Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.
The Year in Review
During 1997 there were 304 acts of international terrorism, eight more than occurred during 1996, but one of the lowest annual totals recorded since 1971. The number of casualties remained large but did not approach the high levels recorded during 1996. In 1997, 221 persons died and 693 were wounded in international terrorist attacks as compared to 314 dead and 2,912 wounded in 1996. Seven US citizens died and 21 were wounded in 1997, as compared with 23 dead and 510 wounded the previous year.
Approximately one-third of the attacks were against US targets, and most of those consisted of low-level bombings of multinational oil pipelines in Colombia. Terrorists there regard the pipelines as a US target.
The predominant type of attack during 1997 was bombing; the foremost target was business related.
The following were among the more significant attacks during the year:
- The deadliest terrorist attack ever committed in Egypt occurred on 17 November when six gunmen entered the Hatsheput Temple in Luxor and for 30 minutes methodically shot and knifed tourists trapped inside the Temple’s alcoves. Fifty-eight foreign tourists were murdered, along with three Egyptian police officers and one Egyptian tour guide. The gunmen then commandeered an empty tour bus and fled the scene, but Egyptian security forces pursued them and all six were killed.
- On 18 September terrorists launched a grenade attack on a tour bus parked in front of the Egyptian National Antiquities Museum in Cairo. Nine German tourists and their Egyptian busdriver were killed, and eight others were wounded.
- On 12 November four US citizens, employees of Union roleum, and their Pakistani driver were shot and killed when the vehicle in which they were riding was attacked 1 mile from the US Consulate in Karachi.
- The Government of Iran conducted at least 13 assassinations in 1997, the majority of which were carried out in northern Iraq.
- On 30 July two suicide bombers attacked a market in Jerusalem. Sixteen persons—including a US citizen—were killed, and 178 were wounded.
- On 4 September three suicide bombers attacked a pedestrian mall in central Jerusalem, killing seven persons—including a 14-year-old US citizen—and injuring nearly 200 persons.
- Frank Pescatore, a US geologist and mining consultant working in Colombia, was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in December 1996 and later killed by his captors; his body was discovered 23 February 1997.
- On 30 March unknown assailants threw four grenades into a political demonstration in Phnom Penh, killing 19 persons and wounding more than 100 others. Among the injured were a US citizen from the International Republican Institute, a Chinese journalist from the Xinhua News Agency, and opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who led some 200 supporters of his Khmer Nations Party in the demonstration against the governing Cambodian People’s Party.
- In April, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, police discovered and defused 23 landmines under a bridge that was part of Pope John Paul II’s motorcade route in Sarajevo, several hours before the Pope’s arrival.
- On 30 July, in Colombia, National Liberation Army terrorists bombed the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline in Norte Santander. They had wrapped sticks of dynamite around the pipes of the pump, which caused a major oil spill on detonation. Pumping operations were suspended for more than a week, resulting in several million dollars in lost revenue.
In a notable counterterrorism achievement, Peruvian security forces staged on 22 April a raid on the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima where members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) were holding 72 hostages for four months. All but one of the hostages were freed; after being shot during the rescue, that one suffered a heart attack and subsequently died. All the MRTA hostage takers were killed. The United States strongly supported the Government of Peru’s steadfast refusal to make any concessions to the terrorists holding the hostages during the four-month ordeal.
Terrorists were brought to trial in various countries throughout the year:
- In April a judgment by a court in Berlin found that the highest levels of Iran’s political leadership followed a deliberate policy of murdering political opponents who lived outside the country. The court found four defendants guilty in the 1992 murders of four Iranian Kurdish opposition figures in Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant. Three of the four convicted were members of the Lebanese Hizballah organization; the fourth was an Iranian national. The court made clear that other participants in the murders had escaped to Iran, where one of them was given a Mercedes for his role in the operation. In March 1996 a German court had issued an arrest warrant for former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Fallahian in this case.
- On 18 November the trial of five defendants suspected in the 1986 La Belle discotheque bombing opened in Berlin. Two US soldiers, Sgt. Kenneth Ford and Sgt. James Goins, were killed in the attack along with a Turkish citizen, and some 200 other persons were wounded, including 64 US citizens. The United States believes the attack was sponsored by Libya. The trial is expected to last two years.
- The notorious terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, known as “Carlos the Jackal,” was convicted in December by a French court for the 1975 murders of two French investigators and a Lebanese national. Although Ramirez had proclaimed during the trial that “There is no law for me,” the court sentenced him to life in prison.
- Several notable trials of international terrorist suspects in the United States also took place during the year:
- On 12 November a federal jury in Manhattan convicted Ramzi Ahmed Yousef of directing and helping to carry out the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Eyad Mahmoud Ismail Najim, who drove the truck that carried the bomb, was also found guilty. Yousef was extradited to the United States from Pakistan in February 1995; Najim was arrested in Jordan in August of that year pursuant to an extradition request from the United States, and he was returned to the United States. (In January 1998 Yousef was sentenced to 240 years in solitary confinement for his role in the World Trade Center bombing. He also received an additional sentence of life imprisonment for his previous conviction in a terrorist conspiracy to plant bombs aboard US passenger airliners operating in East Asia.)
- In June 1997 US authorities arrested Mir Aimal Kansi, the suspected gunman in the attack on 25 January 1993 outside Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Headquarters that killed two CIA employees and wounded three others. Kansi was apprehended abroad, remanded into US custody, and transported to the United States to stand trial. In November a jury in Fairfax, Virginia, found Kansi guilty of the capital murder of Frank A. Darling, the first degree murder of Lansing H. Bennett, and the malicious wounding of Nicholas Starr, Calvin R. Morgan, and Stephen E. Williams, as well as five firearms charges. (In January 1998, Kansi was sentenced to death.)
- A member of the Japanese Red Army terrorist organization, Tsutomu Shirosaki, was turned over to US authorities in 1996 in an Asian country and brought to the United States to stand trial for the improvised mortar attacks against the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 14 May 1986. The projectiles landed on the roof and in a courtyard but failed to explode. In November a US federal court in Washington, DC, found Shirosaki guilty of all charges, including attempted murder of US Embassy personnel and attempting to harm a US Embassy. (In February 1998 Shirosaki was sentenced to a 30-year prison term.)
There were 13 international terrorist incidents in the United States during the year, 12 involving letter bombs:
- In January a total of 12 letter bombs with Alexandria, Egypt, postmarks were discovered in holiday greeting cards mailed to the United States. On two separate days during January, nine letter bombs were discovered in the Washington, DC, and United Nations offices of the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper. In addition, three letter bomb devices were sent to the federal prison in Fort Leavenworth Kansas. None of the letter bombs detonated, and there were no public claims of responsibility. A similar device mailed to the al-Hayat office in London on 13 January did explode, injuring two persons. Subsequently, three more devices were found. The incidents are under investigation by the FBI.
- On 23 February a Palestinian gunman entered the observation deck at the Empire State building in New York City and opened fire on tourists, killing a Danish man and wounding visitors from the United States, Argentina, Switzerland, and France before turning the gun on himself. A note carried by the gunman indicated that this was a punishment attack against the “enemies of Palestine.”
Ongoing civil war and ethnic violence in some regions of Africa continued to overshadow individual incidents of terrorism. During 1997, 11 international terrorist incidents occurred in Africa, the same number as the previous year. The methods used in the incidents were varied, and the targets included aid workers, UN personnel on humanitarian missions in war-torn countries, and expatriate workers.
On 8 February separatists from the Cabinda Liberation Front-Cabindan Armed Forces (FLEC-FAC) kidnapped a Malaysian citizen and a Filipino forest engineer in Cabinda. The group charged the two with spying for the Angolan Government and said they would be punished according to revolutionary law, either by expulsion or death. FLEC-FAC also issued an ultimatum to Western companies to leave the Cabinda enclave or become targets in the guerrilla struggle for independence.
On 10 February two unidentified men tossed grenades into the Belaneh Hotel in Harer, wounding three Britons, one German, one Dutch national, and one French citizen. The attackers also killed a security officer at the hotel and wounded one other person. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the Bale Zone of southern Oromiya, 10 armed men on 28 March stopped a private vehicle occupied by a Danish nurse from the Danish Ethiopian Mission and kidnapped her. The nurse’s body was found on 3 April.
On 13 December angry villagers and employees of Western Geophysical, a US-owned oil exploration company, kidnapped one US citizen, one Australian, two Britons, and at least nine Nigerian employees of the firm. The victims were held hostage on a barge off the coast of Nigeria. All hostages were released unharmed by 18 December.
On 22 March armed members of the Ijaw community, protesting the redrawing of regional government boundaries, occupied Shell Oil buildings in the Niger Delta and held hostage 127 Nigerian employees of the Anglo-Dutchowned Shell Oil Company. The protesters released 18 hostages on 25 March and the remaining 109 on 27 March. Three of the hostages were injured.
On 18 January armed Hutu militants attacked the Medicos del Mundo compound in Ruhengeri, killing three Spanish aid workers and injuring one US citizen aid worker.
On 2 February an unidentified gunman entered a church in Ruhengeri Prefecture and killed a Canadian priest as he served communion. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 4 February suspected Hutu militants in Cyangugu Prefecture killed five members of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda. The attackers used firearms, grenades, and machetes to kill one Briton, one Cambodian, and three Rwandans.
On 21 November in Elayo village in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, some 20 unidentified gunmen kidnapped five UN and European aid workers. The hostages—one Briton, one Canadian, two Kenyans, and one Indian—were released unharmed on 24 November.
On 5 January a bomb exploded at a mosque in Rustenburg, injuring a Sudanese citizen and one South African. The Boere Aanvals Troepe claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 31 October unknown assailants hurled two hand-grenades into a tourist hostel in Kampala, injuring one South African, one Briton, and one unidentified foreign tourist.
Incidents of terrorism in East Asia increased in 1997. Continuing defections from the Khmer Rouge to Cambodian forces reduced the threat from the terrorist group, but guerrillas in the Cambodian provinces have been responsible for deadly attacks on foreigners. The unstable political situation in Cambodia has led to marked political violence, and the most significant act of terrorism there was a grenade attack on an opposition political rally in March, which left 19 persons dead and injured more than 100, including a US citizen. In October, the Secretary of State designated the Khmer Rouge as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
In the Philippines, implementation of a peace agreement with insurgent groups has reduced fighting with government forces, but former members of these insurgent groups and members of Philippine terrorist organizations continued attacks. Foreigners number among their victims. In October, the Secretary of State designated one of these terrorist organizations, the Abu Sayyaf Group, as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. In China and Indonesia, separatist violence not targeted against foreigners but having the potential to claim foreigners as collateral victims continued.
In Japan, the trial of the leader of Aum Shinrikyo, the group responsible for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 continued. A government panel decided not to invoke an Anti-Subversive Law to ban Aum Shinrikyo, concluding that the group poses no future threat, although the group continued to operate and to recruit new members. In October, the Secretary of State designated Aum Shinrikyo as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
In South Asia, many of the factions involved in the Afghanistan civil war—including large numbers of Egyptians, Algerians, Palestinians, and Saudis—continued to provide haven to terrorists by facilitating the operation of training camps in areas under their control. The factions remain engaged in a struggle for political and military supremacy over the country.
Efforts to ascertain the fate of the four Western hostages kidnapped in July 1995 in Kashmir by affiliates of the Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA) continued through 1997. There is no evidence to corroborate claims by multiple Kashmiri militant sources that the hostages were killed in December 1995. In October, the HUA was designated a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
In Pakistan, deadly incidents of sectarian violence, particularly in Sindh and Punjab Provinces, continued throughout 1997. In November, four US employees of Union Texas Petroleum and their Pakistani driver were murdered in Karachi when the vehicle in which they were riding was attacked 1 mile from the US Consulate in Karachi. In addition, five Iranian Air Force technicians were killed in September in Rawalpindi.
There continue to be credible reports of official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups that engage in terrorism, such as the HUA.
In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) showed no signs of abandoning their campaign to cripple the Sri Lankan economy and target government officials. The group retains its ability to strike in the heart of Colombo, as demonstrated by an October bomb attack on the World Trade Center in the financial district that was reminiscent of the January 1996 truck bomb attack that destroyed the Central Bank. The LTTE was designated a foreign terrorist organization in October pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
Islamic extremists from around the world—including large numbers of Egyptians, Algerians, Palestinians, and Saudis—continued to use Afghanistan as a training ground and home base from which to operate in 1997. The Taliban, as well as many of the other combatants in the Afghan civil war, facilitated the operation of training and indoctrination facilities for non-Afghans in the territories they controlled. Several Afghani factions also provided logistic support, free passage, and sometimes passports to the members of various terrorist organizations. These individuals, in turn, were involved in fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Kashmir, the Philippines, and parts of the Middle East.
Saudi-born terrorist financier Usama Bin Ladin relocated from Jalalabad to the Taliban’s capital of Qandahar in early 1997 and established a new base of operations. He continued to incite violence against the United States, particularly against US forces in Saudi Arabia. Bin Ladin called on Muslims to retaliate against the US prosecutor in the Mir Aimal Kansi trial for disparaging comments he made about Pakistanis and praised the Pakistan-based Kashmiri group HUA in the wake of its formal designation as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. According to the Pakistani press, following Kansi’s rendition to the United States, Bin Ladin warned the United States that, if it attempted his capture, he would “teach them a lesson similar to the lesson they were taught in Somalia.”
The explosion in April of a parcel bomb at the house of a senior official in Burma’s military-led government was the most significant terrorist event in Burma in 1997. The blast killed the adult daughter of Lieutenant-General Tin Oo, Secretary Number Two of the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Government of Burma attributes the act to Burmese antigovernment activists in Japan; the package bore Japanese stamps and postmarks. The Burmese expatriate and student community in Japan denies any involvement in the incident.
Continued defections from the Khmer Rouge to the government and the split of the group into pro- and anti-Pol Pot factions have greatly reduced the threat it poses. Nevertheless, the hardliners based in the Khmer Rouge stronghold at Anlong Veng regularly launched guerrilla-style attacks on government troops in several provinces from July onward. Guerrillas are also suspected in two deadly attacks against ethnic Vietnamese civilians in Cambodia, but they have denied playing a role in the disappearance of two Filipino and two Malaysian employees of a logging company in December 1997.
The most significant terrorist incident in Cambodia in 1997 was the grenade attack on an opposition political rally on 30 March. Nineteen persons were killed in the attack, and more than 100 were injured, including one US citizen. Those responsible for the attack have not yet been apprehended.
Reacting to political violence throughout July, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen announced an eight-point program in August designed to improve the security situation in Cambodia. The new measures include government crackdowns on illegal roadblocks and weapons and a ban on tinted windows intended to discourage kidnapping and arms smuggling.
The fate of British mineclearing expert Christopher Howes, allegedly kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge in March 1996, remained unresolved in 1997. Unconfirmed reporting suggested Howes was with forces loyal to Pol Pot, and some Cambodian officials expressed fears publicly that he had been killed. In May, Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan denied any knowledge of Howes’ whereabouts.
There were no incidents of international terrorism in China in 1997, but Uygur separatists continued a campaign of violence. The Uygurs are a Chinese Muslim ethnic minority group concentrated in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in far western China. In February, Uygur separatists conducted a series of bus bombings in Urumqi that killed nine persons and wounded 74. Uygur rioting earlier in the month in the city of Yining caused as many as 200 deaths. Uygur exiles in Turkey claimed responsibility for a small pipe bomb that exploded on a bus in Beijing in March and which killed three persons and injured eight. In August, Uygur separatists were blamed for killing five persons, including two policemen. The Chinese Government executed several individuals involved in both the rioting and bombings. Beijing claims that support for the Uygurs is coming from neighboring countries, an accusation these countries deny.
Security problems persist in India as a result of insurgencies in Kashmir and in the northeast. The violence also has spread to New Delhi; there were more than 25 bombings in the city in 1997—mainly in the marketplaces and buses of old Delhi—that left 10 persons dead and more than 200 injured. These attacks appeared to be aimed at spreading terror among the public rather than causing casualties. Nearly 100 bombings with similar characteristics took place elsewhere in the country in 1997, most with no claims of responsibility. Although foreigners were not the likely targets of these attacks, foreign tourists were injured in a train bombing outside Delhi in October.
The Indian and Pakistani Governments each claim that the intelligence service of the other country sponsors bombings on its territory. 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 1997, however, of official Pakistani support to militants fighting in Kashmir.
Separatist groups in East Timor apparently continued to target non-combatants and were involved in several bombmaking activities in 1997. In Irian Jaya, an attack allegedly by the separatist Free Papua Organization against a road surveying crew in April left two civilians dead.
The trials of Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara and other members of the sect continued in 1997. Prosecutors reduced the number of victims listed in the indictments against Asahara to speed up the proceedings, which entered their second year. In addition to the murder charges stemming from the March 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, Asahara faces 16 other charges ranging from kidnapping and murder to illegal production of drugs and weapons. Nine former Aum members pleaded guilty or received sentences from 22 months to 17 years for crimes they committed on behalf of Asahara; one Aum member was acquitted of forcibly confining other cult members.
Despite the legal proceedings against Asahara and other members, what remained of Aum following the arrests of 1996 continued to exist, operate, and even recruit new members in Japan in 1997. In January a government panel decided not to invoke the Anti-Subversive Law against Aum Shinrikyo, which would have outlawed the sect. The panel ruled that Aum posed no future threat to Japanese society because it was financially bankrupt and most of its followers wanted by the police had been arrested.
Several members of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) were arrested in 1997. Five members were convicted in Lebanon on various charges related to forgery and illegal residency and sentenced to three years in prison. Another member, Jun Nishikawa, was captured in Bolivia and deported to Japan where he was indicted for his role in the 1977 hijacking of a Japanese Airlines flight.
Tsutomu Shirosaki was captured in 1996 and brought to the United States to stand trial for offenses arising from a rocket attack against the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1986. He was convicted in Washington, DC, of assault with the intent to kill, attempted first degree murder of internationally protected persons, attempted destruction of buildings and property in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and the committing of a violent attack on the official premises of internationally protected persons. (In February 1998 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.)
Seven hardcore JRA members remain at large.
In November four US employees of Union Texas Petroleum and their Pakistani driver were murdered in Karachi when the vehicle in which they were traveling was attacked 1 mile from the US Consulate in Karachi. Shortly after the incident, two separate claims of responsibility for the killings were made: the Aimal Khufia Action Committee—a previously unknown group—and the Islami Inqilabi Mahaz, a Lahore-based group of Afghan veterans. Both groups cited as the motive for the attack the conviction of Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani national who was tried in the United States in November for the murder of two CIA employees and the wounding of three others outside CIA Headquarters in 1993. Kansi was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Deadly incidents of sectarian violence, particularly in Punjab Province, surged in 1997. According to press reports, 200 people died during the year. In addition, five Iranian Air Force technicians were killed in September in Rawalpindi. Lashkar i-Jhangvi, a violent offshoot of the anti-Shiite Sunni group Sipah i Shahaba Pakistan, claimed responsibility. The Iranian Government-controlled press holds Pakistan responsible for failing to stop the attack and accused the United States of conspiring in the murders.
The United States designated the HUA a foreign terrorist organization in October. This group is responsible for the still unresolved July 1995 kidnapping of six Westerners in Kashmir; one of the six, a US citizen, managed to escape, but a Norwegian hostage was killed in August 1995.
Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was extradited from Pakistan to the United States in 1995, was convicted in New York in November for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City.
The Philippine Government began implementing terms of a peace agreement signed with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996 and continued efforts to negotiate a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The government began the process of integrating former MNLF rebels into the Philippine military. A cease-fire with the MILF reduced the fighting that peaked in the first half of 1997, but the two sides failed to agree on a more comprehensive arrangement. The MILF and the smaller Abu Sayyaf Group continue to fight for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines.
Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines conducted several attacks against foreigners in 1997. A Japanese businessman and three Filipino boys were kidnapped in June by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. A rescue operation by the Philippine military freed the Japanese hostage. A German businessman was abducted in September by former members of the MNLF and was released in December only after his family agreed to pay the kidnappers some $100,000 in ransom. In separate incidents in October and November, former MNLF members abducted priests—one Irish and one Belgian—and demanded payment of funds owed them under a government rehabilitation program. The captives were released after the government agreed to expedite disbursal of the funds.
The government had mixed results in its efforts against communist rebels in 1997. Philippine police captured some key communist personnel. The government again suspended negotiations with the political arm of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in late 1997 following an upsurge in small-scale attacks by the NPA on police and government units. In May communist guerrillas ambushed a vehicle owned by a subcontractor of a major US firm, killing two Filipino employees. In December, New People’s Army rebels ambushed two army detachments and abducted 21 paramilitary troops in Davao City in Mindanao. The government pledged to revisit the issue of a dialogue with the communists if acceptable circumstances could be met. Another communist rebel group, the Alex Boncayao Brigade, is not participating in peace talks with the government.
In September a previously unknown group calling itself the Filipino Soldiers for the Nation claimed responsibility for grenade attacks at bus terminals in Manila and Bulcalan City that killed six persons and wounded 65. Press reports indicated the group claimed to favor a constitutionally prohibited second term for President Ramos. The Ramos government strongly condemned the attacks and blamed them on unknown provocateurs.
The Philippine Government continued its strong support for international cooperation against terrorism and actively sought to build a multilateral approach to counterterrorism in regional and other forums. The government cooperated in providing additional personnel to protect likely targets and to identify, investigate, and act against likely terrorists. The government quickly responded when a US company experienced what appeared to be an NPA attack on one of its subcontractors in Quezon, and officials at the Cabinet level met with company executives to discuss what could be done to improve security.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam continued its terrorist activities in 1997, attacking government troops, economic infrastructure targets, and assassinating political opponents. The LTTE’s most spectacular terrorist attack in 1997 was a truck bombing directed at the newly opened Colombo World Trade Center on 15 October. The explosion injured more than 100 persons, including many foreigners, and caused significant collateral damage to nearby buildings. Eighteen persons—including LTTE suicide bombers, hotel security guards, and Sri Lankan security forces—died in the explosion and aftermath. Two of the terrorists were shot by Sri Lankan authorities as they tried to escape, and another three killed themselves to avoid capture. One of the bombers lobbed a grenade into a monastery yard as he fled the scene, killing one monk.
In two separate incidents in June in the Tricomalee area, the LTTE assassinated two legislators and nine other civilians.
Also, during the summer months, naval elements of the LTTE conducted several attacks on commercial shipping, including numerous foreign vessels. In July LTTE rebels abducted the crew of an empty passenger ferry and set fire to the vessel. The captain and a crewmember—both Indonesian—were released after three days. Also in July, the LTTE stormed a North Korean cargo ship after it delivered a shipment of food and other goods for civilians on the Jaffna Peninsula, killing one of the vessel’s 38 North Korean crewmembers in the process. The Tigers freed its North Korean captives five days later and eventually returned the vessel. Sri Lankan authorities charged the LTTE with the July hijacking of a shipment of more than 32,000 mortar rounds bound for the Sri Lankan military. In September the LTTE used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a Panamanian-flagged Chinese-owned merchant ship chartered by a US chemical company to load minerals for export. As many as 20 persons, including five Chinese crewmembers, were reported killed, wounded, or missing from the attack.
In August a group calling itself the Internet Black Tigers (IBT) claimed responsibility for e-mail harassment of several Sri Lankan missions around the world. The group claimed in Internet postings to be an elite department of the LTTE specializing in “suicide e-mail bombings” with the goal of countering Sri Lankan Government propaganda disseminated electronically. The IBT stated that the attacks were only warnings.
The Sri Lankan Government strongly supports international efforts to address the problem of terrorism. (It was the first to sign the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings in January 1998.) Colombo was quick to condemn terrorist attacks in other countries and raised terrorism issues in several international venues, including the UN General Assembly and the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Edinburgh.
No confirmed cases of LTTE or other terrorist groups targeting US citizens in Sri Lanka occurred in 1997. The LTTE was among the 30 groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the United States on 8 October.
An appeals court in Thailand upheld the conviction and death sentence passed on an Iranian convicted of a 1994 plot to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok. The defendant, Hossein Dastgiri, has appealed to the Supreme Court.
Muslim separatist groups in southern Thailand carried out a series of bombings and other violent attacks in 1997. Bomb attacks in October killed seven persons, and a bombing of a Chinese religious festival in December killed three and wounded 15. Government authorities credited separatist groups with assassinating 11 policemen in a two-month period and blowing up a railroad in May.
A Vietnamese court sentenced two persons to death and three others to life in prison for carrying out a grenade attack on the waterfront in Ho Chi Minh City in 1994, in which 20 persons, including 10 foreigners, were injured. The five were part of the “Vietnam Front for Regime Restoration,” an antigovernment exile group based in the United States.
Europe and Eurasia Overview
The number of terrorist incidents in Western Europe remained low during 1997. Terrorist acts by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) declined in Germany as PKK leader Ocalan attempted to get out from under Germany’s tough sanctions on terrorist organizations.
Spain and France continued to cooperate in bringing to justice members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist organization, while Spanish authorities have offered to negotiate with Basque groups that foreswear violence. Spanish authorities arrested, tried, and jailed the leadership of the ETA’s political wing, the Herri Batasuna.
Although no major terrorist acts took place in France, security forces maintained a high public visibility as a precaution against repeats of the deadly 1996 bombing of a commuter train in Paris.
In Germany, acts of terrorist violence attributable to the PKK declined, although the PKK remains actively engaged in criminal activities, principally extortion and aggravated assault. A judgment by a court in Berlin in April in the so-called Mykonos trial found that the highest levels of Iran’s political leadership followed a deliberate policy of murdering political opponents who lived outside the country. In March 1996 a German court had issued an arrest warrant for former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Fallahian in this case.
In the United Kingdom, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced another cease-fire, thereby making it possible for Sinn Fein to join the multiparty talks on Northern Ireland’s future. Recalcitrant elements on both the Republican and Loyalist sides, however, showed their determination to continue the armed struggle over whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or be united with the Republic of Ireland. At the end of the year, Republican prisoners in Belfast’s Maze prison shot a rival prisoner, Loyalist terrorist leader Billy “King Rat” Wright. Within a day Wright’s followers shot and killed a former IRA member in County Tyrone, and several other killings of Catholics followed.
Greek Government efforts during 1997 to crack down on indigenous terrorism continue to yield few successes. There has been no known progress in bringing members of the 17 November terrorist organization to justice. A major suspect in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque was extradited to Germany, however. An Italian Red Brigades terrorist who had been living freely in Greece for 12 years was arrested and entered into extradition proceedings. (A Greek court released him in early 1998).
In eastern Turkey, authorities and security forces remain locked in a war of attrition with the terrorist group PKK. There are also signs that the DHKP/C (formerly the Dev Sol terrorist organization) may be resurfacing and targeting Turkish Government figures and US military and commercial interests.
There were numerous attacks targeted against the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most consisting of small-scale bombings. Terrorist acts and threats have been triggered by dissatisfaction over the international community’s handling of voter registration procedures, the return of refugees, and the apprehension of suspected war criminals.
In Russia, although the armed conflict between Federal forces and Chechen separatists has been resolved, there were numerous incidents of kidnapping and other acts. In Tajikistan, violence claimed the lives of Russian servicemen and a French humanitarian aid worker. Azerbaijan and Georgia also saw continued ethnic-related terrorist violence.
In October, Austrian police arrested a man suspected of a xenophobic letter bomb campaign since 1993 that has claimed the lives of four members of the Roma (gypsy) minority in Burgenland Province and injured 15 persons in Austria and Germany. The ongoing investigation convinced Austrian authorities that the suspect acted on his own and invented the name Bavarian Liberation Army, which was used in claims of responsibility for most of the bombings.
In June an Austrian investigative judge interrogated international terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, alias “Carlos the Jackal,” who is incarcerated in Paris. The terrorist is believed to have masterminded the terrorist attack on the OPEC Headquarters in Vienna in 1975.
On 20 June unidentified individuals detonated a bomb at the Turkish Embassy in Brussels. An anonymous caller claimed the attack in the name of the “Gourken Yanikian Military Unite,” a covername used by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) terrorist organization during the 1980s. ASALA had not conducted terrorist attacks in several years, however, and it is unclear whether the attack was carried out by ASALA, individual Armenians with no terrorist affiliation, or another terrorist group—such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party—using Yanikian as a covername.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Numerous attacks occurred against the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1997. Most of these attacks consisted of small-scale bombings that resulted in material damage and few casualties. However, during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Bosnia and Herzegovina in April, an unidentified assailant planted over 23 remote-controlled landmines underneath a bridge that was part of the Pope’s motorcade route. Acting on a report from a witness claiming to have seen a suspicious person near the bridge, police discovered and defused the mines a few hours before the Pope’s arrival. No group claimed responsibility for the attempted attack.
Following the apprehension of two indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals in Prijedor by the Stabilization Force (SFOR) troops on 10 July, unidentified assailants mounted over 20 improvised bombings against facilities and individuals belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Police Task Force, and SFOR. In December unknown attackers threw a handgrenade at a Dutch SFOR compound the day after a Dutch SFOR unit apprehended two indicted Bosnian Croat war criminals near Vitez. Other small-scale bombings against the international community presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina occurred to protest the handling of local elections and voter registration procedures and the return of refugees and displaced persons to their prewar homes.
In November, Bosnian security services began an operation to apprehend former mujahedin—foreign Islamic fighters who served in the Bosnian Army during the war—suspected of involvement in a variety of criminal activities, including the murders of several Bosnian Croats and bombings of Croat houses and churches. By yearend, roughly 20 Arab and Bosnian Muslims had been arrested by Bosnian authorities.
On 18 January, Danish police arrested several neo-Nazis in connection with the mailing of several letter bombs to targets in the United Kingdom. The bombs, which were mailed from Sweden, were intercepted by Swedish police and safely detonated. The remains of the bombs were provided to Danish police as evidence on 20 January. In September a Danish court sentenced three of the neo-Nazis in connection with this case.
French authorities continue to maintain a state of high alert in the aftermath of a wave of terrorist bombings by Algerian Islamic extremists during 1995 and 1996. The French mounted extensive security operations to protect Algeria’s 17 consulates in France during the Algerian legislative elections in June, in which an estimated 2 million Algerians resident in France were eligible to vote. On 28 February a bomb exploded outside the American dormitory at Cite Universitaire near Paris. No one was injured in the incident, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
(On 29 January 1998 antiterrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Brugiere officially completed his investigation into the 1989 downing of UTA flight 772. French prosecutors are examining his report in advance of a future trial, in absentia, of the Libyan intelligence agents believed to be responsible for the attack.)
The trial of notorious international terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, alias “Carlos the Jackal,” began in mid-December. Later that month, Ramirez was convicted by a French court for the 1975 murders of two French investigators and a Lebanese national.
Factions of the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC) continued to carry out a campaign of low-level bombings, primarily directed against symbolic targets, such as banks and police stations. The vast majority of these bombings took place on Corsica, but several attacks were mounted on the French mainland.
French authorities continued to cooperate closely with their Spanish counterparts during 1997 to track down Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorists operating or seeking refuge in France. French authorities arrested more than 140 suspected ETA members and supporters, tried over 60 of these individuals, and extradited 23 ETA terrorists to Spain, including two of the group’s key leaders. In May the French Basque group Ipparratarek claimed responsibility for bombing a fast-food restaurant in Saint Jean de Luz, causing extensive material damage but no injuries.
The trial of Jaba Ioselliani, former head of the Georgian Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization, began on 1 December. He and 14 others are accused of conspiring against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, culminating in an assassination attempt against the President in August 1995. The Georgian Government continues to seek the extradition of Igor Giorgadze, former head of the Georgian Security Ministry, from Russia for his alleged involvement in the plot against Shevardnadze.
PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, in an ongoing effort to encourage the German Government to lift its four-year-old ban on his organization, reiterated his 1996 public promise to forbid PKK-instigated acts of violence on German soil. Indeed, acts of terrorist violence attributable to the PKK in Germany for the year declined significantly and PKK demonstrations were peaceful. The PKK actively engaged, however, in criminal activities, principally extortion, recruitment, and aggravated assault. (In January 1998 the German Federal prosecutor announced that the PKK would no longer be considered a terrorist organization. However, the German Interior Minister stated that the PKK remains a banned criminal organization in Germany and that German authorities will continue to work on PKK prosecutions.)
German prosecutors indicted the former PKK European spokesman, Kani Yilmaz (a.k.a. Faisal Dunlayiei), charging him with being one of the leaders of a terrorist organization and indirectly participating in two series of arson attacks on Turkish establishments in Germany in June and November 1993. (In February 1998 he was convicted and sentenced to seven and a half years. He was released on parole, however, because he had already served more than half of his sentence in pretrial detention in the United Kingdom and Germany.)
An important terrorism trial in Berlin concluded in April 1997. The Mykonos trial involved five defendants—an Iranian and four Lebanese—suspected in the 1992 killing of Iranian Kurdish dissidents, one of whom was then Secretary General of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), in Berlin’s Mykonos restaurant. A German judge found the Iranian and three of the Lebanese guilty of the murders. Two defendants, Kazem Darabi and Abbas Rhayel, were sentenced to life in prison. Two others, Youssef Amin and Muhammad Atris, received sentences of 11 years and five years and three months, respectively. The fifth defendant, Ataollah Ayad, was acquitted. The court stated that the Government of Iran had followed a deliberate policy of liquidating the regime’s opponents who lived outside Iran, including the opposition KDPI. The judge further stated that the Mykonos murders had been approved at the most senior levels of the Iranian Government by an extra-legal committee whose members included the Minister of Intelligence and Security, the Foreign Minister, the President, and the Supreme Leader. In March 1996 a German court had issued an arrest warrant in this case for Ali Fallahian, the former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security.
Germany in November 1997 began the trial of five defendants in the 1986 La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin, which killed three persons, including two US servicemen, and wounded more than 200, many of them seriously. Both Italy and Greece arrested suspects in the case during 1997 and extradited them to Germany for trial. In his opening remarks, the German prosecutor said the bombing was “definitely an act of assassination commissioned by the Libyan state.” German authorities have issued warrants for four Libyan officials for their role in the case. The four are believed to be in Libya.
Greek Government efforts during 1997 to crack down on indigenous terrorism yielded few successes. Revolutionary Organization 17 November claimed responsibility for its 22nd assassination; previous victims include five US Government employees. On 28 May, Greek shipping tycoon Constantine Peratikos was shot to death in broad daylight on an Athens street. The group issued a manifesto claiming that Peratikos was targeted because he allegedly misused a large government bailout and threatened to close down his shipyard, which would have forced the layoff of 2,000 employees. No member of 17 November has ever been arrested.
Greece’s numerous leftist and anarchist groups stepped up the tempo of attacks in 1997, predominantly with Molotov cocktail attacks and low-level bombings against property. Some of the leftist groups—in particular, the Fighting (or Militant) Guerrilla Formation (FGF)—recently have attempted to assassinate Greek officials with improvised explosive devices. For example, the FGF attempted to bomb the home of a former Greek Government counterterrorism adviser in February—the bomb was discovered and dismantled—and also claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded at the Minister of Development’s parliamentary constituency office. No arrests have been made in these cases.
On 1 December, the Athens Court of Appeals overturned a 10-year prison sentence and acquitted suspected terrorist George Balafas of aggravated weapons possession and related indictments, including accessory to murder. Balafas is suspected of having links—if not direct involvement—with the Revolutionary People’s Struggle (ELA), one of the country’s more deadly terrorist groups.
Kurdish nationalist groups—including the terrorist PKK—enjoy widespread sympathy and some support among the Greek public. In April, 157 members of the Greek Parliament signed a petition calling for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to be officially invited to Greece.
The Greek Government extradited German citizen Andrea Haeusler to Germany in January for her alleged participation in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. In November, Greek police arrested former Italian Red Brigade member Enrico Bianco in western Greece and initiated procedures for his extradition to Italy, where he had been convicted in absentia. (A Greek court denied the extradition request in January 1998 and Bianco was released.)
Several incidents in Italy during 1997 involved domestic anarchists, although none of these resulted in casualties. A left-ist group called Revolutionary Action claimed responsibility for a bombing on 25 April outside Milan’s city hall. In May a hand-grenade was found in a store located near the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The gallery had been the target of an anarchist bombing in 1993. In November, five days before local elections, a bomb was discovered before it detonated outside the Palace of Justice in Rome, site of Italy’s highest court. The investigation is ongoing, but authorities suspect local anarchists were responsible.
In January several unarmed persons broke into the Peruvian Consulate in Padua and defaced the building with graffiti. Although the Peruvian MRTA claimed responsibility for the incident, Italian police believe Italian supporters of MRTA probably were responsible.
Eight members of a domestic separatist group took over the bell tower in Venice’s main square, Piazza San Marco, on 9 May. The suspects were arrested and tried in July on charges of kidnapping for subversive purposes and unauthorized possession of weapons; all eight were found guilty and received sentences ranging from four years and nine months house arrest to six years in prison.
Italian authorities scored notable successes against foreign terrorists during 1997. In June a court in Turin sentenced five members of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) to prison terms of one to three years on charges of forgery and membership in a criminal organization. In August, Italian police arrested Libyan citizen Eter Abulgassem Musbah, a suspect in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. Abulgassem was promptly extradited to Germany to stand trial for the La Belle bombing. In September, Italian authorities in Bologna arrested 14 foreign nationals suspected of belonging to the GIA. Nine of the suspects were later released due to lack of evidence.
In Russia, although the armed conflict between Federal forces and Chechen separatists was resolved, there were numerous incidents of kidnapping. Most of these involved ransom demands, although political motives cannot be excluded. Insurgents have been aided with equipment and training by mujahedin with extensive links to Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian terrorists. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, at yearend 71 hostages remained in captivity, including 15 foreign nationals, five of whom are journalists and 10 are NGO representatives.
Despite numerous Spanish counterterrorism successes and increased international cooperation with France and Latin American countries, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist group continued its campaign of murder, bombings, kidnappings, and street violence. ETA killed 13 persons last year, as compared to five during 1996. ETA’s primary targets remained members of the Spanish security forces and judicial and prison officials, but the group also stepped up attacks against local politicians belonging to the ruling Popular Party. ETA’s kidnapping and murder of a Popular Party town councilor in July provoked widespread international condemnation and anti-ETA demonstrations involving millions of people throughout Spain.
The Spanish Government has energetically and successfully sought extradition from countries in which ETA fugitives reside. Spanish-French cooperation during 1997 led to the arrest in France of more than 140 persons directly or indirectly connected with ETA, including several of the group’s key leaders. Some 60 ETA activists went to trial in France during the past year, and Spanish authorities negotiated the extradition to Spain of 23 terrorists. Spain also has sought extraditions from Latin American countries, successfully gaining extradition of ETA fugitives from the Dominican Republic and Mexico during 1997.
The Spanish Government moved for the first time in 1997 to prosecute ETA’s legal political wing, the Herri Batasuna (HB) political party, on charges of criminal collaboration with a terrorist organization. The charges stemmed from HB’s dissemination during the 1996 national election campaign of a video containing footage of ETA terrorists advocating violence. On 1 December sentences of seven years in prison and fines of about $3,500 were announced for all 23 members of HB’s executive committee.
The leftwing terrorist group First of October Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) remained inactive during 1997, even though some of the group’s leaders were released from prison.
Spanish authorities moved forcefully against foreign terrorists in their country, breaking up a ring of the Algerian GIA operating in Valencia in April.
In an effort to undermine Sweden’s bid to host the summer Olympic Games in the year 2000, “We Who Built Sweden,” a previously unknown group, exploded several bombs at Swedish sports stadiums.
Security for the international community in Tajikistan deteriorated as militant followers of renegade Tajik warlords Rezvon and Bahrom Sodirov resorted again to kidnapping employees of international organizations, a precedent the group established in December 1996. In an incident that began on 4 February, armed militants affiliated with Bahrom Sodirov took UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) personnel, Russian journalists, and the Tajik Security Minister hostage. Russian and Tajik negotiators conceded to Bahrom’s demands for safe transport of his brother Rezvon Sodirov and his followers from Afghanistan to a camp outside Dushanbe, as well as for weapons and ammunition, and all the hostages were subsequently released. Authorities captured Bahrom following this incident. On 18 November, Rezvon Sodirov masterminded the kidnapping of two French humanitarian aid workers and demanded Bahrom’s release from prison. The incident ended violently by month’s end; one hostage was either released or escaped on 29 November, but the other hostage was fatally wounded on 30 November during a shootout between the kidnappers and government forces in a government rescue attempt. Reports of Rezvon Sodirov’s death in the shootout have not been confirmed.
Unidentified assailants continued sporadic attacks against Russian servicemen in Tajikistan. On 18 February terrorists, probably followers of Rahmon “Hitler” Sanginov, assassinated two ethnic Russian, off-duty US Embassy guards. The assassinations were consistent with a surge in attacks against Russians in Tajikistan; authorities concluded that the victims’ affiliation with the US Embassy was not a factor in the attacks.
The Turkish Communist Laborers’ Party/Leninist (TKEP/L) placed two improvised explosive devices against the wall of the US Consulate in Istanbul on 5 October. The police removed the devices before detonation, but the event marked the first time that the TKEP/L targeted a US Government facility. Ensuing police sweeps reportedly wrapped up the group’s leader and most of its senior cadre members.
The virulently anti-US Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)—formerly known as Dev Sol—conducted three significant attacks during the year: all were light antiarmor weapon (LAW) rocket attacks against Turkish security facilities in Istanbul. The three attacks were flawed in execution: on 16 June the rocket fired at the Turkish National Police (TNP) headquarters missed and struck a wall; the LAW rocket launched against the Harbiye Officers’ Club on 14 July hit the wall of the building but caused only minimal damage; and on 16 September the DHKP/C fired another rocket at the TNP headquarters, which glanced off a wall and broke apart. The TNP’s counterterrorism operations against the DHKP/C may be forcing the group to use less experienced cadre members and standoff weapons—such as LAW rockets—rather then the group’s preferred close-in handgun assassinations.
The Turkish Islamic fundamentalist group, Vasat, claimed responsibility for throwing a grenade at a book fair in Gaziantep on 14 September, killing one person and injuring 24. The attack was the most egregious by Turkey’s increasingly violent Islamic terrorist groups, which include Turkish Hizballah and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders/Front (IBDA/C). The latter is suspected of masterminding the 2 December bombing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Cathedral in Istanbul.
PKK activities in Turkey were lower in 1997 than during the previous year, in part due to Turkish military operations into northern Iraq to disrupt the PKK’s infrastructure for infiltrating its members into Turkey. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, residing in Syria, once again publicly threatened to target Turkey’s tourist sites with bombs in an attempt to disrupt the country’s vital tourist industry, but these attacks did not materialize.
In 1997 the IRA continued a campaign of violence begun in February 1996 against Northern Irish police and UK military and economic targets in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. July, however, brought an IRA cessation of hostilities—its second cease-fire in three years—in an effort to secure a place for Sinn Fein, its political wing, in the Ulster peace talks. The IRA cease-fire prompted an increase in activity among Republican and Loyalist splinter terrorist groups opposed to the peace process. The Continuity Army Council (CAC)—also known as the Continuity Irish Republican Army—and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) increased their attacks to protest the talks. The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)—a new group in 1997—attacked both Republican activists and Catholic civilians with no paramilitary affiliations.
The IRA increased the frequency of its attacks during the first months of 1997 in anticipation of British elections on 1 May. By 30 April the group had conducted 29 attacks, as compared with 11 in all of 1996. IRA targets included economic and infrastructure targets on the UK mainland, and their attacks caused massive disruption while avoiding civilian casualties:
- Two IRA bombs damaged railway lines in Wilmslow, England, on 26 March.
- IRA bomb warnings closed the M1, M5, and M6 highways, which connect London and points north, on 3 April. Police found and detonated two bombs, one of which contained up to one and a half pounds of Semtex explosive, and several hoax devices.
- IRA bomb threats on 21 April snarled British transportation, with police temporarily closing 17 rail and subway stations: London’s Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, and Stanstead airports; Trafalgar Square; and the eastern dock of the Port of Dover.
The landslide victory of the British Labor Party headed by Tony Blair in the 1 May election led to preliminary talks with Sinn Fein and ultimately to an IRA announcement on 19 July of a cessation of hostilities to take effect the following day. In early September, Sinn Fein leaders agreed to the so-called Mitchell principles of nonviolence—six statements drafted by George Mitchell, currently chairman of the Northern Ireland multiparty talks, that commit all parties to renouncing the use of violence, disarming paramilitary groups, and abiding by a peaceful resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict. Sinn Fein thus secured the party’s seat in the Ulster peace talks. In response, hardline IRA members called an extraordinary conference to discuss the IRA’s future strategy. The conference delegates reaffirmed Sinn Fein’s current peace strategy, but some 20 IRA members resigned from the group in protest. Days later a dozen members of Sinn Fein from Dundalk, Ireland, walked out of a meeting protesting the party’s adherence to the Mitchell principles. Since then, most of these dissidents have returned to the fold. However, Bernadette Sands, sister of deceased IRA icon Bobby Sands, reportedly established the “Thirty-Two County Sovereignty Committee” to oppose Sinn Fein’s political negotiation and the IRA cease-fire.
In October the US Secretary of State did not include the IRA among 30 groups that she officially designated as foreign terrorist organizations under recently passed antiterrorism legislation. The Secretary took note of the 19 July announcement by the IRA of an unequivocal cease-fire. She also noted the subsequent decision by the British Government that the cease-fire was “genuine in word and deed,” permitting Sinn Fein to join inclusive, all-party talks in Belfast. The Department stated that, under these circumstances, the Secretary would continue to review the IRA and that any resumption of violence by the group would have a direct impact on her review.
Following the IRA cease-fire, Republican splinter terrorist groups increased their attacks, seeking to replace the IRA as the dominant Republican terrorist group. On 16 September the CAC exploded a car bomb in Markethill, Northern Ireland—a predominantly Protestant village—causing extensive damage to a police station, a cattle market, and commercial and private premises. The CAC also claimed responsibility for a 30 October bomb attack, which caused minor damage to a British Government office in London-derry, Northern Ireland. On 19 November a CAC bomb exploded outside Belfast City Hall, causing minor damage.
Gunmen from the INLA murdered a Northern Irish police trainee in Belfast on 9 May. The INLA also carried out several attacks against Northern Irish police and British troops in July during three days of heavy rioting in Belfast over controversial Loyalist parades, injuring five police officers and two Protestant teenagers.
The extremist LVF emerged in February 1997 as a rump of the mainstream Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which is maintaining the cease-fire. The LVF is comprised of UVF radicals and other Protestant criminals. It is notorious for its attacks against Republican activists and Northern Irish Catholic civilians with no political or paramilitary affiliations. The LVF claimed responsibility for firebombing Northern Irish tourist information offices on 9 March to protest cross-border arrangements with Ireland. On 12 May LVF terrorists abducted and murdered a veteran member of the Gaelic Athletic Association, a Catholic sports club. The LVF exploded a small bomb in Dundalk, Ireland, on 25 May. Authorities suspect LVF terrorists in the murder of an 18-year-old Catholic girl in Antrim, Northern Ireland. The girl was shot four times in the head, apparently because she had a Protestant boyfriend. In August unidentified gunmen attacked the homes of two prison guards; although the LVF did not claim responsibility, authorities suspect that the attacks were connected to simultaneous LVF prisoner riots. On 6 August, following a public demand that Catholics stay out of Protestant neighborhoods, LVF members attacked a Catholic taxi driver with Molotov cocktails in Armagh, Northern Ireland. The LVF planted three hoax devices in Dundalk, Ireland, and one small but viable bomb at a Dundalk shopping center on 17 November; bomb experts defused the device. Authorities charged the LVF with the murder of a Catholic man in front of St. Enda’s Gaelic Athletic Club in Belfast on 5 December.
On 27 December, INLA members imprisoned in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison assassinated fellow inmate Billy “King Rat” Wright, leader of the LVF. Wright was serving an eight-year sentence in the Maze prison. The INLA gunmen smuggled weapons into the prison and shot him five times at close range. Wright’s assassination drew an immediate response from his LVF colleagues. That same evening LVF members hijacked buses and set them on fire in Portadown, Northern Ireland. On 28 December three LVF gunmen opened fire on a hotel frequented by Catholics, killing one person and wounding three, including a teenager.
At the end of 1997 the Ulster peace process included parties from both Unionist and Republican camps, including Sinn Fein. Pressure is building for the parties to reach some agreement before the deadline for a settlement in May 1998. (In January 1998, Sinn Fein was banned from the talks until 9 March 1998 because of murders attributed to the IRA.)
Latin America Overview
Audiences around the world watched with anxiety, then relief, on 22 April as Peruvian military forces stormed the residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Lima, bringing to an end the hostage taking by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), which began in December 1996. Although there was widespread regret over the loss of life of one hostage, two Peruvian soldiers, and all 14 of the MRTA terrorists, most observers agreed that decisive action by the Peruvian Government was needed in order to resolve a prolonged and increasingly intractable standoff.
With the resolution of the MRTA crisis, terrorist activity in Peru remained at low levels compared to previous years. According to Peruvian Government statistics, terrorist incidents by the Sendero Luminoso and MRTA declined to less than a fourth of what they had been in the peak years of violence almost a decade ago. Peruvian authorities, nonetheless, remained vigilant against a possible regrouping and resurgence of the two groups.
Colombia’s principal terrorist groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), stepped up their campaigns of kidnapping, extortion, and violent attacks against government, political, and private interests. Colombian authorities faced increased challenges stemming from greater FARC and ELN involvement in narcotics trafficking and tensions with neighboring countries caused by terrorist groups’ incursions across Colombia’s borders. The two groups carried out a campaign of murder and intimidation in an effort to disrupt the October municipal elections.
US interests continued to be affected by Colombian terrorists, with four US citizens still held hostage at the end of 1997. US companies suffered severe economic damages due to terrorist attacks against oil pipelines.
The United States was deeply disappointed with the manner in which defendants in Panama were acquitted in October of murdering US serviceman Zak Hernandez. US authorities believe that Gerardo Gonzalez, president of Panama’s legislative assembly and father of one of the defendants, manipulated the outcome through threats to witnesses and intimidation of the lead investigator in the case.
In Argentina moderate progress was made in the investigation of the Buenos Aires bombings of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association in 1994 and the Israeli Embassy in 1992. Several arrests were made, and additional personnel were assigned to the inquiries. In December, Argentina hosted an International Congress on Terrorism, which featured presentations given by representatives of eight countries active in the fight against terrorism.
Mercosur (the Southern Cone common market) Interior and Justice Ministers signed agreements on a number of initiatives to fight crime in the Southern Cone region, with particular emphasis being given to the need to cooperate in preventing terrorist activity.
The Argentine Government in 1997 continued its investigations into two devastating bombings against Jewish and Israeli targets in Buenos Aires: the bombing in July 1994 of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building that killed 86 persons and injured hundreds more; and the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in March 1992, in which 29 persons died. Neither probe resulted in any breakthroughs during the course of the year, but the Argentine Government devoted additional resources to the investigations and some new information has been generated. In August the Argentine Supreme Court appointed a special investigator to oversee the 1992 bombing case, and Interior Minister Carlos Corach created a new 80-man counterterrorist unit within the Argentine Federal Police to assist in the investigations. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizballah remains the primary suspect in both bombings.
Argentina continued to take a leading role in promoting counterterrorism cooperation in the region in 1997. Interior Minister Corach pushed vigorously for stronger border controls and increased cooperation between local law enforcement services in the “triborder” region, where the boundaries of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet.
Chilean authorities pursued investigative leads throughout 1997 in an effort to locate and apprehend four terrorists from the dissident wing of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR) who escaped from a maximum-security prison in Santiago on 30 December 1996. In September, one of the escapees, Patricio Ortiz Montenegro, was detained in Switzerland, where he remains in custody pending the outcome of a request for political asylum. Chilean investigators are exploring the possibility that the other three escapees are in Cuba, where other FPMR members have sought refuge in the past. The prosecutor responsible for the case has asked the Cuban Government to provide information on the whereabouts of the three fugitives, a request that Chilean President Eduardo Frei repeated in November during face-to-face talks with Cuban President Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American summit in Venezuela. Havana has not formally responded to Chile’s request.
Continued violence in Colombia accounted for the bulk of international terrorist incidents in Latin America during 1997. There were 107 such incidents last year, mostly oil pipeline bombings. Fueled by revenues from kidnapping, extortion, and ties to narcotraffickers, the country’s two major terrorist groups, the FARC and the ELN, carried out numerous armed attacks and bombings targeting both civilians and security forces. The groups’ activities often spilled over into neighboring Panama and Venezuela. In an effort to disrupt municipal elections in October, the terrorists further intensified their activities by threatening, kidnapping, and murdering candidates and local officeholders. ELN terrorists also kidnapped two election observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) in October and held them hostage for nine days. Rightwing paramilitary groups responded with their own campaign of violence and committed several assassinations and massacres targeting the terrorists and their alleged sympathizers.
Terrorists frequently directed attacks against foreign oil and mining companies operating in the Colombian countryside, both to disrupt the country’s economy and to protest what they see as foreign exploitation of Colombia’s resources. The violence hit the oil sector the hardest. Terrorists sabotaged oil pipelines owned jointly by the Colombian Government and Western companies some 90 times in 1997, causing extensive ecological damage and forcing Occidental Petroleum to suspend production temporarily in August.
Colombian terrorists continued to rely on ransoms from the kidnapping of foreigners and wealthy Colombians as a major source of funds for their insurgent activities, resulting in a heightened threat to US citizens. Since 1980 at least 85 US citizens have been kidnapped in Colombia, most by the country’s terrorist groups. The terrorists were still holding four US citizens hostage at yearend: three missionaries abducted by the FARC in 1993 and a geologist kidnapped by the ELN in February 1997. Two other US citizens kidnapped earlier in the year obtained their release in November. Frank Pescatore, a US geologist and mining consultant, was kidnapped by the FARC in December 1996 and later killed by his captors; his body was discovered 23 February 1997.
Opponents of extradition legislation that was before the Colombian congress in 1997 repeatedly turned to terrorist tactics to generate pressure for their cause. Individuals identifying themselves as members of the “Extraditables,” a narcotrafficker-sponsored group whose terrorist attacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s forced Bogota to ban the extradition of Colombians to the United States, sent written death threats to several Colombian newspapers and foreign journalists in April. In September police defused a 550-pound car bomb outside the offices of a newspaper in Medellin, an incident that was later claimed on behalf of the Extraditables. Police have been unable to verify the authenticity of the claims.
The trial in October of three Panamanians charged with the 1992 murder of US serviceman Zak Hernandez ended with the acquittal of all of the defendants, including Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, whose father is the head of Panama’s ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party and president of the country’s legislature. The United States expressed its deep disappointment with the results of the trial, citing reports of judicial manipulation, threats to prosecution witnesses, and judicial retaliation against the lead investigator in the case, who was convicted of evidence tampering in a trial also rife with irregularities. The US cases against Gonzalez and one other suspect remain open.
Panamanian authorities have made no arrests in connection with the bombing in July 1994 of a commuter airline that killed all 21 persons aboard, including three US citizens. Panamanian officials continue to cooperate closely with the United States in the ongoing investigation.
The first four months of 1997 were marred by the hostage situation at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima. Fourteen terrorists from the MRTA, including the group’s top operational leader, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, seized the residence on 17 December 1996, taking hundreds of hostages, including foreign ambassadors, Peruvian cabinet ministers and security chiefs, and eight US officials. At the beginning of the year, the terrorists still held 81 hostages, most of whom were prominent Peruvian or Japanese citizens.
In February, Peruvian officials and MRTA leaders initiated talks to resolve the crisis, but the terrorists’ insistence that the Peruvian Government release imprisoned MRTA members blocked the way to a peaceful outcome. On 22 April, after weeks of stalled talks and a MRTA refusal to allow medical personnel to visit the hostages, Peruvian military forces stormed the residence and successfully rescued all but one of the 72 remaining hostages. Two Peruvian soldiers and all 14 of the MRTA terrorists died in the assault.
The MRTA’s activity dropped off dramatically after the rescue operation, but its larger and more violent counterpart, Sendero Luminoso, remained active in Lima and in some parts of the countryside. Sendero still has not recovered from the arrest of its founder, Abimael Guzman, in 1992, however, and its recent attacks have been less ambitious than those it mounted in the early 1990s. In August, Sendero kidnapped 30 employees of a French oil company in Junin Department and released them after two days in exchange for food, clothing, and other supplies. The group also car-bombed a police station in Lima in May, injuring eight policemen and more than a dozen civilians; later in the year, it set off several smaller bombs in Lima, which caused no injuries. Peruvian authorities continue to pursue aggressively members of both of the country’s terrorist groups and have tightened security measures in Lima substantially since the hostage crisis.
Middle East Overview
The Middle East witnessed some of the world’s most horrific acts of terrorism in 1997.
In November, the Egyptian Islamic extremist group al Gama’at al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group or IG) demonstrated that it was still capable of carrying out devastating acts of terrorism by staging a brutal attack that left 58 tourists and four Egyptians dead. The attack, which occurred at Hatshepsut’s Temple in Luxor, took place in spite of the Egyptian Government’s crackdown on extremist groups that resulted in a dramatic decrease in terrorist incidents and calls from some imprisoned al-Gama’at leaders for a truce. Fatalities from security incidents in upper Egypt remained low.
In Algeria, political violence and random killings soared toward the end of the year, as Armed Islamic Group (GIA) members stormed villages and towns, some no more than a few dozen kilometers from Algiers. Killing of civilians at highway checkpoints and in outlying towns continued on a regular basis. The Government of Algeria publicly blamed Iran for providing support to Islamist militants. Elsewhere in North Africa, Morocco and Tunisia remain vigilant against the spillover of Algerian political violence into their countries. Security incidents in those two countries continued to be low to non-existent.
Suicide bombers from the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) set off bombs in crowded public places in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem three times in 1997:
- On 21 March a HAMAS satchel bomb exploded at the Apropo Cafe in Tel Aviv, killing three persons and injuring 48, including a six-month-old child.
- On 30 July two HAMAS suicide bombers blew themselves up in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, killing 16 persons, including a US citizen, and wounding 178.
- On 4 September three suicide bombers attacked Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, killing at least five persons—in addition to the suicide bombers—including a 14-year-old girl who was a US citizen, and injuring at least 181, including seven other US citizens.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its efforts in cooperation with Israeli authorities to counter the threat posed by Palestinian terrorist groups and succeeded in 1997 in thwarting several planned terrorist attacks. At the same time, more effort is needed by the PA to enhance its bilateral cooperation with Israel and its unilateral fight against terrorism.
In Lebanon, the security situation improved incrementally as the government continued its efforts to expand its authority over more of the country. Despite these efforts, large areas of the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and south Lebanon remain outside the effective control of the government. Terrorist groups, especially Hizballah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), used these areas in 1997 to stage attacks and engage in terrorist training.
In Saudi Arabia, the investigation to identify those responsible for the June 1996 bombing of the Khubar Towers US Air Force residential compound continued without reaching a conclusion. The bombing killed 19 US servicemen.
The Government of Algeria does not face a significant threat to its stability from Islamic extremists, but the country’s domestic terrorist problem remained among the world’s worst in 1997. At least 70,000 Algerians—Islamic militants, civilians, and security personnel—have been killed since Algerian militants began their campaign to topple the government in 1992.
The government made some progress against the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS)—the military wing of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) that primarily attacked government-related targets—which, together with the FIS, called for a cease-fire on 1 October. The government was less successful against the GIA, the most radical of the insurgent groups, although its efforts appear to have forced the group to operate in a smaller geographic area. GIA terrorist operations continued, nonetheless, against a broad spectrum of Algerian civilians in 1997, including women and children. The worst incident of 1997 occurred on 31 December when more than 400 civilians were killed in Relizane, approximately 150 miles southwest of the capital. This act of violence was also the single worst massacre since the GIA began its reign of terror in 1992.
Seven foreigners were killed in acts of terrorist violence in Algeria in 1997, bringing the total number of foreigners killed by the GIA in Algeria since 1992 to 133. The group did not claim responsibility for these killings, nor did it issue an official communique announcing a resurgence of its violent campaign against foreigners. It remains unclear whether the foreigners were being specifically targeted or whether those killed were incidental victims of violence.
The Algerian Government prosecuted cases of persons charged with committing terrorist acts or supporting terrorist groups in 1997. In July an Algerian court convicted a former lawyer for the FIS of belonging to an armed group, and in December an Algerian court jailed 17 GIA members for setting fire to an Algerian oilfield.
Bahrain continued to be plagued by arson attacks and other minor security incidents throughout 1997, most perpetrated by domestic dissidents. The most serious incident was an arson attack on a commercial establishment on 13 June that resulted in the death of four South Asian expatriates. One day later an abandoned vehicle detonated outside the passport directorate of Bahrain’s Interior Ministry; the explosion caused no injuries.
Bahraini courts in March convicted and sentenced to jail 36 individuals for being members of Bahraini Hizballah, an Iranian-backed organization that sought the overthrow of the island’s government. The jail sentences range from five to 15 years. Some Bahraini Hizballah members reportedly underwent terrorist training in camps in Iran and Lebanon.
In November the government convicted in absentia eight individuals for orchestrating and funding from abroad a campaign aimed at disrupting the security of Bahrain. Several of the defendants were charged with sending to Bahrain propaganda inciting violence and destruction, which led to damage to public property, such as electricity and water installations. In addition to jail sentences, six of the defendants (along with others previously convicted) were ordered to pay compensation totaling over $15 million for damage to public property.
Reversing a trend since 1995 of decreasing death tolls, the number of fatalities from terrorist incidents in Egypt rose in 1997 due to a heightened level of attacks during the latter half of the year by al-Gama’at. The group claimed responsibility for a brutal attack at a pharaonic temple site in Luxor on 17 November that killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians—the most lethal attack by the group. The six al-Gama’at perpetrators were killed in a shootout by police during their escape effort. Al-Gama’at claimed it intended to take hostages in the attack in exchange for the release of Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, serving a life prison term in the United States after being convicted in 1995 for several terrorist conspiracies. The claim was belied, however, by surviving eyewitnesses who reported the perpetrators took their time to execute systematically victims trapped inside the temple.
The group also continued to launch attacks against police, police informants, and Coptic Christians in southern Egypt.
Foreign tourists also were attacked in September by two Egyptian gunmen who professed support for the Egyptian al-Jihad but who were not found to be linked to an established group. Nine Germans and their Egyptian busdriver were killed in the attack outside the National Museum in Cairo. One of the gunmen was an escaped mental hospital inmate who previously had killed four foreign nationals, including a US citizen, in an attack at a restaurant in the Semiramis Intercontinental hotel in Cairo in October 1993.
Following the attack in Luxor, Egyptian officials intensified security at tourist sites in Cairo and southern Egypt. Nevertheless, the attack and subsequent decline in tourism caused severe economic losses to the country. As part of its effort to thwart extremists, the Egyptian Government also published on the Internet’s Worldwide Web a list of names and photographs of 14 Egyptians sought for their suspected role in terrorist activities by al-Gama’at and the smaller Egyptian al-Jihad/Vanguards of Conquest. All of the individuals are believed to be living in various countries outside Egypt. External leaders of al-Gama’at and al-Jihad publicly rejected a call for a cease-fire in July by leaders of the two groups imprisoned in Cairo and vowed to continue their attacks against the Egyptian Government.
Israel and the Occupied Territories/Palestinian Autonomous Areas
Israel continued in 1997 to face terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups opposed to the peace process. HAMAS launched three deadly suicide bombings over the year: a 21 March bombing in a Tel Aviv cafe, killing three Israelis and wounding 48; a 30 July dual suicide bombing in a crowded Jerusalem market, which killed 16—including one US citizen—and wounded 178; and a 4 September triple suicide bombing at a popular Jerusalem pedestrian mall, which killed four Israelis and one US citizen, and wounded nearly 200. For its part, Israel imposed strict closures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, carried out wide-scale arrests, and on 25 September launched a failed attempt to assassinate HAMAS official Khalid Mishal in Jordan. The Israeli agents were captured by Jordanian security officials and returned to Israel after the Israeli Government released HAMAS founder Shaykh Yassin and others from prison.
Numerous other serious but less spectacular attacks against Israel and its citizens also occurred, including the 20 November murder of an Israeli student in Jerusalem’s Old City carried out by unknown assailants. In addition, Israeli border forces stopped several attempted terrorist infiltrations from Lebanon and Jordan, including a 4 March border crossing attempt from Lebanon in which two Israeli soldiers were killed.
Palestinians also suffered from terrorist attacks by Israelis during the year, including a 1 January incident in Hebron where an off-duty Israeli soldier fired into a crowded market, wounding seven persons.
The PA, which is responsible for security in Gaza and most major West Bank cities, continued to act against Palestinian perpetrators of violence against Israel in 1997. The PA’s security apparatus preempted several anti-Israeli attacks over the year, including several planned suicide bombings, and detained hundreds of individuals for their alleged roles in terrorist operations. In July, for instance, the PA uncovered a HAMAS West Bank safehouse where the group was preparing bombs for attacks and arrested several HAMAS members affiliated with the site. The PA also closed down 17 HAMAS social and charitable institutions that were alleged to have channeled money to the group’s terrorist wing.
At the same time, more effort is needed by the PA to enhance its bilateral cooperation with Israel and its unilateral fight against terrorism.
Despite an active counterterrorism campaign, Jordan in 1997 continued to suffer from terrorism. A 22 September drive-by shooting of two Israeli Embassy security guards in Amman remains unsolved. In other violence, a Jordanian soldier on 13 March murdered seven Israeli schoolchildren visiting a peace park. The soldier, who was captured at the scene, was sentenced in July to life in prison.
Amman continued to maintain tight security along its border with Israel and to interdict individuals attempting to infiltrate into the West Bank. Jordanian security and police also continued to monitor secular and Islamic extremists inside the country and to detain individuals suspected of involvement in violent acts aimed at destabilizing the government or its relations with other states. Jordan, in early September, for instance, detained HAMAS spokesman Ibrahim Ghawsha, a Jordanian citizen, for issuing statements promoting anti-Israeli violence. In addition to HAMAS, several Palestinian rejectionist groups—such as the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Abu Nidal organization (ANO), and the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP and DFLP)—maintain a closely watched presence in Jordan.
Lebanon’s security environment continued to improve incrementally in 1997 as the country worked to rebuild its infrastructure and institutions. US Secretary of State Albright subsequently allowed restrictions on the use of US passports for travel to Lebanon, in place since 1987, to expire in July. Nevertheless, Lebanese Government control remains incomplete in parts of the Bekaa Valley and portions of Beirut’s southern suburbs, including areas near Lebanon’s main airport. There is no effective Lebanese Government presence in much of southern Lebanon, where guerrilla groups are engaged in fighting in the so-called security zone controlled by Israel and its surrogate militia.
In these areas, a variety of terrorist groups continued to operate with relative impunity, conducting terrorist training and other operational activities. These groups include Hizballah, HAMAS, the ANO, the PIJ, and the PFLP-GC.
There were no anti-US attacks in Lebanon in 1997; it is unclear if a small bombing against the American University of Beirut on 27 October was politically motivated. US interests in the country, however, remained under threat. Hizballah’s animosity toward the United States has not abated, and the group continued to monitor the US Embassy and its personnel. Hizballah leaders routinely denounced US policies and condemned the Middle East Peace Process, of which the United States is a primary sponsor.
Incidents such as the still unsolved 28 October explosion at a major Beirut bus station further illustrate the potential dangers to US civilians traveling in Lebanon.
In the spring Lebanese authorities arrested five members of the Japanese Red Army residing in Lebanon. In July a Lebanese court convicted all five of using false documents and residing illegally in Lebanon and sentenced them to prison terms. The five remain in custody.
There were no terrorist-related incidents in Morocco in 1997. The Government of Morocco has demonstrated a readiness to respond to terrorist threats and has investigated such incidents thoroughly. The Moroccan Government has worked actively to suppress Islamic unrest within its own borders, fearing a spillover of violence from neighboring Algeria. An Algerian Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) member considered to be one of the group’s main donors was arrested in eastern Morocco in October.
There has been no solution to the question of responsibility for the June 1996 bombing of the Khubar Towers housing facility near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. In that incident, a large truck bomb killed 19 US citizens and wounded more than 500 others. Although the Saudi authorities have arrested and detained several persons in connection with the incident, legal proceedings have not reached a conclusion.
In March, a Saudi national named Hani al-Sayegh was arrested by Canadian authorities. Papers submitted to the Canadian court alleged al-Sayegh had participated in the Khubar Towers bombing as a member of Saudi Hizballah, and he was deported to the United States. Once he was in this country, however, al-Sayegh reneged on an agreement with US prosecutors, under the terms of which he would have pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy unrelated to the Khubar Towers attack, in return for providing information about those responsible for the bombing. US authorities were unable to marshal sufficient evidence to prosecute him for any crime. Prosecutors turned him over to US immigration authorities. He was ruled excludable, although a number of legal issues remain to be decided. Saudi authorities have requested that al-Sayegh be returned to Saudi Arabia in connection with their own Khubar investigation.
The United States continued to receive reports of threats against US military and civilian personnel and facilities in Saudi Arabia, including bomb threats, but there were no further terrorist incidents in the Kingdom.
In March 1997 renegade Saudi terrorist financier Usama Bin Ladin publicly threatened to attack US forces in Saudi Arabia to force a US withdrawal from the region. Local South Asian press reports indicated that he continued to make statements threatening Western interests throughout the year; however, in midyear statements to Western media, Bin Ladin evaded the question of his responsibility for previously claimed anti-US attacks in Somalia and Yemen.
There were no reported acts of terrorism in Tunisia in 1997, and the Government of Tunisia remains publicly committed to taking the necessary actions to counter terrorist threats, particularly from religious extremists. Tunisia plays an active role in combating terrorism by hosting conferences aimed at intensifying inter-Arab cooperation in the struggle against terrorism, such as the Council of Arab Ministers held in Tunis in January. Ministers agreed to take steps to cooperate in extradition, information exchange, and other measures. The Tunisian Government also actively condemns acts of Islamic terrorism throughout the world, such as the attack on tourists in Luxor, Egypt, in November.
Sanaa took major steps during 1997 to improve control of its borders, territory, and travel documents. It continued to deport foreign nationals residing illegally, including Islamic extremists identified as posing a security risk to Yemen and several other Arab countries. The Interior Ministry issued new, reportedly tamper-resistant passports and began to computerize port-of-entry information. Nonetheless, lax implementation of security measures and poor central government control over remote areas continued to make Yemen an attractive safehaven for terrorists. Moreover, HAMAS and the PIJ maintain offices in Yemen.
A series of bombings in Aden in July, October, and November caused material damage but no injuries. No group claimed responsibility. The Yemeni Government blamed the attacks on Yemeni opposition elements that had been trained by foreign extremists and supported from abroad. A principal suspect confessed in court he was recruited and paid by Saudi intelligence, but this could not be independently verified.
Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped about 40 foreign nationals, including two US citizens, and held them for periods ranging up to one month. Yemeni Government officials frequently asserted that foreign powers instigated some kidnappings, but no corroborating evidence was provided. All were treated well and released unharmed, but one Italian was injured when resisting a kidnap attempt in August. The motivation for the kidnappings generally appeared to be tribal grievances against the central government. The government did not prosecute any of the kidnappers.