minya Governorate ranked highest in terrorist incidents—which included the IG’s killing of a high-ranking police official in April—but attacks also occurred in Asyut Governorate. The IG’s shooting attack in April outside the Europa Hotel in Cairo that killed 18 Greek tourists waiting to board a bus disrupted the previous year’s lull in incidents in Cairo and northern urban areas. The IG said it had intended to kill Israeli tourists to avenge Israeli strikes earlier that month against Hizballah forces in southern Lebanon. The smaller group al-Jihad also condemned Israeli action and threatened to hit “American and Israeli targets everywhere.” Al-Jihad did not claim responsibility for any attacks in Egypt during 1996.
Although the IG carried out no attacks outside Egypt in 1996, a senior IG leader who said he was speaking from Afghanistan publicly threatened in April to kidnap US citizens in retaliation for the sentencing to life in prison by the United States of Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, the IG’s spiritual leader, in January. The shaykh was convicted in October 1995 for planning to carry out several terrorist conspiracies in the United States.
The Egyptian Government hosted the Summit of Peacemakers in March at Sharm ash Shaykh to discuss terrorism and the peace process. President Clinton joined President Mubarak, then Prime Minister Peres, King Hussein, Chairman Arafat, and other heads of state and government at the meeting.
Israel and the Occupied Territories/Palestinian Autonomous Areas
Terrorism continued to have a major impact in Israel and the occupied territories in 1996. Palestinian extremists opposed to peace with Israel conducted four massive suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem early in the year, which killed 65 civilians. The overall number of anti-Israeli terrorist attacks instigated by Palestinians declined to 14 in 1996 from 33 in 1995.
On 25 February a suicide bomber blew up a commuter bus in Jerusalem, killing 26, including three US citizens, and injuring 80 others, including another three US citizens. The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) claimed responsibility for the bombing. (HAMAS also claimed responsibility for a second bombing on the same day in Ashqelon, killing two persons, in an act of domestic terrorism.) On 3 March a suicide bomber detonated a bomb on a bus in Jerusalem, killing 19 and injuring six others. This bomb was wrapped with ball bearings and other metal fragments to increase casualties. A HAMAS spokesman claimed responsibility and said the attack was in response to Israel’s rejection of a conditional cease-fire offered by HAMAS. On 4 March a suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside the Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv’s largest shopping mall, killing 20 and wounding 75 others, including two US citizens and children celebrating the Jewish Purim holiday. HAMAS and the PIJ both claimed responsibility for this bombing.
Other Palestinian groups that reject the peace process also launched anti-Israeli attacks in 1996, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Abu Musa’s Fatah-Intifada. Unidentified gunmen, presumably Palestinian rejectionists, conducted another cross-border attack from Lebanon in March, killing 2 soldiers and wounding 9 others. On 11 December gunmen from the PFLP attacked a car carrying Israeli settlers near the settlement of Bet El north of Ram Allah in the West Bank, killing a woman and her 12-year-old son. The PFLP claimed responsibility and threatened other attacks on settlers. Palestinian Authority (PA) courts later convicted three PFLP members for the attack.
Israeli extremists also committed terrorist acts in 1996. On 4 February an unidentified Israeli reportedly fired on a group of Palestinian students on the main Nabulus-Ram Allah road, wounding a 16-year-old boy. On 1 October a Palestinian man died after being shot near Bet Shemesh. On 21 October an Israeli reportedly shot and killed a Palestinian man near the West Bank village of Sinjil.
The United States and Israel increased cooperation against terrorism in 1996. In April President Clinton and then Prime Minister Peres agreed to form the US-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group, which held its first meeting in Washington in November. In response to the President’s request, the US Congress voted to give Israel a grant of $100 million for the purchase of equipment to fight terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for security in the Gaza Strip and most West Bank towns, continued in 1996 its effort to rein in Palestinian violence aimed at undermining the peace process. The PA security apparatus prevented several planned terrorist attacks and arrested Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist operations, including one who admitted his involvement in the murder of a dual US-Israeli citizen on 13 May. Chairman Arafat and other senior PA officials regularly condemned acts of terrorism.
Jordan and Israel continued implementation of their peace treaty—signed on 26 October 1994—which commits the two parties to cooperate against terrorism. Amman maintains tight security along its border with the West Bank and has interdicted individuals attempting to infiltrate into the West Bank.
Jordanian security and police closely monitor secular and Islamic extremists inside the country and detain individuals suspected of involvement in violent acts aimed at destabilizing the government or its relations with other states. Jordanian authorities detained dozens of people in terrorism-related cases in 1996, including several individuals who reportedly infiltrated into Jordan from Syria with plans to attack Jordanian officials and Israeli tourists. After King Hussein raised the issue of possible Syrian complicity with President Asad in July, Damascus arrested some of the infiltrators’ supporters in Syria.
Several Palestinian rejectionist groups maintain a closely watched presence in Jordan, including the Abu Nidal organization (ANO), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS). Following the February 1996 suicide bombings in Israel, Jordanian security forces detained dozens of HAMAS members, including an alleged politburo official, and in May once again warned HAMAS spokesman Ibrahim Ghawsha, a Jordanian citizen, not to issue statements supporting anti-Israeli violence.
US military and diplomatic facilities and personnel came under increasing threat in 1996. International terrorist financier Usama Bin Ladin publicly threatened US interests in the Gulf, including Kuwait, in September and again in December. US and Western establishments received numerous telephoned and faxed bomb threats during the year.
Kuwaiti Hizballah, a Kuwaiti Shia organization that may have links to Iran, in 1996 allegedly assisted a Bahraini opposition group by smuggling weapons into Manama. Kuwaiti Hizballah may also have been engaged in activities directed against the US military presence in Kuwait.
Lebanon’s security environment continued to improve in 1996 as the country worked to rebuild its infrastructure and institutions. However, parts of southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, and portions of Beirut’s southern suburbs—including areas surrounding Lebanon’s main airport—remain effectively beyond the government’s control. In these areas, a variety of terrorist groups, including Hizballah, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), the Abu Nidal organization (ANO), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), continued to operate with relative impunity, conducting terrorist training and other operational activities.
Although no anti-US attacks occurred in Lebanon in 1996, the official US presence there remains under threat. Hizballah’s animosity toward the United States has not abated, and the group continues to monitor the US Embassy and its personnel. Group leaders routinely denounce US policies and condemn the Middle East peace process.
Lebanon pursued several high-profile court cases against suspected terrorists in 1996:
- In October Mohammed Hilal, a former official of a Palestinian terrorist group, was convicted (in absentia) of throwing a handgrenade at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Beirut in March 1993 and of attempting to bomb the offices of Kuwait Airways in August 1993. The court sentenced him to life at hard labor and determined that he had acted on the orders of the Iraqi Government.
- Two men were tried in connection with the 1994 carbombing death of Fuad Mughniyah, brother of senior Hizballah security official Imad Mughniyah. Both were found guilty. One was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor, the other to death. The death sentence was carried out 21 September.
- In October a military appeals court confirmed the life sentence of Hussein Tlays. Tlays had been found guilty previously of the 1986 assassination of a French military attache on the orders of a Hizballah official.
- The Lebanese courts also extradited a Palestinian, Yasser Shraydi, to Germany for trial in connection with the La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin in 1986, in which three US servicemen and one Turkish woman were killed.
The Lebanese Government pursued through several appeals the case of the 1976 kidnapping and murder of US Ambassador Francis E. Meloy and Economic Counselor Robert O. Waring. In March the civil courts found the two accused guilty of the kidnappings but not the murders. Although the murder of diplomats is not covered by Lebanon’s 1991 amnesty law, the law did apply to the kidnappings. Consequently, one of the accused was freed; the other continues to be held for unrelated crimes.
There were few terrorist-related incidents in Morocco in 1996. In July the Russian Embassy in Rabat received a letter from a group calling itself “The Dar al-Islam Western Front” threatening to attack specific Russians in Morocco, but no such attacks followed. On 18 June a prominent Moroccan Jew was the victim of an assassination attempt in Casablanca. It was unclear, however, whether the attempt was the result of a personal vendetta or terrorist activity. Later that month, the US Consulate and another prominent Moroccan Jew, both in Casablanca, received threatening phone calls that future attacks would take place against the Jewish community. The Government of Morocco has demonstrated a readiness to respond to terrorist threats and has investigated such incidents thoroughly.
On 22 April Saudi authorities televised the confessions of four Sunni Saudi nationals who admitted to planning and conducting the bombing of the Office of the Program Manager/Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM/SANG) headquarters building in Riyadh in November 1995. They said their disillusionment with the way the regime practiced Islam and Islamic law motivated them to carry out the attack. Three were veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya. The four were executed on 31 May in accordance with Saudi law.
On 25 June a large fuel truck containing explosives detonated outside the US military’s Khubar Towers housing facility near Dhahran, killing 19 American citizens and wounding some 500 persons. Khubar Towers housed US Air Force personnel and other Western military personnel assigned to duty in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as part of the Joint Task Force/Southwest Asia, which enforces the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Several groups, both Shia and Sunni, purportedly claimed responsibility for the bombing, including: the “Brigades of the Martyr Abdallah al-Hudhaifi,” “Hizballah al-Khalij,” and the “Islamic Movement for Change.” Saudi and US authorities are still investigating the incident.
There were no reported acts of terrorism in Tunisia in 1996, but the Government of Tunisia remains publicly committed to taking necessary actions to counter terrorist threats, particularly from religious extremists. Tunis continued throughout the year to prosecute individuals belonging to the illegal an-Nahda group, which it considers a terrorist organization, but did not blame an-Nahda for any specific terrorist attacks this year. In October the Tunisian Government arrested two individuals suspected of involvement in the assassination of Belgian Vice Premier Andre Cools in 1991. The investigation is expected to continue in 1997.
In 1996 the Government of Yemen deported Abu Nidal organization (ANO) members residing in the country. Yemen also signed extradition agreements with the Governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. According to press reports, in October the Yemenis turned over to the Saudi Government several Saudi suspects. Furthermore, an Ethiopian national who hijacked an airliner to Yemen in April was arrested and jailed. He has not yet been tried.
Yemen, however, remained a base for some terrorist elements. The Yemeni Government has been unable to exercise full control over its territory, and terrorists have committed kidnappings and attacks on foreign interests in remote areas of the country. There were several attacks of this type in 1996:
- In January tribesmen in al Ma’rib Governorate kidnapped 17 elderly French tourists in order to pressure authorities into releasing a member of the tribe. The tourists were released unharmed three days later.
- In June an unidentified assailant threw an explosive device from a passing car into a vacant lot 30 meters from a US Embassy officer’s residence near the office of the Canadian Occidental oil company. The company has been accused of polluting Yemeni natural resources.
- A French diplomat was kidnapped by tribesmen in the al Ma’rib Governorate in late October and was released unharmed in early November.
Moreover, Yemeni border security measures are lax and Yemeni passports are easily obtained by terrorist groups. The ruling government coalition also includes both tribal and Islamic elements which have facilitated the entry and documentation of foreign extremists.