Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.
The Year in Review
There were 273 international terrorist attacks during 1998, a drop from the 304 attacks we recorded the previous year and the lowest annual total since 1971. The total number of persons killed or wounded in terrorist attacks, however, was the highest on record: 741 persons died, and 5,952 persons suffered injuries.
Most of these casualties resulted from the devastating bombings in August of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In Nairobi, where the US Embassy was located in a congested downtown area, 291 persons were killed in the attack, and about 5,000 were wounded. In Dar es Salaam, 10 persons were killed and 77 were wounded.
- About 40 percent of the attacks in 1998—111—were directed against US targets. The majority of these—77—were bombings of a multinational oil pipeline in Colombia, which terrorists regard as a US target.
- Twelve US citizens died in terrorist attacks last year, all in the Nairobi bombing. Each was an Embassy employee or dependent:
- Marine Sgt. Jesse N. Aliganga, Marine Security Guard detachment
- Julian L. Bartley, Sr., Consul General
- Julian L. Bartley, Jr., son of the Consul General
- Jean Rose Dalizu, Defense Attache’s Office
- Molly Huckaby Hardy, Administrative Office
- Army Sgt. Kenneth Ray Hobson, II, Defense Attache’s Office
- Prabhi Kavaler, General Services Office
- Arlene Kirk, Military Assistance Office
- Mary Louise Martin, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Sherry Lynn Olds, Military Assistance Office
- Michelle O’Connor, General Services Office
- Uttamlal Thomas Shah, Political Section
- Eleven other US citizens were wounded in terrorist attacks last year, including six in Nairobi and one in Dar es Salaam.
- Three-fifths—166—of the total attacks were bombings. The foremost type of target was business related.
There were no acts of international terrorism in the United States in 1998. There were successful efforts to bring international terrorist suspects to justice, however, in several important cases:
- On 4 November indictments were returned before the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with the two US Embassy bombings in Africa. Charged in the indictment were: Usama Bin Ladin, his military commander Muhammad Atef, and al-Qaida members Wadih El Hage, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali. Two of these suspects, Odeh and al-Owhali, were turned over to US authorities in Kenya and brought to the United States to stand trial. Another suspect, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, was arrested in Germany in September and extradited to the United States in December. On 16 December five others were indicted for their role in the Dar es Salaam Embassy bombing: Mustafa Mohammed Fadhil, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Fahid Mohommed Ally Msalam, and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan.
- In June, Mohammed Rashid was turned over to US authorities overseas and brought to the United States to stand trial on charges of planting a bomb in 1982 on a Pan Am flight from Tokyo to Honolulu that detonated, killing one passenger and wounding 15 others. Rashid had served part of a prison term in Greece in connection with the bombing until that country released him from prison early and expelled him in December 1996, in a move the United States called “incomprehensible.” The nine-count US indictment against Rashid charges him with murder, sabotage, bombing, and other crimes in connection with the Pan Am explosion.
- Three additional persons convicted in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 were sentenced last year. Eyad Mahmoud Ismail Najim, who drove the explosive-laden van into the World Trade Center, was sentenced to 240 years in prison and ordered to pay $10 million in restitution and a $250,000 fine. Mohammad Abouhalima, who was convicted as an accessory for driving his brother to the Kennedy International Airport knowing he had participated in the bombing, was sentenced to eight years in prison. Ibrahim Ahmad Suleiman received a 10-month sentence on two counts of perjury for lying to the grand jury investigating the bombing.
- In May, Abdul Hakim Murad was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the failed conspiracy in January 1995 to blow up a dozen US airliners over the Pacific Ocean. Murad received an additional 60-year sentence for his role and was fined $250,000. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was convicted previously in this conspiracy and for his role in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, is serving a life prison term.
The murderous and near-simultaneous bombing attacks on the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 7 August 1998 caused more casualties than any other terrorist attack during the year. In Nairobi, where the US Embassy was located in a congested downtown area, the attack killed 291 persons and wounded about 5,000. The bombing in Dar es Salaam killed 10 persons and wounded 77.
These attacks clarified more than ever that terrorism is a global phenomenon. In the months since the bombings, evidence has emerged of terrorist networks involved in potential anti-US activity in a number of African nations.
In addition, state sponsors of terrorism, particularly Libya, are increasing significantly their activities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In late April, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) guerrillas kidnapped two Portuguese citizens from the commune of Ebangano. The two have not been found.
UNITA rebels fired on a United Nations Mission to Angola (MONUA) vehicle near Calandula on 19 May. The attack killed an Angolan official working for MONUA and wounded two foreigners.
On 23 March and 22 April, separatists from the Cabinda Liberation Front-Cabindan Armed Forces (FLEC-FAC) kidnapped three Portuguese citizens working for Mota & Company, a Portuguese construction firm. FLEC-FAC claimed it took the workers hostage to force Portugal to pressure the Angolan Government to leave Cabinda.
On 9 November more than 100 suspected UNITA rebels overran the Canadian-owned Yetwene diamond mine in eastern Angola, killing eight individuals—including two British nationals, one Portuguese, and five Angolans—and wounding at least 22 persons. The gunmen took four workers hostage: a South African, a British national, and two Filipinos.
Central African Republic
A small bomb detonated on 27 November outside the walls of the French Embassy, causing only minor damage.
On 3 February armed rebels of the Union of Democratic forces kidnapped four French citizens in Manda National Park. The four were released unharmed five days later. On 22 March a group calling itself the National Front for the Renewal of Chad took six French and two Italian nationals hostage in the Tibesti region. Chadian forces freed all but one hostage within hours. The militants announced they would not release the last hostage until all French troops and Western oil firms left Chad. Five days later Chadian security forces freed the last hostage.
Democratic Republic of Congo
On 12 August gunmen seized a tour group sightseeing along a nature trail in the Ruwenzori Range of western Congo. The tourists—one Canadian, two Swedes, and three New Zealanders—were abducted after they crossed from Uganda into the Congo. A previously unknown group, the People in Action for the Liberation of Rwanda, claimed responsibility for the abduction. Local authorities believe the gunmen are former Rwandan soldiers who fled to Congo after the former regime was forced from power in 1994. Two New Zealanders escaped one week later, and the Canadian was released on 19 August. The other victims still are missing.
On 25 February rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front took an Austrian national hostage as she traveled from Gode to Denan. She was released in mid-April after the rebels determined that she “was not a spy for the Ethiopian Government.”
An Islamic group based in Somalia, al-Ittihad al-Islami, claimed responsibility for kidnapping six International Committee of the Red Cross workers in the eastern Ogaden region of Ethiopia on 25 June. Al-Ittihad said the abducted workers—one Swiss national and five ethnic Somalis—were spies. The six were released unharmed on 10 July even though al-Ittihad found them “guilty of conducting business outside of their duties.”
On 7 August a car bomb exploded behind the US Embassy, killing 291 persons and wounding about 5,000. The majority of the casualties were Kenyan citizens. Twelve US citizens died, and six were injured in the attack. A group calling itself the “Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places” immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Nairobi and a near-simultaneous explosion in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. US officials believe the group is a cover name used by Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida organization. Indictments were returned in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York charging Usama Bin Ladin and 11 other individuals for these and other terrorist acts against US citizens. At yearend, four of the indicted—Wadih El Hage, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, and Mohammed Sadeeck Odeh—were being held in New York, while Khalid al-Fawwaz remained in the United Kingdom pending extradition to the United States. The other suspects remain at large. The Government of Kenya cooperated closely with the United States in the criminal investigation of the bombing. On 20 August, President Clinton amended Executive Order 12947 to add Usama Bin Ladin and his key associates to the list of terrorists, thus blocking their US assets—including property and bank accounts—and prohibiting all US financial transactions with them.
On 11 November a mob of angry youths abducted eight Shell Oil workers in Bayelsa. The hostages included three US citizens, one British citizen, one Croatian, one Italian, one South African, and one Nigerian. The youths demanded jobs and economic development projects for their community. After talks with the oil firm, all eight hostages were released unharmed on 18 November.
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) militants commanded by S.A.F. Musa kidnapped an Italian Catholic missionary from his residence in Kamalo on 15 November. In exchange for the hostage’s release, Musa demanded medical supplies, a satellite phone, and contact with his family, who are being detained by regional peacekeeping forces in the capital. At yearend, talks between the RUF and the government were at a standstill.
An explosion on 25 August in the entrance of the US-franchised Planet Hollywood restaurant in Cape Town killed one person and injured at least two dozen others, including nine British citizens. Muslims Against Global Opression (MAGO), a front organization for the Islamic radical groups People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) and Qibla, initially claimed responsibility but then denied involvement. Local authorities believe that PAGAD members masterminded the attack in retaliation for the US bombings of terrorism-related targets in Sudan and Afghanistan.
PAGAD, a vigilante group that first appeared in August 1996, conducted a series of violent attacks against criminal elements and moderate Muslim leaders in Cape Town last year. Though police are investigating PAGAD members aggressively, none has been convicted for these crimes.
On 15 April militant Somali clansmen took nine foreign nationals hostage after their aircraft landed at a north Mogadishu airstrip. The hostages included one US citizen, a German, a Belgian, a Frenchman, a Norwegian, and two Swiss. The two pilots, a South African and a Kenyan, also were held. The clansmen demanded $100,000 ransom. The kidnappers released the hostages unharmed on 24 April without receiving any ransom, however, after the international community pressured the kidnappers’ leaders.
Terrorists associated with Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida organization detonated an extremely large truck bomb outside the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam on 7 August, just as another truck bomb exploded outside the US Embassy in Nairobi. The blast killed 10 Tanzanians, including seven local Embassy employees, and injured 77 persons, including one US citizen. Tanzanian authorities cooperated closely with the United States in the criminal investigation of the bombing.
Unidentified assailants on 4 April detonated bombs at two downtown Kampala restaurants, the Nile Grill and the outdoor cafe at the Speke Hotel, killing five persons—including Swedish and Rwandan nationals—and wounding six others. The Ugandan Government suspects that Islamic militants of the Allied Democratic Forces are responsible.
On 8 July a United Nations World Food Program worker was killed when rebels of the Uganda National Rescue Front II fired a rocket-propelled grenade at his truck while he was driving in northwestern Uganda.
Rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked a civilian convoy traveling along a major corridor in the north on 27 November, killing seven persons and wounding 28 others.
The overall number of terrorist incidents in East Asia decreased in 1998. Individual countries still suffered terrorist attacks and endured continued terrorist group activities, however.
In Cambodia, the last remnants of the weakened Khmer Rouge (KR) virtually disbanded in 1998, and two of the group’s top three leaders came out of hiding to surrender. Earlier in the year, KR elements committed two acts of international terrorism that caused 12 deaths. The US Secretary of State has designated the KR a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
In Japan, the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, accused of attacking the Tokyo subway system with sarin gas in March 1995, increased its membership and business activity in 1998. Prosecution of cult leaders continues at a sluggish pace. In June a Lebanese court rejected appeals by five imprisoned Japanese Red Army members; Japan has asked that they be deported to Japan upon completion of their three-year jail terms. Both groups are designated foreign terrorist organizations pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
The Philippines experienced violent attacks in the southern province of Mindanao from rebels in the Moro Islamic Liberation Army (MILF), the New Peoples Army (NPA), and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The government began negotiations with the MILF that showed little progress in 1998. The ASG experienced a major setback in December when its leader was killed during a government ambush. Other incidents, including attacks on rural police posts around the country and kidnappings of foreign nationals, occurred in 1998.
In Thailand, a strong military offensive against Muslim separatists of the New Pattani United Liberation Organization (New PULO)—in cooperation with Malaysia—helped restore calm in the south, which had experienced a wave of bombings in January. The Thai Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Hossein Dastgiri, an Iranian charged in 1994 with plotting to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok.
In South Asia, the Taliban has made Afghanistan a safe-haven for international terrorists, particularly Usama Bin Ladin. The United States made it clear to the Taliban on numerous occasions that it must stop harboring such terrorists. Despite US engagement of the Taliban in an ongoing dialogue, its leaders have refused to expel Bin Ladin to a country where he can be brought to justice.
In 1998 the United States continued its efforts to ascertain the fate of the four Western hostages—including one US citizen—kidnapped in India’s Kashmir in 1995 by affiliates of the Harakat-ul-Ansar (HUA). Despite ongoing cooperative efforts between US and Indian law enforcement authorities, we have been unable to determine their whereabouts. The HUA was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
In Pakistan, sectarian violence continues to affect lives and property. In Karachi and elsewhere in the Sindh and Punjab Provinces, clashes between rival ethnic and religious groups reached dangerously high levels. As in previous years, there were continuing credible reports of official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups that engage in terrorism.
In Sri Lanka, the government continues to battle the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the LTTE has continued its attempts to gain a Tamil homeland through a campaign of violence, intimidation, and assassination. By targeting municipal officials and civilian infrastructure and conducting random attacks, the LTTE seeks to force the government to meet to its demands. The Government of Sri Lanka is pursuing a two-track policy of fighting the Tigers and building support for its ambitious package of political reforms aimed at addressing many of the Tamil minority’s grievances. Recent military setbacks may push the government toward negotiations, but the LTTE has shown no willingness to move in this direction.
Islamic extremists from around the world—including large numbers of Egyptians, Algerians, Palestinians, and Saudis—in 1998 continued to use Afghanistan as a training ground and a base of operations for their worldwide terrorist activities. The Taliban, which controls most of the territory in Afghanistan, facilitated the operation of training and indoctrination facilities for non-Afghans and provided logistical support and sometimes passports to members of various terrorist organizations. Throughout 1998 the Taliban continued to host Usama Bin Ladin, who was indicted in November for the bombings in August of two US Embassies in East Africa.
Weakened by defections and internal discord, the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge virtually disbanded in 1998 following 30 years of civil war and terror. The KR suffered significant losses in 1998, including the death of leader Pol Pot in April. During crackdowns in August, the government arrested Nuon Paet, a former KR fugitive suspected of ordering the execution of three European tourists after holding them hostage for two months in 1994. By late December the last main fighting unit of the KR had surrendered, including two of the group’s top three leaders: Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
Before fragmenting, Khmer Rouge elements committed two acts of international terrorism in 1998. In January, KR militants reportedly placed a handgrenade near the Vietnamese military attache’s office in Phnom Penh. In April, KR forces murdered 12 Vietnamese nationals at a fishing village near Tonle Sap lake.
Security problems persisted in India in 1998 because of ongoing insurgencies in Kashmir and the northeast. Kashmiri militant groups stepped up attacks against civilian targets in India’s Kashmir and shifted their tactics from bombings to targeted killings, including the massacres of Kashmiri villagers. In April the massacres spilled over to Udhampur district, where 28 villagers died in two simultaneous attacks. Elsewhere in India, election-related violence at the beginning of 1998 claimed more than 150 lives. In an effort to disrupt a Bharatiya Janata Party rally on 14 February, Islamic militants in Coimbatore conducted a series of bombings that killed 50 and wounded more than 200.
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 1998, however, of official Pakistani support to militants fighting in Kashmir.
Three years after the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995, the prosecution of high-level Aum Shinrikyo religious cult leaders—including cult founder Shoko Asahara—continues. Press reports indicate that, if it maintains its current sluggish pace, the trial could take 30 years to complete. Japanese security officials reported a rise in Aum Shinrikyo membership and business activity in 1998, despite a severe police crackdown on the group following the sarin attack. The United States designated Aum Shinrikyo a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
On 3 June the highest criminal court in Lebanon rejected an appeal made by five convicted Japanese Red Army members and endorsed their three-year prison sentence for forgery and illegal residency. Tokyo has asked that they be deported to Japan upon completion of their jail terms.
Sectarian and political violence surged in Pakistan in 1998 as Sunni and Shia extremists conducted attacks against each other, primarily in Punjab Province, and as rival wings of an ethnic party feuded in Karachi. The heightened political violence prompted the imposition of Governor’s rule in Sindh Province in October. According to press reports, more than 900 persons were killed in Karachi from January to September, the majority by acts of domestic terrorism.
In the wake of US missile strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, several Pakistani-based Kashmiri militant groups vowed revenge for casualties their groups suffered. At a press conference held in Islamabad in November, former Harakat ul-Ansar and current Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM) leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil reportedly vowed: “We will kill one hundred Americans for one Muslim.” Other Kashmiri and domestic Pakistani sectarian groups also threatened to target US interests. The leader of the Lashkar-i-Taiba declared a jihad against the United States, and the leader of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi vowed publicly to kill US citizens and offered his support to Bin Ladin.
Pakistani officials stated publicly that, while the Government of Pakistan provides diplomatic, political, and moral support for “freedom fighters” in Kashmir, it is firmly against terrorism and provides no training or materiel support for Kashmiri militants. Kashmiri militant groups continued to operate in Pakistan, however, raising funds and recruiting new cadre. These activities created a fertile ground for the operations of militant and terrorist groups in Pakistan, including the HUA and its successor organization, the HUM.
The new government of President Joseph Estrada continued the previous administration’s attempts to reach a peaceful settlement with rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In August the two sides pledged to begin substantive talks in September. By yearend, however, little progress had been made toward ending the conflict, and both sides continued to engage in low-level violence. The Communist New People’s Army also was active in 1998, conducting a series of attacks on rural police posts throughout the country.
Clashes between government forces and various insurgent groups were particularly violent in the southern province of Mindanao. In this remote region the Philippine Armed Forces sporadically engaged militants of the MILF and the smaller, more extremist Abu Sayyaf Group. These periodic military sweeps appear to have weakened both groups. The ASG, in particular, suffered a major setback in late December when government security forces killed its leader during an ambush.
Islamic insurgents were responsible for several international terrorist incidents in the Philippines in 1998. In early September, suspected MILF and ASG militants conducted a rash of kidnappings of foreign nationals, including three Hong Kong businessmen and an Italian priest. Two months later, one group of rebels freed the Italian after 100 MILF fighters surrounded the rebels’ jungle hideout and forced his release.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam conducted significant levels of terrorist activity in 1998. The LTTE attacked government troops, bombed economic and infrastructure targets, and assassinated political opponents. An LTTE suicide vehicle bombing at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy in January 1998 killed the three suicide bombers and 13 civilians—including three children—and injured 23. The LTTE’s dead-liest terrorist act in 1998 was a vehicle bomb explosion in the Maradana district of Colombo in March that killed 36 persons—including five schoolchildren—and wounded more than 250.
The LTTE assassinated several political and military officials in 1998. In May a suicide bomber killed a senior Sri Lankan Army commander, Brigadier Larry Wijeratne. Three days after that attack, armed gunmen assassinated newly elected Jaffna Mayor S. Yogeswaran—a widow of an LTTE-assassinated Tamil politician—in an attack claimed by the Sangilian Force, a suspected LTTE front group. In July an LTTE mine explosion killed Tamil parliamentarian S. Shanmuganathan, his son, and three bodyguards. In September an LTTE bomb planted in a Jaffna government building killed new Jaffna Mayor P. Sivapalan and 11 others.
During the year, the LTTE conducted numerous attacks on infrastructure and commercial shipping. In the first half of 1998 the LTTE bombed several telecommunications and power facilities in Sri Lanka. In August the LTTE stormed a Dubai-owned cargo ship, the Princess Kash, which was carrying food, concrete, and general supplies to the Jaffna Peninsula. The Tigers took hostage the 21 crewmembers—including 16 Indians—but released the Indians five days later.
“Operation Sure Victory,” the Sri Lankan military’s ground offensive aimed at reopening and securing a ground supply route through LTTE-held territory in northern Sri Lanka, continued through 1998. The offensive ended in December about 40 kilometers short of its goal. The Sri Lankan military immediately initiated a new offensive in the same area.
The Sri Lankan Government strongly supported international efforts to address the problem of terrorism in 1998. Colombo was quick to condemn terrorist attacks in other countries and has raised terrorism issues in several international venues, including the UN General Assembly in New York and the UN High Commission for Refugees in Geneva. Sri Lanka was the first country to sign the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings at the United Nations in January.
There were no confirmed cases of LTTE or other terrorist groups targeting US interests or citizens in Sri Lanka in 1998. Nonetheless, the Sri Lankan Government was quick to cooperate with US requests to enhance security for US personnel and facilities and cooperated fully with US officials investigating possible violations of US law by international terrorist organizations. Sri Lankan security forces received training in explosive incident countermeasures, vital installation security, and post-blast investigation under the US Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program.
On February 18 the Thai Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Iranian Hossein Dastgiri, who had been prosecuted for a plot in 1994 to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok. The court ruled that conflicting eyewitness testimony failed to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that Dastgiri was the driver of the bomb-laden truck. In southern Thailand, Muslim separatists of the New Pattani United Liberation Organization conducted a series of bombings in January. Thai authorities launched a military counteroffensive in mid-January that netted several PULO militants. These arrests, combined with unprecedented assistance from Malaysia, where PULO militants had traditionally found refuge, helped to restore calm in the south.
In Russia, several prominent local officials were killed and some US and Russian citizens were kidnapped in Chechnya and the North Caucasus region. At least some of the killings appeared politically motivated, including the assassination of Russian State Duma deputy Galina Starovoytova and Shadid Bargishev, head of the Chechen antikidnapping squad. Some Chechen insurgents have links to terrorist Usama Bin Ladin.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze survived an assassination attempt by supporters of a former president in 1998. The arrest of some of his attackers provoked further incidents and led to Russian cooperation in the arrest and extradition of an individual alleged to have conspired in planning the attack. The breakaway region of Abkhazia witnessed the abduction of four UN military observers in July and the ambush and wounding of UN observers in September.
The Kazakhstan Government averted a potential threat to the US Embassy in Almaty by arresting and expelling three Iranian Government agents for illegal activities. Four members of a United Nations mission of observers to Tajikistan were killed while on patrol 150 kilometers outside of Dushanbe. Of the various terrorist incidents that occurred in Tajikistan in 1998, this was of greatest concern to the international community.
On 1 April local US Embassy guards discovered and safely disarmed a handgrenade outside the US Ambassador’s residence. There was no claim of responsibility.
Supporters of deceased former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, known as “Zviadists,” and ethnic Chechen mercenaries attempted to assassinate Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 9 February. The assailants launched a well-organized attack against Shevardnadze’s motorcade late in the evening using rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. Shevardnadze survived the attack—the second against him in three years—but it almost succeeded. Two officers of Shevardnadze’s protective service and one of the attackers, an ethnic Chechen, died in the ensuing gunfight. The government arrested 11 of the assailants within days of the attack.
Subsequently, some 15 of Shevardnadze’s assailants kidnapped four United Nations observers from their compound in Zugdidi, western Georgia, to ensure the assailants’ escape and their colleagues’ release. The hostages escaped or were released following a dialogue between the Shevardnadze government and former members of Gamsakhurdia’s faction. Some of the hostage takers surrendered, but Gocha Esebua, the Zviadist leader of the assassination team, escaped. According to press reports, Georgian police killed Esebua in a shootout on 31 March after they tracked him to a house in western Georgia.
Georgian officials also apprehended former Gamsakhurdia government Finance Minister Guram Absandze, the alleged mastermind of the assassination attempt. Russian security authorities detained Absandze in Smolensk, Russia, on 16 March and extradited him to Georgia three days later, where he was formally arrested.
Violence in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia accounted for several incidents that involved foreign personnel. In July four UN military observers were taken hostage. On 21 September three UN military observers and their Abkhaz driver were wounded in Sukhumi during an ambush on a clearly marked UN vehicle, according to press reporting. Two of the injured were military observers from Bangladesh, and the third victim was a UN employee from Nigeria.
During 1998 the United States and Kazakhstan cooperated to avert potential security threats to the US Embassy in Almaty. In February, Committee for National Security (KNB) authorities arrested—and subsequently expelled—three Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents for illegal activities. The Government of Kazakhstan did not publicize details of the Iranian agents’ activities or prosecute them before their expulsion, however. The US Government and the Government of Kazakhstan signed a joint statement on combating terrorism in November.
According to press reports, Kyrgyzstani security authorities alleged that Islamic extremists, vaguely identified as “Wahhabis,” conducted two bombings in 1998 in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest city located in the Fergana Valley. On 30 May an explosion occurred in a public minibus, killing two persons and wounding 10, while an explosion in an apartment the next day killed two persons. The motive behind the explosions was unclear because of insufficient information. Nonetheless, Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Sunni Islamic sect originating in Saudi Arabia, never has been widespread in Kyrgyzstan.
The assassination on 20 November of noted reformist and Russian State Duma deputy Galina Starovoytova by unidentified assailants—possibly a politically motivated contract killing—highlights both the terrorist tactics used by domestic antagonists to influence Russian politics and Moscow’s inability to curb this violence. Chechen militants assassinated Shadid Bargishev, head of the Chechen antikidnapping squad, on 25 October in reaction to widely publicized antikidnapping operations in Chechnya’s capital, Groznyy. No one claimed responsibility for an explosive device that detonated under Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov’s car in June. Maskhadov escaped without injury, but four others were killed in the attack.
At least three US citizens were kidnapped in Russia for financial gain in 1998. On 18 March unknown assailants abducted two US missionaries in Saratov, Russia, took their money and bank cards, and released them on 22 March. No ransom appears to have been paid. On 11 November in Makhachkala, Dagestan, unidentified assailants kidnapped US citizen Herbert Gregg, a member of a nondenominational Protestant organization based in Illinois. Russian authorities continue to investigate the incident.
Numerous abductions occurred in Russia’s North Caucasus region during 1998. Most involved ransom demands, although political motives cannot be excluded. Some Chechen groups in 1998 used kidnapping to raise money, and hostages could be sold and resold among various Chechen kidnapping groups, according to Russian officials. Several foreigners and hundreds of Russian civilians and soldiers kidnapped in the region still are missing. On 20 January, Vincent Cochetel, a French citizen who led the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s North Caucasus office, was abducted. He finally was released on 12 December. Four British employees of Granger Telecom were kidnapped in early October and on 8 December were found murdered. On 1 May, Valentin Vlasov, President Boris Yeltsin’s representative to Chechnya, was kidnapped by unknown assailants. He was released on 13 November.
Mujahidin with extensive links to Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian terrorists aided Chechen insurgents with equipment and training. The insurgents were led by Habib Abdul Rahman, alias Ibn al-Khattab, an Arab mujahidin commander with links to Usama Bin Ladin. Khattab’s forces launched attacks against Russian military targets, but their activities in Russia were localized in the North Caucasus region.
Security for the international community in Tajikistan did not improve significantly in 1998, as a number of criminal and terrorist incidents—including bombings, assaults, and murders—took place. The most serious incident occurred on 20 July when attackers shot and killed four members of the United Nations mission of observers to Tajikistan while on patrol some 150 kilometers east of Dushanbe. Tajikistani authorities later arrested three former Tajikistani opposition members, who initially confessed to the killings but later recanted.
In September the US State Department ordered the suspension of Embassy operations in Dushanbe. The decision was made because of threats to US facilities worldwide following the US Embassy bombings on 7 August in East Africa, turmoil in Tajikistan, and the Embassy’s limited ability to secure the safety of US and foreign personnel in the facility.
The number of terrorist incidents declined in Europe in 1998, in large part because of increased vigilance by security forces and the recognition by some terrorist groups that longstanding political and ethnic controversies should be addressed in negotiations. Terrorism in Spain was attributable almost entirely to the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group. In Turkey, most incidents were related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In Greece, a variety of anarchist and terrorist groups continued to operate with virtual impunity. The deadliest terrorist act occurred in Omagh, Northern Ireland, when a splinter Irish Republican Army (IRA) group exploded a 500-pound car bomb that killed 29 persons, including children.
In Northern Ireland, the Catholic and Protestant communities made a major commitment to end the violence by signing the Good Friday Accord. Under the leadership of the British and Irish Governments, both communities and the political parties that represent them agreed to compromises that are to create new, local governmental institutions for resolving conflicts and turn away from terrorism as an accepted political instrument. In support of the peace process, most paramilitary terrorist groups on both nationalist and loyalist sides agreed to a cease-fire. The issue of “decommissioning” the IRA’s weaponry and bombs continued to complicate the process, however.
In Spain, the terrorist ETA declared a cease-fire on 16 September to provoke negotiations with the central government. Public outrage throughout Spain over the ETA assassinations of several local Spanish officials earlier in 1998 and the government’s infiltration and dismantling of several ETA “commandos” in recent years prompted the group’s cease-fire. Strong French legal pressure also eroded the ETA’s support base in neighboring French provinces.
The Turkish Government’s threat to act against PKK safe-havens in neighboring Syria led Damascus to expel PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who for years had been directing PKK terrorist activities from his villa there. Ocalan’s departure and subsequent flight to seek a new safehaven left the PKK in some disarray, although its members conducted several deadly suicide bombings in Turkey after his departure from Syria.
The Greek Government’s counterterrorist efforts remained ineffective. The Revolutionary Organization 17 November group struck six times in early 1998, and several other groups claimed responsibility for bombings in various locations in Greece. The Greek Government has not arrested a single 17 November member in the 23 years since the group killed its first victim, a US Embassy employee; the group subsequently eliminated 22 other persons.
In Germany, the remnants of the Red Army Faction (RAF) announced the dissolution of their organization, once among the world’s deadliest. The declaration suggested that the remaining members realized their terrorist group had lost its purpose.
Albania took an active stance against international terrorism in 1998 by launching a campaign of arrests and investigations against suspected Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) terrorists operating in the capital, Tirana. In late June, Albanian security forces captured four Egyptian extremists and rendered them immediately to Egypt. Despite public EIJ threats, Albanian police continued to pursue the group. In October security forces raided an EIJ safehouse, killing one suspected terrorist.
While these examples demonstrate the government’s commitment to fight terrorism, Albania’s poor internal security provides an environment conducive to terrorist activity.
Belgian police arrested 10 suspected Armed Islamic Group (GIA) members in March during raids in Brussels. Police seized false documents, detonators, and some small caliber weapons. During a follow-up raid, police uncovered explosives in a GIA supporter’s home. The arrests were part of a joint security operation with France, Britain, Sweden, and Italy before the World Cup soccer match in Paris.
In April, Belgium prosecuted three suspected GIA members for the grenade attack in December 1995 on two police officers in Bastogne. Two suspects, Kamel Saddeddine and Youssef El Majda, were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The other, Ah El Madja, also was convicted and sentenced to serve three years.
French authorities initiated a large-scale security effort across Europe before France hosted the World Cup soccer match last summer. In late May police apprehended about 100 suspected Algerian GIA members during simultaneous operations in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland. Antiterrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere described the coordinated effort as a “preventive” measure to protect the games.
In 1998, French authorities brought numerous terrorists to justice for past acts of violence. In September, French prosecutors began a mass trial of 138 Algerian terrorists for a wave of bombings committed in 1995 and 1996. Controversy marred the two-month trial, however, and more than 50 politicians signed a petition denouncing the proceedings as unfair and racist. Those convicted received sentences ranging from four months to 10 years.
In late November, France prosecuted eight suspected members of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) on charges of smuggling arms to terrorists. The suspects allegedly belong to a network headed by FIS leader Djamel Lounici, currently under house arrest in Italy pending trial. A French court already has sentenced Lounici in absentia to five years in prison for arms smuggling in another case concerning Morocco.
The Red Army Faction announced its “self-dissolution” in April, following more than two decades of struggle against the German Government. Meanwhile, German courts continued to adjudicate cases against RAF members for terrorist acts committed in the 1980s.
German police took an active stance against terrorism in 1998. Acting on a request from the United States, they detained Salim Mamdouh Mahmud, an associate of Usama Bin Ladin, in September and extradited him to the United States in December. In the weeks before the World Cup soccer match, they worked closely with the French to disrupt Algerian terrorist networks in Germany.
On the judicial front, the trial of five suspected terrorists continued for their part in the La Belle discotheque bombing in 1986 in Berlin. Controversy has plagued the trial from the start, and at the current pace a verdict is not expected before the year 2000.
The German Government showed less resolve in November when PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan arrived unannounced in Rome. Germany withdrew its longstanding international arrest warrant for the Kurdish terrorist leader after PKK militants threatened riots and violence in German cities if Ocalan were prosecuted there. The German action effectively precluded Ocalan’s extradition from Italy.
The majority of the international terrorist incidents committed in Europe in 1998 occurred in Greece. Most of these attacks were firebombings that numerous leftist and anarchist groups conducted against businesses and Greek Government offices. The government made arrests in connection with only one attack.
Greece’s most deadly terrorist group, the Revolutionary Organization 17 November, claimed responsibility for six attacks against US or US-related businesses in Athens between February and April, including a rocket attack on a Citibank office. As in the past, Greek efforts failed to achieve any tangible success against 17 November terrorists. To augment their counterterrorism capability, Greek officials met in September with FBI Director Louis Freeh. The discussions improved Greek cooperation with US law enforcement agencies.
In January an Athens appeals court denied Italy’s petition to extradite Enrico Bianco, a former Red Brigades member whom Greek police arrested in November 1997 and subsequently freed. Bianco continues to live freely in Greece.
Greek relations with Turkey remained tense as numerous members of the Greek Parliament continued to court PKK members. In April some Greek parliamentarians attended a reception hosted by the PKK’s political wing, the ERNK. At the reception a self-proclaimed PKK representative announced plans to open an office in Athens under the PKK’s rubric. Greek officials interceded to prevent the opening.
In November, 109 Greek parliamentarians—mostly from the governing PASOK party—signed a letter reiterating a standing invitation to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to visit Greece. The Greek Government distanced itself from the invitation, saying Ocalan was not welcome. In November, Ocalan arrived in Rome at the beginning of what became an odyssey to gain asylum in Europe. (After his capture in Nairobi in February 1999, it became known that Ocalan had transited Greece at least twice during his travels with the knowledge and assistance of highly placed Greek officials. At one point, Ocalan remained in Greece for several days. Senior Greek officials took responsibility for providing Ocalan with haven in the Greek Embassy residence in Kenya in February 1999.)
On 12 November, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan arrived unexpectedly in Rome and requested political asylum. He initially was detained there on an international warrant issued by Germany. Italy declined to act on a Turkish extradition request, citing Turkey’s long-unused capital punishment statute, which prohibits extradition to countries with capital punishment. Italy also declined to exercise its option under international law to prosecute Ocalan. After Bonn withdrew the warrant, the Italians told Ocalan he was free to leave. After trying unsuccessfully to find a country willing to take him, Italian officials said he no longer was welcome in Italy. Ocalan eventually left for Russia, with the apparent assistance of Italian officials, beginning an odyssey that culminated in his seizure in Kenya in February 1999.
In October police arrested five Islamic terrorists in Turin for weapons violations and reported links to Usama Bin Ladin. The next month police arrested suspected GIA terrorist Rahid Fetter in Milan on charges of forgery, counterfeiting, and membership in a subversive organization. The Italians accused Fetter of providing shelter, funds, and false identification papers to GIA militants.
A series of bomb attacks in the Latvian capital, Riga, targeted Russian and Jewish interests in 1998. On 2 April a bomb exploded in the courtyard of the main Jewish synagogue in Riga’s historic Old Town. The blast caused extensive damage to the main entrance and a swastika-adorned Latvian flag was found on the scene, according to press reporting. On 5 April a mine exploded in a park across the street from the Russian Embassy in Riga. The explosion did not damage the Embassy, but it shattered the windows of four Embassy vehicles. These incidents, which occurred late at night, caused no casualities. There were no claims of responsibility, but authorities suspect members of Eduard Limonov’s Russian National Bolshevist Party, a Russian ultranational group. On 19 October, Israeli officials discovered a mail bomb during a routine check of packages mailed to the Israeli Embassy in Riga. Latvian authorities safely destroyed the device.
The terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty announced a unilateral and unconditional cease-fire on 16 September. At yearend the cease-fire was holding. ETA has not renounced terrorism and continued to engage in terrorist activity before the cease-fire. In 1998, the ETA killed six persons, compared with 13 in 1997. On 3 November, President Aznar called for direct talks with ETA to make the cease-fire permanent, but the two sides appear to have differing agendas for the talks. The government is offering some measures of relief for 530 ETA prisoners in Spanish jails and an estimated 1,000 exiles, while ETA wants to include political issues of sovereignty and self-determination.
The Spanish Government energetically and successfully has sought extradition of ETA fugitives from some countries, including France and several Latin American nations. A Spanish request for extradition from the United States of accused ETA terrorist Ramon Aldasoro was delayed in 1998, but on 4 February 1999 the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta paved the way for Aldasoro’s extradition.
In addition to ongoing police and law enforcement action to break up ETA commandos and arrest their members, the Spanish Government in 1998 undertook a series of measures designed to debilitate ETA’s financial infrastructure. These measures included attempts to limit ETA’s fundraising capabilities, shut down businesses with ETA involvement, and locate ETA’s financial assets. In July the government shut down the pro-ETA newspaper Egin.
The leftwing terrorist First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) reemerged in 1998 after a three-year hiatus. The government discounts GRAPO’s operational capability, but the organization claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and sent extortion letters to businessmen.
Turkey achieved some notable successes in its battle against terrorism in 1998, especially against the PKK, its foremost terrorist group. Turkey continued its vigorous campaign against the PKK in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Turkey’s large-scale military offensives appear to have affected greatly the PKK’s ability to operate in Turkey. In March, Turkish military commandos captured Semdin Sakik, the PKK’s second in command, in northern Iraq and bought him to Turkey. Turkish security forces launched a series of successful military campaigns in late spring and early fall that hampered PKK activity in southeast Turkey. In October, Turkey applied intense pressure on the Syrian Government to discourage Syrian support for the PKK. As a result, Syria forced PKK leader Ocalan to leave. Ocalan fled to Russia and then on to Italy where he requested political asylum. Italy subsequently refused to extradite Ocalan to Turkey and Ocalan left Italy. (Turkey scored a major coup against PKK terrorism in February 1999, when Turkish officials tracked down Ocalan in Nairobi, captured him, and brought him back to Turkey to stand trial.)
During 1998 the PKK continued to conduct acts of violence against military and civilian targets. On 10 April, PKK terrorists on a motorcycle threw a bomb into a park near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The explosion injured two Indians, a New Zealander, and four Turkish citizens. The PKK also continued its campaign of kidnappings in southeast Turkey. In early June, PKK terrorists kidnapped a German tourist and a Turkish truckdriver at a roadblock in Karakose. The German tourist was found unharmed the next morning near the kidnapping site, but the truckdriver still is missing. Immediately after Ocalan’s arrest in Italy, the PKK conducted three suicide bombings in southeastern Turkey, which killed three persons and injured dozens of Turkish citizens, despite Ocalan’s public renunciation of terrorism.
Several extreme leftist and other groups were active in Turkey in 1998. Leftist groups operating in Turkey include the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, Turkish Peoples’ Liberation Army, and the Turkish Peoples’ Liberation Front. Fundamentalist Islamic organizations operating in Turkey include the so-called “Turkish Hizballah,” the Islamic Movement Organization, and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front. Effective Turkish security measures appear to have reduced the threat from these fringe groups over the years. For example, on 31 December, Turkish police arrested the head of the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front, Salih Mirzabeyoglou, in Istanbul.
In April feuding Catholic and Protestant parties signed the landmark Good Friday Accord. This historic agreement outlined a comprehensive power-sharing arrangement between both communities in a multiparty administration of Northern Ireland. For the first time, the Irish Republican Army’s political wing, Sinn Fein, was allowed to join the new administration, as long as its leaders remained committed to “exclusively peaceful means.” Both sides hotly debated the meaning of this and other provisions in the accord following the signing. The most contentious issue was whether the IRA would abandon its weapons and bombs. Notwithstanding the IRA’s commitment to uphold its cease-fire, several splinter groups continued to engage in terrorist activity.
As the debates wore on over the summer, Ireland suffered its worst single terrorist act. On 15 August terrorists from one of the splinter groups, the self-styled Real IRA, exploded a 500-pound car bomb outside a courthouse in downtown Omagh, killing 29 persons and injuring more than 330 others. This attack followed another terrorist bombing by the Real IRA in Banbridge on 1 August, which injured 35 persons and damaged approximately 200 homes.
By November the accord appeared on the verge of collapse as neither side could come to agreement on key issues. Both sides worked vigorously to jump-start negotiations by Christmas so that the new government could take power by February 1999. Only one paramilitary group—one of Northern Ireland’s most vicious, the Loyalist Volunteer Force—willingly has surrendered a cache of weapons. Both sides viewed the group’s disarmament as a sign that a breakthrough in the stalled peace accord was possible. The IRA continued to resist what it labels a “surrender” of its arms, however, while in its view the conditions that caused the conflict remain unresolved.
The United Kingdom continued to cooperate closely with the United States on counterterrorism issues in 1998. In September, British authorities arrested Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi national, who is wanted by the United States for conspiring to murder US citizens between January 1993 and September 1998. Al-Fawwaz remains in British custody pending his extradition to the United States.
Latin America Overview
Colombia’s principal insurgent groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), stepped up attacks against security forces and civilians in 1998, despite a budding peace process with the Colombian Government. They continued to conduct kidnapping, bombing, and extortion campaigns against civilians and commercial interests.
Bogota pursued peace negotiations while guerrillas launched a concerted offensive against police and military bases throughout the country. By yearend, the government had completed the demilitarization of five municipalities as an incentive for talks, which began in January 1999.
In March, FARC commanders announced they would target US military personnel assisting Colombian security forces, but insurgent attacks—including intensified operations against police and military bases—did not harm US forces. Colombian terrorists continued to target private US interests, however. Guerrillas kidnapped US citizens in Colombia and northern Ecuador, and the FARC refused to account for the whereabouts of three missionaries it kidnapped in January 1993. Guerrillas also continued to bomb US commercial interests, such as oil pipelines and small businesses.
Arrests in Peru contributed to the steady decline in Sendero Luminoso (SL) and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) terrorist capabilities. Peruvian officials arrested two of the four original members of SL’s Central Emergency Committee, which comprises the SL’s top leaders. The SL failed uncharacteristically to commemorate Peru’s Independence Day in July with even a low-level attack or to disrupt municipal elections in October. The MRTA did not launch a terrorist attack in 1998, continuing a trend of relative inactivity since the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima ended in April 1997.
Switzerland denied Chile’s request for the extradition of a terrorist from the dissident wing of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, who escaped from a maximum security prison in Santiago in December 1996.
In the triborder area, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay consolidated efforts to stem the illicit activities of individuals linked to Islamic terrorist groups. The three countries consulted closely on enforcement efforts and actively promoted regional counterterrorist cooperation.
The Government of Argentina hosted an Organization of American States conference on terrorism and gained the participants’ commitment to form a regional commission on counterterrorist initiatives.
Investigations continued into the two devastating bombings against Jewish and Israeli targets in Buenos Aires: the attack in March 1992 against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 persons died, and the bombing in July 1994 of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building that killed 86 persons and injured hundreds more. Islamic Jihad, Hizballah’s terrorist arm, claimed responsibility for the attack in 1992. No clear claim for the AMIA bombing has been made, although the two attacks had many similarities. At yearend, Argentine authorities questioned two possible key informants in the attacks.
The Iranian Government expelled the Argentine commercial attache from Tehran in early 1998 in response to growing criticism in Argentina about a possible official Iranian role in the attacks. The Argentine Government responded by asking Tehran to reduce the number of diplomats in its mission in Buenos Aires to one, the number of official Argentines left in Iran. The judge responsible for the AMIA investigation interviewed Iranian defectors in Western Europe and the United States who claimed to have knowledge about the bombing. He also charged an Argentine citizen with providing the stolen vehicle used in the bombing. Several former Buenos Aires provincial police officials remain in custody for their role in supplying the vehicle.
In August, Argentine authorities arrested two SL members living in Argentina. At yearend, they were awaiting extradition to Peru.
Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay cooperated actively in the triborder region against terrorism and continued their work to counter criminal activities of individuals linked to Islamic terrorist groups. In March the three countries signed a plan to improve security in the triborder area and created a commission to oversee implementation of the plan.
In late November, Argentina hosted the second Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism in Mar del Plata. Conference participants agreed to recommend that the Organization of American States’ General Assembly form an Inter-American Committee on Terrorism to coordinate regional cooperation against terrorism.
The Swiss Government denied Chile’s extradition request for Patricio Ortiz Montenegro, a member of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front dissident wing who escaped from prison in Santiago on 30 December 1996, because it was concerned that Chile would not safeguard Ortiz’s physical and psychological well-being. Chilean authorities continued to pursue the whereabouts of the three other terrorists who escaped with Ortiz.
The incipient peace process in Colombia did not inhibit the guerrillas’ use of terrorist tactics. The FARC and ELN continued to fund their insurgencies by protecting narcotics traffickers, conducting kidnap-for-ransom operations, and extorting money from oil and mining companies operating in the Colombian countryside.
Colombian insurgents began an offensive against security forces in the summer and retained their military momentum at yearend. The Colombian Government demilitarized five municipalities to meet FARC conditions for peace negotiations, and in mid-December the FARC leader agreed to meet Colombia’s President on 7 January 1999 to set the agenda for talks.
FARC commanders announced in March that they would target US military personnel assisting Colombian security forces. The guerrillas did not act on these threats, and their heightened attacks against Colombian police and military bases did not target or incidentally kill or injure US forces.
Colombian terrorists continued to target private US interests, kidnapping seven US citizens in 1998. The FARC abducted four US birdwatchers in March at a FARC roadblock; one escaped and the terrorists released the three others in April. Also in March, the FARC kidnapped one retired US oil worker and released him in September. ELN terrorists in September released one US citizen held since February 1997. The ELN kidnapped two other US citizens in northern Ecuador in October; one hostage escaped, and the kidnappers released the other in late November. The FARC has not accounted for the whereabouts of three missionaries it kidnapped in January 1993.
Terrorists also continued to bomb US commercial interests, such as oil pipelines and small businesses, raising costs to US companies operating in Colombia. There were 77 pipeline bombings during the year. In October the ELN bombed Colombia’s central oil pipeline—used by US companies—causing a massive explosion that killed 71 persons, including 28 children. An ELN commander subsequently announced that, despite the unanticipated death toll, the guerrillas would continue to target the nation’s oil infrastructure to prevent the foreign “looting” of Colombia’s wealth.
Alleged terrorist Pedro Miguel Gonzalez won the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) candidacy for a seat in the National Assembly. Gonzalez, whose father heads the ruling PRD, was acquitted of the murder in 1992 of US serviceman Zak Hernandez in a Panamanian trial characterized by irregularities and political manipulation. The US case against Gonzalez and one other suspect remains open, and the US Embassy in Panama continues to raise the issue with senior Panamanian authorities.
Panamanian authorities made no arrests in connection with the bombing in 1994 of a commuter airline that killed 21 persons, including three US citizens. US law enforcement agencies continued to investigate the case actively but still had not determined whether the bombing was politically motivated or tied to drug traffickers.
Peruvian law enforcement and judicial authorities continued to arrest and prosecute members of the SL and MRTA terrorist groups. In 1998 they arrested Pedro Quinteros Ayylon and Jenny Maria Rodriguez Neyra, two of the four original members of SL’s 25-person Central Emergency Committee who still were at large. The Peruvian Government also captured Andres Remigio Huarnan Ore, leader of the MRTA military detachment in the Chanchanmayo Valley, and most of that unit’s members.
Peru extradited Peruvian citizen Cecilia Nunez Chipana, a Sendero Luminoso militant, from Venezuela. The Peruvian Government also requested the extradition from Argentina of Peruvian nationals Julio Cesar Mera Collazo and Maria del Rosano Silva, two SL members accused of murder. At yearend the extradition request was pending in Buenos Aires.
Both groups failed to launch a significant terrorist operation in Lima in 1998 and generally limited their activities to low-level attacks and propaganda campaigns in rural areas. The SL continued to attack police stations and other government targets in the Peruvian countryside and in August conducted a particularly brutal attack in Sapasoa, killing the mayor and three of his supporters at a rally. The SL did not commemorate Peru’s Independence Day or disrupt municipal elections in October with its characteristic terrorist violence. The MRTA had not engaged in major terrorist activities since the end of the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima in April 1997.
Middle East Overview
Middle Eastern terrorist groups and their state sponsors continued to plan, train for, and conduct terrorist acts in 1998, although their actions cumulatively were less lethal than in 1997. The lower level of fatalities resulted from more effective counterterrorist measures by various governments and from the absence in 1998 of the kinds of major incidents that had killed dozens the previous year, such as the attack on Luxor temple in Egypt and a series of HAMAS suicide bombings in public places in Israel. The most dramatic terrorist acts attributed to Middle Eastern terrorists in 1998 actually occurred in Africa, where Usama Bin Ladin’s multinational al-Qaida network bombed the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
In Egypt, government security forces scored some successes in reducing violence by Islamist opponents, particularly the al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, which had conducted the lethal attack on tourists at Luxor in 1997. Judicial proceedings brought convictions against many terrorists. Deaths from terrorism-related incidents in 1998 fell to 47, fewer than one-third the number in 1997. Nonetheless, there was troubling evidence of a growing collaboration in other countries between Egyptian extremists—from both the Gama’ and the Egyptian al-Jihad—and Usama Bin Ladin.
The Algerian Government also made progress in combating domestic terrorism in 1998, undertaking aggressive counterinsurgency operations against the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) that slowed the GIA’s campaign of indiscriminate violence against civilians. As the GIA’s bloody tactics drew increasing criticism both inside and outside Algeria, other militants joined the unilateral cease-fire that the Islamic Salvation Army had declared in late 1997.
Palestinian groups opposed to the peace process mounted terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. HAMAS conducted car bombings, shootings, and grenade attacks—injuring dozens of civilians—while two terrorists belonging to the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) launched a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem market. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority conducted raids and arrests that undercut the extremists’ ability to inflict as many fatalities as in previous years.
Security conditions in Lebanon improved in 1998, but the lack of complete government control in parts of Beirut, portions of the Bekaa Valley, and the so-called Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon enabled numerous terrorist groups to operate with relative impunity. Hizballah, HAMAS, the PIJ, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) used camps in Lebanon for training and operational planning. The conflict in southern Lebanon between Lebanese armed groups and Israel and its local allies continued unabated.
In Yemen, foreign and indigenous extremists in 1998 conducted several bombings and numerous kidnappings, including the abduction and subsequent release of more than 60 foreign nationals. A group calling itself the Islamic Army of Aden claimed responsibility for the seizure of 16 Western tourists. The terrorists killed four of the hostages when Yemeni Government security forces tried to free them.
Iran, Syria, Libya, and Iraq all persisted in their direct and indirect state sponsorship of terrorism. In most cases, this support included providing assistance, training, or safehaven to terrorist groups opposed to the Middle East peace process. In some cases, particularly Iran and Iraq, it also included targeting dissidents and opponents of these authoritarian regimes for assassination or harassment.
The Government of Algeria in 1998 made progress in combating domestic terrorism, which has claimed approximately 75,000 lives since Islamic extremists began their violent campaign to overthrow the government in 1992. The government intensified its counterinsurgency operations against the Armed Islamic Group, and several militant groups in 1998 joined the unilateral cease-fire declared by the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS)—the armed wing of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)—in October 1997. The GIA also suffered a number of setbacks to its networks in Europe. No foreign nationals were killed in acts of terrorism in Algeria during the year.
The GIA continued to conduct terrorist operations in Algeria in 1998, targeting a broad spectrum of Algerian civilians. The worst incident of 1998 occurred on 11 January during the holy month of Ramadan, when GIA extremists massacred numerous civilians in Sidi Hamed. Official estimates put the death toll at more than 100 civilians; press accounts reported the death toll even higher. Other smaller civilian massacres and acts of violence also continued throughout the year.
The seemingly indiscriminate and horrific violence against civilians—including women and children—was condemned widely in domestic and international circles and eroded Islamist support for the group abroad. The GIA’s campaign of attacking civilians also exacerbated internal divisions: dissident GIA leader Hassan Hattab in May publicly criticized GIA faction leader Antar Zouabri for his attacks on civilians and in September formally separated from the GIA. Hattab created a new element, the Salafi Group for Call and Combat, aimed primarily at attacking security force elements. Despite the split from Zouabri, Hattab’s faction continued to commit violence in Algeria throughout 1998. Hattab claimed responsibility for assassinating the popular Berber singer Matoub Lounes in June, an act that further alienated the Algerian public.
Minor security incidents continued to plague Bahrain in 1998. Bahraini security forces in November arrested several Bahraini and Lebanese citizens, seizing weapons and explosives, in connection with a plot to attack public facilities and other installations in Bahrain. Bahraini Prime Minister Shaykh Khalifa claimed the operation was planned in Lebanon, where members of the group reportedly had received military training. Some of those arrested allegedly also confessed to conducting arson attacks.
Bahrain continued in 1998 to seek the extradition of eight individuals—including five in the United Kingdom—who were convicted in absentia in November 1997 for orchestrating and funding from abroad a campaign aimed at disrupting Bahraini security.
The number of deaths in 1998 from terrorist-related incidents fell to 47, fewer than one-third of the tally for 1997 and the lowest since 1992. Egyptian security forces increased security and counterterrorist operations against Egyptian extremists, particularly al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, following its attack in November 1997 at Luxor that killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians. Trials of Egyptian extremists responsible for various terrorist acts were held throughout the year, resulting in several convictions. The improving security situation led tourism to increase in 1998. Egypt also hosted in October an Interpol conference that promoted international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Egypt also worked closely with other Arab countries in counterterrorism efforts, pursuant to an agreement reached among Arab interior ministers earlier in the year.
Despite the intensified security and counterterrorist actions following the Luxor incident, Egyptian extremists—particularly al-Jihad—continued to levy threats against Egypt and the United States for the arrests and extradition in 1998 of their cadre from Albania, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Both al-Jihad and al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya signed terrorist sponsor Usama Bin Ladin’s fatwa in February that called for attacks against US civilians, although al-Gama’at publicly denied that it is a member of Bin Ladin’s World Islamic Front for the Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders. Al-Gama’at leaders imprisoned in Egypt followed the lead of imprisoned Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, issuing a public statement in early November that called for the cessation of operations in Egypt and urged al-Gama’at to create a “peaceful front.” Gama’at leaders abroad endorsed the idea but emphasized they would continue to target US interests and support the jihad.
Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip
Violence and terrorism by Palestinian groups opposed to the peace process continued in 1998, albeit at a reduced level as compared with the previous two years. HAMAS alone launched more than a dozen attacks over the year. Among the more notable were grenade attacks in Hebron in September that injured 25 persons and in Beersheva in October that injured more than 50. A HAMAS car bomb in the Gaza Strip in late October killed one Israeli soldier and injured several schoolchildren. The PIJ attempted a car bombing in November in Jerusalem that killed only the two militants.
Other serious attacks against Israel and its citizens also occurred, including the shooting deaths of two settlers on guard duty in early August and the assassination of a prominent rabbi in Hebron later that month. Small bomb explosions in Tel Aviv in August and in Jerusalem in September wounded a total of 13 Israelis.
For its part, Israel continued vigorous counterterrorist operations, including numerous arrests and seizures of weapons and explosives. In one of the most significant actions of the year, Israeli forces on 10 September raided a farmhouse near Hebron, killing two leading HAMAS terrorists, Adil and Imad Awadallah.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which is responsible for security in Gaza and most major West Bank cities, continued to act against Palestinian perpetrators of anti-Israeli violence. The PA’s security apparatus preempted several attacks over the year, including a planned HAMAS double-suicide bombing staged from the Gaza Strip in late September. The PA launched several large-scale arrest campaigns targeting individuals with ties to terrorist organizations and detained several leading HAMAS and PIJ political figures. In one of the more significant operations of the year, the PA in late September uncovered a HAMAS bomb lab filled with hundreds of kilograms of explosives. At the same time, more PA effort is needed to enhance its bilateral cooperation with Israel and its unilateral fight against terrorism.
In late October, the PA and Israel signed the Wye River Memorandum, which includes a number of provisions for increased security cooperation.
There were no major international terrorist attacks in Jordan in 1998, but several low-level incidents kept security forces focused on combating the terrorist threat. In February, amid rising tensions over Iraqi weapons inspections, the British Embassy in Amman was the target of a firebomb attack that caused no damage. Between mid-March and early May, the Reform and Defiance Movement—a small, mostly indigenous radical Islamic group—conducted a string of small bombings in Amman targeting Jordanian security forces, the Modern American School, and a major hotel. These attacks caused minor property damage.
Amman continued to maintain tight security along its borders and to interdict and prosecute individuals caught smuggling weapons and explosives, primarily intended for Palestinian rejectionist groups in the West Bank. In September, Amman convicted two Jordanians of possession of illegal explosives with the intent to commit terrorist acts and sentenced them to 15 years in prison with hard labor. The two reportedly had planned to attack Israelis in Israel or the West Bank. In October the state prosecutor referred to the security court the case of six men accused of possessing and selling of explosives to support terrorist aims.
Jordan permitted and monitored the limited presence of several Palestinian rejectionist groups, including HAMAS, the PIJ, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Palestine-General Command. The Jordanian Government allowed the HAMAS Political Bureau to maintain a small information office in Amman as well as personal offices for senior HAMAS members who live in Jordan, several of whom are Jordanian citizens. In 1998, Jordan did not permit known members of the group’s military wing to reside or operate in country, however. In November, Jordan issued a public warning to HAMAS and other rejectionist groups that it would not tolerate acts that “impede implementation” of the Wye River Memorandum.
Jordan continued to cooperate with other regional states concerning terrorist threats to the region and in April signed the multilateral Arab Anti-Terrorism Agreement. King Hussein publicly voiced support for the US-UK initiative in the Pan Am 103 case.
Security conditions in Lebanon continued to improve in 1998, but lack of complete government control in several areas of the country—including portions of the Bekaa Valley and Beirut’s southern suburbs—and easy access to arms and explosives throughout much of the country contributed to an environment with the potential for acts of violence. The Lebanese Government did not exert full control over militia groups engaged in fighting in and near the so-called security zone occupied by Israel and its proxy militia, the Army of South Lebanon.
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 Abu Nidal organization (ANO), the PIJ and the PFLP-GC. Hizballah presents the most potent threat to US personnel and facilities in Lebanon by an organized group. Although Hizballah has not attacked US interests in Lebanon since 1991, its animosity toward the United States has not abated, and the group continued to monitor the US Embassy and its personnel in Beirut. Hizballah leaders routinely denounced US policies in the region and sharply condemned the Wye River Memorandum between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
One anti-US attack occurred in Lebanon in 1998. On 21 June four rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the US Embassy in Beirut from some 700 meters away, falling only a short distance from their launch site and causing no damage. The grenades were launched from a crudely manufactured firing device, suggesting that the attack was not conducted by an organized group. Lebanese authorities responded swiftly to the incident, but as of 31 December investigators had not determined who had conducted the attack and there were no claims of responsibility. The reason for the attack is unclear, but its occurrence two days after Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri had visited Washington suggested it was intended as a sign of displeasure with US-Lebanese relations or was an attempt to embarrass Hariri.
Lebanese citizens also were the targets of random bombings in 1998. Car bombs targeted Amal and PIJ leaders in south Lebanon in October, a resident of Sidon in July, and a Sunni mayoral candidate in west Beirut in May. Although no one was killed, these incidents illustrate the potential danger from random political violence in Lebanon.
The Lebanese Government continued to support publicly international counterterrorist initiatives, and its judiciary system made limited progress in prosecuting terrorist court cases. In early June the Lebanese Supreme Court rejected a defense appeal for a retrial of five Japanese Red Army members and endorsed the three-year prison sentence handed down last year.
There were several reported threats against US interests in Saudi Arabia in 1998 but no terrorist incidents. The US Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates in Jiddah and Dhahran closed for a few days in early October after receiving information that a terrorist attack was being planned against the Embassy.
Terrorist Usama Bin Ladin, whose Saudi citizenship was revoked in 1994, continued publicly to threaten US interests in Saudi Arabia in 1998. In a press conference in Afghanistan in May, Bin Ladin declared a holy war against US forces in the Arabian Peninsula, many of whom are stationed in Saudi Arabia. The declaration followed a communiqué in February in which Bin Ladin and other terrorists called for attacks on US and allied civilians and military interests worldwide.
The investigation into the bombing in June 1996 of the Khubar Towers housing facility near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, continued in 1998, but it has not been resolved. In that incident, a large truck bomb killed 19 US citizens and wounded more than 500 others. The Saudi Government has requested that the United States extradite Hani al-Sayegh—a Saudi national arrested by the Canadians and deported to the United States in 1997—so they may question him about his alleged role in the bombing. At the end of 1998 a decision on al-Sayegh’s extradition case was pending with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. In November, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif stated publicly that Bin Ladin was not responsible for the Khubar Towers bombing or the bombing in November 1995 of the Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabia National Guard (OPM/SANG) facility in Riyadh, which killed seven persons. Nayif allowed that individuals motivated by Bin Ladin could have conducted the attacks, however.
There were no terrorist incidents reported in Tunisia in 1998. The Government of Tunisia remains publicly committed to countering terrorist threats, particularly from Islamic extremists. The government continued publicly to express its opposition to international terrorism, strongly condemning the terrorist attacks in August against the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Tunis also remains concerned about Algeria’s violence spilling over into Tunisia and employs strict domestic security controls to counter this threat.
Tunisia continued to participate in regional counterterrorism efforts. In January the government hosted a meeting of Arab League interior ministers at which an agreement was reached to enhance inter-Arab counterterrorism cooperation. Tunisia agreed to extradite convicted terrorists, improve information exchanges, and strengthen control on the infiltration and travel of suspected terrorists in Arab countries.
The government continued to prosecute individuals for membership in the outlawed An-Nahda movement, which it considers a terrorist organization, although there were no reports of terrorist attacks by the group in 1998. On 2 June a Tunisian court found two Tunisian nationals guilty of assassinating Belgian Vice Premier Andre Cools in Liege in 1991 and sentenced them to 20-year prison terms.
A series of bombings in 1998 in Sanaa and southern Yemen caused numerous casualties and some property damage. A bombing in April at a mosque near Sanaa killed two persons and injured 27 others, including two US citizens. In response to the bombings, Yemeni authorities in August announced the arrest of several Yemeni oppositionists, alleging they were working for “foreign parties.” Interior Minister Arab also blamed “foreign groups” for a bombing in September at a market in Aden that caused two deaths and 27 injuries. In August the United States warned US citizens in Yemen of a threat to US interests there, days after terrorists bombed the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Three persons were killed and several were injured in November when a car bomb exploded near the German Embassy in Sanaa.
Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped and released more than 60 foreign nationals in 1998, more than three times the number abducted in 1997. The Islamic Army of Aden—a little known Islamic group that has issued anti-US threats—claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in late December of 16 Western tourists, including two US citizens. Four of the tourists died, and two others—including one US citizen—were wounded during a Yemeni Government rescue attempt that liberated the remaining hostages. Following the incident, the group issued a statement calling for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq. In addition, gunmen in December shot and wounded a US citizen working on a Dutch agricultural development project while they were attempting to hijack his car. The Yemeni Government issued a decree in August implementing severe punishment—including execution—for kidnappers and stepped up enforcement of the law on unlicensed weapons in major cities.
Continuing efforts begun in 1997, the Yemeni Government took further steps to rein in foreign extremists. Sanaa increased its security cooperation with other Arab countries and reportedly forced several foreign extremists to leave Yemen. The government also instituted the requirement that Algerian, British, Egyptian, Libyan, Sudanese, and Tunisian nationals seeking entry into Yemen travel directly from their home counties. Nevertheless, the government’s inability to control many remote areas continued to make the country a safehaven for terrorist groups.