Patterns of Global Terrorism. Editor: Anna Sabasteanski. Volume 1, Berkshire Publishing, 2005.
The Year in Review
The number of persons killed or wounded in international terrorist attacks during 1999 fell sharply because of the absence of any attack causing mass casualties. In 1999, 233 persons were killed and 706 were wounded, as compared with 741 persons killed and 5,952 wounded in 1998.
The number of terrorist attacks rose, however. During 1999, 392 international terrorist attacks occurred, up 43 percent from the 274 attacks recorded the previous year. The number of attacks increased in every region of the world except in the Middle East, where six fewer attacks occurred. There are several reasons for the increase:
- In Europe individuals mounted dozens of attacks to protest the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia and the Turkish authorities’ capture of Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan.
- In addition, radical youth gangs in Nigeria abducted and held for ransom more than three dozen foreign oil workers. The gangs held most of the hostages for a few days before releasing them unharmed.
Terrorists targeted US interests in 169 attacks in 1999, an increase of 52 percent from 1998. The increase was concentrated in four countries: Colombia, Greece, Nigeria, and Yemen.
- In Colombia the number of attacks against US targets, including bombings of commercial interests and an oil pipeline, rose to 91 in 1999.
- In Greece anti-NATO attacks frequently targeted US interests.
- In Nigeria and Yemen, US citizens were among the foreign nationals abducted.
Five US citizens died in these attacks:
- The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) kidnapped three US citizens working with the U’Wa Indians in Northeastern Colombia on 25 February. Their bodies were found on 4 March and were identified as Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok, and Lahe’ena’e Gay.
- A group of Rwandan Hutu rebels from the Interahamwe in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda kidnapped and then killed two US citizens, Susan Miller and Robert Haubner, on 1 March.
In 186 incidents in 1999, bombings remained the predominant type of terrorist attack. Since 1968, when the United States Government began keeping such statistics, more than 7,000 terrorist bombings have occurred worldwide.
The United States brought the rule of law to bear against international terrorists in several ongoing cases throughout the year:
- On 19 May the US District Court in the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment against Ali Mohammed, charging him with conspiracy to kill US nationals overseas. Ali, suspected of being a member of Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida terrorist organization, had been arrested in the United States in September 1998 after testifying before a grand jury concerning the US Embassy bombings in East Africa.
- Authorities apprehended Khalfan Khamis Mohamed in South Africa on 5 October, after a joint investigation by the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and South African law enforcement authorities. US officials brought him to New York to face charges in connection with the bombing of the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on 7 August 1998.
- Three additional suspects in the Tanzanian and Kenyan US Embassy bombings currently are in custody in the United Kingdom, pending extradition to the United States: Khalid Al-Fawwaz, Adel Mohammed Abdul Almagid Bary, and Ibrahim Hussein Abdelhadi Eidarous. Eight other suspects, including Usama Bin Ladin, remain at large. The FBI added Bin Ladin to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in June. The Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program pays up to $5 million for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of these and other terrorist suspects.
- On 15 October, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in a plot to bomb New York City landmarks and to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1993. Siddig Ali was arrested in June 1993 on conspiracy charges and pleaded guilty in February 1995 to all charges against him. His cooperation with authorities helped prosecutors convict Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman and nine others for their roles in the bombing conspiracy.
- In September the US Justice Department informed Hani al-Sayegh, a Saudi Arabian citizen, that he would be removed from the United States and sent to Saudi Arabia. Authorities expelled him from the United States to Saudi Arabia on 11 October, where he remains in custody. He faces charges there in connection with the attack in June 1996 on US forces in Khubar, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 US citizens and wounded more than 500 others. Al-Sayegh was paroled into the United States from Canada in June 1997. After he failed to abide by an initial plea agreement with the Justice Department concerning a separate case, the State Department terminated his parole in October 1997 and placed him in removal proceedings.
Africa in 1999 witnessed no massive terrorist attacks as devastating as the bombings one year earlier of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, although evidence continued to emerge of terrorist activity and networks—both indigenous and foreign—on the continent. Terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Gama’at al-Islamiyya, and Hizballah posed a threat to US targets and interests throughout Africa and elsewhere. In the region’s most deadly attack, Rwandan Hutu rebels murdered two US citizens and a number of tourists in March.
Insecurity continued to plague Angola in 1999. Angola’s main guerrilla faction, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), committed several acts of international terrorism as a tactic in its decades-old insurrection. In January, UNITA guerrillas ambushed a vehicle, killing one British national, one Brazilian, and two Angolan security guards. On 10 February, UNITA rebels reportedly kidnapped two Portuguese and two Spanish nationals. The next day, UNITA rebels attacked the scout vehicle for a convoy of diamond mine vehicles, killing three Angolan security guards and wounding five others. Five Angolan citizens were killed on 14 April when unidentified assailants attacked a Save the Children vehicle in Salina. UNITA’s bloodiest terrorist assault was the ambush of a German humanitarian convoy near Bocoio on 6 July. Guerrilla forces killed at least 15 persons and injured 25 others.
In addition to assaults on isolated vehicle convoys, UNITA attacked three civilian aircraft in 1999. On 13 May, UNITA rebels claimed they had shot down a privately owned plane and abducted three Russian crewmembers. UNITA again claimed responsibility for shooting down a private aircraft on 30 June. One of the five Russian crewmembers died when the aircraft crash landed near Capenda-Camulemba. Three weeks later, UNITA rebels fired mortars at an International Committee for the Red Cross aircraft parked at Huambo airport but caused no injuries or damage.
Cabinda Liberation Front separatists are believed responsible for the kidnapping in mid-March of one Angolan, two French, and two Portuguese oil workers in the northern enclave of Cabinda. In past years the separatists have taken hostages to earn ransom and to pressure the Angolan Government to relinquish control over the region.
Ogaden National Liberation Front rebels on 3 April kidnapped a French aid worker, two Ethiopian staff workers, and four Somalis. The next day, the group’s “political secretary” announced the French hostage had been “pardoned” and was to be released to French diplomats.
Two major kidnapping incidents occurred in Liberia in 1999. On 21 April unidentified assailants crossed the border from Guinea and laid siege to the town of Voinjama, kidnapping the visiting Dutch Ambassador, a Norwegian diplomat, a European Union representative, and 17 aid workers. The attackers, whom eyewitnesses said belonged to the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia, released all hostages later the same day. In August an armed gang kidnapped four British nationals, one Norwegian citizen, and one Italian national. The gang released them unharmed two days later.
Ethnic violence flared in Nigeria during the year as bloody feuds broke out among various indigenous groups battling for access to and control of limited local resources. Poverty-stricken Nigerians across the nation, particularly in the oilproducing southern regions, demanded a larger share of the nation’s oil wealth. Radical ethnic Ijaw youth resorted to violence against oil firms as a means of expressing their grievances. The gangs abducted more than three dozen foreign oil workers, including 16 British nationals and four US citizens. The militant youths demanded ransoms from the victims’ employers as well as compensation from the government on behalf of their village, ethnic group, or larger community. In most cases the youths held the hostages for only a few days before releasing them unharmed.
Security problems in Sierra Leone spiked during the first half of 1999 as insurgent forces mounted a last-gasp offensive on the capital in January. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels took captive several foreign missionaries during the RUF’s siege of Freetown. The failure of this offensive and a general sense of battle fatigue led guerrilla forces to sign a peace and ceasefire agreement in July, and Sierra Leone remained relatively calm for the remainder of the year. Violent flareups occurred sporadically, however, as the government tried to regain control of the countryside.
The most significant of the post-cease-fire incidents was the kidnapping of more than three dozen foreign nationals at a rebel demobilization and prisoner exchange ceremony. On 4 August members of an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) faction kidnapped 10 United Nations military observers, 14 regional peacekeepers, and eight civilians. Among the hostages were 14 Nigerian soldiers, seven British nationals, three Zambians, and two US citizens. The AFRC militants demanded the release of their leader, Johnny Paul Koromah, and humanitarian aid. After Koromah assured them that he was not imprisoned in the capital, the AFRC militants released most of hostages the next day and the rest on 10 August.
Islamist militants associated with Qibla and People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) continued to conduct bombings and other acts of domestic terror in Cape Town. Only two of the attacks affected foreign interests, when unidentified youths on 8 and 10 January firebombed Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Cape Town, causing major damage but no injuries.
On 14 February a pipe bomb exploded inside a crowded bar, killing five persons and injuring 35 others. One Ethiopian and four Ugandans died in the blast. Among the injured were two Swiss nationals, one Pakistani, one US citizen, and 27 Ugandans. Ugandan authorities blamed the bombing and a number of other terrorist incidents in the capital on Islamist militants associated with the Allied Democratic Forces based along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwandan Hutu rebels attacked three tourist camps in the Bwindi National Forest on 1 March, kidnapping 14 tourists, including three US citizens, six British nationals, three New Zealanders, one Australian, and one Canadian. The rebels killed two US citizens, four British nationals, and two New Zealanders before releasing the others the next day. One month later, on 3 April, suspected Rwandan Hutu rebels based in the Democratic Republic of Congo again crossed over into Uganda and attacked a village in Kisoro, killing three persons.
At least 16 bombs exploded across Lusaka on 28 February. One bomb exploded inside the Angolan Embassy, killing one person and causing major damage. Other bombs detonated near major water pipes, around powerlines, and in parks and residential districts, injuring two persons. There were no claims of responsibility.
South Asia Overview
In 1999 the locus of terrorism directed against the United States continued to shift from the Middle East to South Asia. The Taliban continued to provide safehaven for international terrorists, particularly Usama Bin Ladin and his network, in the portions of Afghanistan they controlled. Despite the serious and ongoing dialogue between the Taliban and the United States, Taliban leadership has refused to comply with a unanimously adopted UNSC resolution demanding that they turn Bin Ladin over to a country where he can be brought to justice.
The United States made repeated requests to Islamabad to end support for elements harboring and training terrorists in Afghanistan and urged the Government of Pakistan to close certain Pakistani religious schools that serve as conduits for terrorism. Credible reports also continued to indicate official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups, such as the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), that engaged in terrorism.
In Sri Lanka the government continued its protracted conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Islamist extremists from around the world—including North America; Europe; Africa; the Middle East; and Central, South, and Southeast Asia—continued to use Afghanistan as a training ground and base of operations for their worldwide terrorist activities in 1999. The Taliban, which controlled most Afghan territory, permitted the operation of training and indoctrination facilities for non-Afghans and provided logistic support to members of various terrorist organizations and mujahidin, including those waging jihads in Chechnya, Lebanon, Kosovo, Kashmir, and elsewhere.
Throughout the year, the Taliban continued to host Usama Bin Ladin—indicted in November 1998 for the bombings of two US Embassies in East Africa—despite US and UN sanctions, a unanimously adopted United [Nations] Security Council resolution, and other international pressure to deliver him to stand trial in the United States or a third country. The United States repeatedly made clear to the Taliban that they will be held responsible for any terrorist acts undertaken by Bin Ladin while he is in their territory.
In early December, Jordanian authorities arrested members of a cell linked to Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida organization—some of whom had undergone explosives and weapons training in Afghanistan—who were planning terrorist operations against Western tourists visiting holy sites in Jordan over the millennium holiday.
On 25 December the Taliban permitted hijacked Indian Airlines flight 814 to land at Qandahar airport after refusing it permission to land the previous day. The hijacking ended on 31 December when the Indian Government released from prison three individuals linked to Kashmiri militant groups in return for the release of the passengers aboard the aircraft. The hijackers, who had murdered one of the Indian passengers during the course of the incident, were allowed to go free. The Taliban stated that the hijackers, who reportedly are Kashmiri militants, would leave Afghanistan even if they were unable to obtain political asylum from another country. Their whereabouts remained unknown at yearend.
Security problems persisted in India in 1999 from ongoing insurgencies in Kashmir and the northeast. Kashmiri militant groups continued to attack Indian Government, military, and civilian targets in India-held Kashmir and elsewhere in the country. The militants probably bombed a passenger train traveling from Kashmir to New Delhi on 12 November, killing 13 persons and wounding 50. Militant groups operating in Kashmir also mounted a grenade attack against a wedding in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital, which wounded at least 20 wedding participants. In the northeast, Nagaland’s Chief Minister escaped injury on 29 November when a local extremist group attacked his convoy. The attack killed two of his guards and injured several others.
The Indian Government took a number of steps against terrorism at home and abroad. In August the Indian cabinet ratified the international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings. New Delhi also introduced a convention on the suppression of terrorism at the UN General Assembly meeting. Indian law enforcement authorities continued to cooperate with US officials to ascertain the fate of four Western hostages—including one US citizen—kidnapped in 1995 in Indian Kashmir, although the hostages’ whereabouts remained unknown. New Delhi announced in November 1999 the establishment of a US-India Counterterrorism Working Group, which aimed to enhance efforts to counter international terrorism worldwide.
Pakistan is one of only three countries that maintains formal diplomatic relations with—and one of several that supported—Afghanistan’s Taliban, which permitted many known terrorists to reside and operate in its territory. The United States repeatedly has asked Islamabad to end support to elements that conduct terrorist training in Afghanistan, to interdict travel of militants to and from camps in Afghanistan, to prevent militant groups from acquiring weapons, and to block financial and logistic support to camps in Afghanistan. In addition, the United States has urged Islamabad to close certain madrasses, or “religious” schools, that actually serve as conduits for terrorism.
Credible reports continued to indicate official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups that engage in terrorism, such as the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM). The hijackers of the Air India flight reportedly belong to one of these militant groups. One of the HUM leaders, Maulana Masood Azhar, was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for the hostages on the aircraft in the Air India hijacking in December and has since returned to Pakistan.
Kashmiri extremist groups continued to operate in Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting new cadre. The groups were responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in 1999 against civilian targets in India-held Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Pakistani officials from both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and, after his removal by the military, General Pervez Musharraf’s regime publicly stated that Pakistan provided diplomatic, political, and moral support for “freedom fighters” in Kashmir—including the terrorist group Harakat ul-Mujahidin—but denied providing the militants training or materiel.
On 12 November, shortly after the United Nations authorized sanctions against the Taliban, but before the sanctions were implemented, unidentified terrorists launched a coordinated rocket attack against the US Embassy, the American center, and possibly UN offices in Islamabad. The attacks caused no fatalities but injured a guard and damaged US facilities.
Sectarian and political violence remained a problem in 1999 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. Pakistan experienced a particularly strong wave of such attacks across the country in August and September. Domestic violence dropped significantly after the military coup on 12 October.
In the wake of US diplomatic intervention to end the Kargil conflict that broke out in April between Pakistan and India, several Pakistani and Kashmiri extremist groups stridently denounced US interference and activities. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami leaders, for example, reacted to US diplomacy in the region by harshly and publicly berating US efforts to bring wanted terrorist Usama Bin Ladin, who is based in Afghanistan, to justice for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The imposition of US sanctions on 14 November against Afghanistan’s Taliban for its continued support for Bin Ladin drew a similar response.
The separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which the United States has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization, maintained a high level of violence in 1999, conducting numerous attacks on government, police, civilian, and military targets. President Chandrika Kumaratunga narrowly escaped an LTTE assassination attempt in December. The group’s suicide bombers assassinated moderate Tamil politician Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam in July and killed 34 bystanders at election rallies in December. LTTE gunmen murdered a Tamil Member of Parliament from Jaffna representing the Eelam People’s Democratic Party and the leader of a Tamil military unit supporting the Sri Lankan Army.
Over the year, LTTE attacks against police officers killed 50 and wounded 77. Bombings of buses, trains, and bus terminals in March, April, and September killed four persons and injured more than 80, and Sri Lankan authorities attributed several bombings of telecommunications and power facilities to the LTTE. In July an LTTE suicide diver bombed a civilian passenger ferry while it was in Trincomalee port, and the group’s Sea Tigers naval wing attacked a Chinese vessel that had come too close to the Sri Lankan coastline. The LTTE allegedly massacred more than 50 civilians in September, apparently retaliating against a Sri Lankan Air Force bombing that killed 21 Tamil civilians. The LTTE is suspected in the shooting death in Jaffna of a regional military commander for the progovernment People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and may be responsible for bombings at a PLOTE office and a camp in Vavuniya that killed three and injured seven.
LTTE activity against the Sri Lankan Government centered on the continuing war in the north. The Sri Lankan military’s offensive to open and secure a ground supply route through LTTE-held territory suffered a major defeat when the LTTE fought a series of intense battles in early November and regained control of nearly all land the government had captured in the past two years. The battles resulted in thousands of casualties on both sides.
There were no confirmed cases of LTTE or other terrorist groups targeting US citizens or businesses in Sri Lanka in 1999. 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. Battlefield requirements forced Sri Lankan security forces to cancel their participation in a senior crisis management seminar under the Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program in 1999.
East Asia Overview
The scorecard for terrorism in East Asian nations in 1999 was mixed, with some countries enjoying significant improvements and others suffering an upswing of attacks. The most positive development occurred in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge’s once-deadly threat all but ended with the group’s dissolution as a viable terrorist organization.
Political disagreements frequently were the inspiration for terrorist acts in East Asia. In Indonesia the overwhelming East Timor vote in favor of independence provoked violent reprisals by militias on that island as well as in Jakarta. In addition, a US-owned oil company’s facilities were targeted in Aceh, Sumatra.
Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo, which was redesignated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in October, admitted to and apologized for its sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway in 1995. Facing increasing public pressure, the Japanese Government instituted legal restrictions on the group. In response, the Aum announced plans to suspend its public activities as of 1 October. The Government of Japan also continued to seek the extradition of Japanese Red Army (JRA) members from Lebanon and Thailand.
Several groups in the Philippines engaged in or threatened violent acts. The Communist Party of the Philippines New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) broke off peace talks in June in retaliation for the government’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States that provides for joint military training exercises. While the CPP/NPA only threatened to attack US forces, it targeted Philippine security forces in numerous incidents. Both the separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as the redesignated FTO Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), were blamed for various attacks and kidnappings for ransom.
In Thailand five prodemocracy students staged a takeover on 1 October of the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, holding 32 persons hostage, including one US citizen. The incident ended without violence.
The Khmer Rouge (KR) insurgency ended in 1999 following a series of defections, military defeats, and the capture of group leader Ta Mok in March. The KR did not conduct international terrorism in 1999, and the US Government removed it from the list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Former KR members, however, still posed an isolated threat in remote areas of the country. Suspected ex-KR soldiers, for example, attacked a hill tribe in northeastern Cambodia in July in an apparent criminal incident.
The Cambodian Government worked on drafting a law for the United Nations to assist in establishing a court to try former KR members who were senior leaders of the regime responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million persons in Cambodia during the 1975-79 period. A former KR official warned in September, however, that unrest would resurface if the Cambodian Government put the KR on trial.
The ballot results on 30 August favoring East Timor’s independence sparked prointegration militias—armed East Timorese favoring unity with Indonesia—to mount a violent campaign throughout September against proindependence supporters. A number of militia members accused the United Nations of manipulating the ballot results, leading some militia units to seek foreign targets in the province. Incidents included the serious wounding of a US police officer working for the UN Assistance Mission to East Timor, an attack against the Australian Ambassador’s vehicle, and an assault against the Australian Consulate in Dili, East Timor’s capital. Militiamen also allegedly killed a Dutch Financial Times reporter in a Dili suburb on 21 September after his motorcycle driver tried to flee six armed men. In a separate incident the same day, prointegrationists ambushed a British journalist and a US citizen photographer in Bacau, east of Dili, but Australian troops later rescued the two.
A prointegration militia leader told former Indonesian Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto in early September that he would have no regrets about killing nongovernmental organization or UN persons who supported the proindependence side. Militia threats and attacks against foreigners, however, dropped dramatically after late September, when the situation began to stabilize.
Indonesian nationalists, mostly in Jakarta, responded to the referendum and the subsequent deployment of the International Force for East Timor with protests and low-level violence against perceived interference in their country’s internal affairs. In late September the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was the target of almost daily demonstrations that included petrol bombs and stone throwing. Gunmen fired shots at the Australian Embassy on three separate occasions in apparent anger over Canberra’s role in the international peacekeeping mission. In addition, unidentified assailants threw Molotov cocktails at the Australian International School in Jakarta on 4 October, but no injuries resulted. As of 25 October, pursuant to a UN Security Council resolution, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor assumed all legislative and executive authority in East Timor and responsibility for the administration of justice.
Separatist violence flared in other parts of the country, particularly in Aceh, Sumatra, where the Free Aceh Movement and its sympathizers clashed with Indonesian security forces throughout the year. The separatists, demanding a referendum on Aceh independence, primarily attacked Indonesian targets, but US interests in the province suffered collateral damage. Unidentified assailants, for example, fired at a Mobil Oil bus and burned a Mobil-operated community health clinic on two separate occasions in late September. Free Papua Movement separatists located in Irian Jaya did not attack foreign interests but conducted some violent protests and low-level attacks against Indonesian targets in 1999.
Several small-scale bombings of undetermined motivation also occurred in Indonesia during the year, including the attack against the National Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta that injured six persons on 19 April. In addition, unidentified assailants conducted other bombings that injured several Indonesians in Jakarta’s city center following the presidential election in October.
Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that conducted the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995, continued efforts to rebuild itself in 1999. The group’s recruitment, training, fundraising—especially a computer business that generated more than $50 million—and property acquisition, however, provoked numerous police raids and an extensive public backlash that included protests and citizen-led efforts to monitor and barricade Aum facilities.
In an effort to alleviate public pressure and criticism, Aum leaders in late September announced the group would suspend its public activities for an indeterminate period beginning 1 October. The cult openly pledged to close its branch offices, discontinue public gatherings, cease distribution of propaganda, shut down most of its Internet Web site, and halt property purchases beyond that required to provide adequate housing for existing members. The cult also said it would stop using the name “Aum Shinrikyo.” On 1 December, Aum leaders admitted the cult conducted the sarin attack and other crimes—which they had denied previously—and apologized publicly for the acts. The cult made its first compensation payment to victims’ families in late December.
Japanese courts sentenced one Aum member to death and another to life in prison for the subway attack, while trials for other members involved in the attack remain ongoing. The prosecution of cult founder Shoko Asahara continued at a sluggish pace, and a verdict remained years away. Japanese authorities remained concerned over the release in late December of popular former cult spokesman Fumihiro Joyu—who served a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for perjury—and his expected return to the cult as a senior leader. The Japanese parliament in December passed legislation strengthening government authority to crack down on groups resembling the Aum and allowing the government to confiscate funds from the group to compensate victims. The Public Security Investigation Agency stated that it would again seek to outlaw the Aum under the Anti-Subversive Activities Law. Separately, the Japanese Government continued to seek the extradition of members of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) from Lebanon and Thailand.
The Communist Party of the Philippines New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) broke off peace talks with the Philippine Government in June after the ratification of the US-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provides a legal framework for joint military training exercises between Philippine and US armed forces. The CPP/NPA continued to oppose a US military presence in the country and claimed that the VFA violates the nation’s sovereignty. Communist insurgents did not target US interests during the year, but a Communist member told the press in May that guerrillas would target US troops taking part in the joint exercises. Press reporting in September alleged CPP/NPA plans to target US Embassy personnel at an unspecified time.
The CPP/NPA continued to target Philippine security forces in 1999. The organization conducted several ambushes and abductions against Philippine military and police elements in rural areas throughout the country. The CPP/NPA released most of its hostages unharmed by late April but still was holding Philippine Army Major Noel Buan and Philippine Police Official Abelardo Martin at yearend.
The Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB)—a breakaway CPP/NPA faction—claimed responsibility for a rifle grenade attack on 2 December against Shell Oil’s headquarters in Manila that injured a security guard. The attack apparently protested an increase in oil prices.
Islamist extremists also remained active in the southern Philippines, engaging in sporadic clashes with Philippine Armed Forces and conducting low-level attacks and abductions against civilian targets. The groups did not attack US interests in 1999, however. The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)—redesignated in 1999 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization—in June abducted two Belgians and held them captive for five days before releasing them unharmed without ransom. The ASG still was working to fill a leadership void resulting from the death of Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with the Philippine Army on 18 December 1998.
The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Philippine Islamist separatist group, marked the opening of peace talks on 25 October. Nonetheless, both sides continued to engage in low-level clashes. MILF chief Hashim Salamat told the press in February that the group had received from Usama Bin Ladin funds that it used to build mosques, health centers, and schools in depressed Muslim communities.
Distinguishing between political and criminal motivation for many of the terrorist-related activities in the Philippines was difficult, most notably in the numerous cases of kidnapping for ransom in the south. Both Communist and Islamist insurgents sought to extort funds from businesses or other organizations in their operating areas, often conducting reprisal operations if money was not paid. Philippine police officials, for example, said that three separate bomb attacks in August against a bus company in the southern Philippines may have been the work of extortionists rather than terrorists.
Five prodemocracy students armed with AK-47s and grenades seized the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok and held 32 hostages on 1 October. The hostages included 20 individuals applying for visas, one of whom was a US citizen. The terrorists demanded that the Burmese Government release all political prisoners in Burma and recognize the results of a national election held in 1990. No injuries occurred, and the situation was resolved the next day after the Thai Deputy Foreign Minister offered himself as a hostage in exchange for the safety of the hostages inside the Burmese Embassy. The five terrorists and the Deputy Foreign Minister were taken by helicopter to a remote jungle area on the Thai-Burmese border. The Burmese fled into the jungle. (At least one and perhaps three of the five were shot to death by Thai security forces on 25 January 2000 after participating in the seizure of a Thai provincial hospital.)
Some low-level bombings and hoax bomb threats also occurred in Thailand during the year, although no US interests suffered damage. Most of the incidents were directed against Thai interests, including the bombing of the Democratic Party headquarters in Bangkok on 14 January. Thai authorities suspect that a bomb found and defused at the construction site of a new post office in the south on 15 April was planted by members of the separatist New Pattani United Liberation Organization to avenge government operations against the group.
Five gunmen attacked Armenia’s Parliament in October, killing eight members, including the Prime Minister and National Assembly Speaker. Later in the year a grenade was thrown at the Russian Embassy, damaging several cars but causing no injuries.
A major Central Asian regional crisis erupted in Kyrgyzstan when members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) twice crossed the border from Tajikistan and took hostages. Among the several dozen hostages taken in the second incident were four Japanese geologists, who eventually were released after several nations intervened; ransom was rumored to have been paid.
Russian cities, including Moscow, were subjected to several bomb attacks, which killed and injured hundreds of persons. Police accused the attackers of belonging to Chechen and Dagestan insurgent groups with ties to Usama Bin Ladin and foreign mujahidin but presented no evidence linking Chechen separatists to the bombings. The attacks prompted Russia to send military forces into Chechnya to eliminate “foreign terrorists.” Neighboring Caucasus states within the Russian Federation as well as surrounding countries feared Russia’s military campaign in Chechnya would increase radicalization of Islamic internal populations and encourage violence and the spread of instability throughout the region. The Russian campaign into Chechnya also raised fears in Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as Russia, that the Chechen insurgents increasingly would use those countries for financial and logistic support.
Uzbekistan experienced several major attacks by IMU insurgents seeking to overthrow the government. In February five coordinated car bombs exploded, killing 16 persons, in what the government labeled an attempt on the President’s life. In September the IMU declared a jihad against the Uzbekistani Government. In November the IMU was blamed for a violent encounter outside the capital city of Tashkent that killed 10 Uzbekistani Government officials and 15 insurgents.
On 27 October five Armenian gunmen opened fire on a Parliament session, killing eight government leaders, including Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan and National Assembly Speaker Karen Demirchyan. The gunmen claimed they were protesting the responsibility of government officials for dire social and economic conditions in Armenia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The gunmen later surrendered to authorities and at yearend were being detained with 10 other Armenians accused of complicity. An investigation of the incident was ongoing.
Russian facilities in Armenia also came under attack. On 25 November a grenade was thrown into the Russian Embassy compound in Yerevan, causing no injuries but damaging several cars.
Although Azerbaijan did not face a serious threat from international terrorism, it served as a logistic hub for international mujahidin with ties to terrorist groups, some of whom supported the Chechen insurgency in Russia. Azerbaijan increased its border controls with Russia when the Chechen conflict reignited during the year to prevent foreign mujahidin from operating within its borders.
On 13 October terrorists kidnapped seven UN observers near Abkhazia and demanded a significant ransom for their release. Georgian officials secured the victims’ freedom within two days, however, without acceding to the kidnappers’ demands.
Georgia also faced spillover violence from the Chechen conflict and, like Azerbaijan, contended with international mujahidin seeking to use Georgia as a conduit for financial and logistic assistance to the Chechen fighters. Russia pressured the Georgian Government to introduce stronger border controls to stop the flow of men and arms. Russian officials also alleged that armed Chechen fighters entered Georgia with refugees to hide until a possible Chechen counterattack against Russia in the spring of 2000.
Violence again colored Georgian domestic politics, especially attacks against senior leaders. Although no attacks were conducted against the President this year, Georgian security officials disrupted an alleged coup plot in May, and other prominent officials were the victims or targets of political and criminal violence.
International terrorism shocked Kyrgyzstan for the first time in August when armed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) militants twice crossed into Kyrgyzstan and instigated a two-and-one-half-month hostage crisis. From 6 to 13 August, IMU militants from Tajikistan held four Kyrgyzstanis hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan before they released them without incident and retreated to Tajikistan. The militants returned in a larger force on 22 August and seized 13 hostages, including four Japanese geologists, their interpreter, a Kyrgyzstani Interior Ministry general, and several Kyrgyzstani soldiers. IMU militants continued to arrive in subsequent weeks, numbering as many as 1,000 at the incursion’s peak.
The IMU’s implicit goal was to infiltrate Uzbekistan and destabilize the government. The militants first demanded safe passage to Uzbekistan; additional demands called for money and a prisoner exchange. Uzbekistan refused to allow them to enter, leaving Kyrgyzstan’s ill-prepared security forces to combat the terrorists with Uzbekistani military assistance, Russian logistic support, and negotiation assistance from other governments. The militants’ guerrilla tactics enabled them to maintain their position in difficult mountainous terrain, frustrating the Kyrgyzstani military’s attempts to dislodge them. Observers speculated that only the approach of winter forced the militants to retreat into Tajikistan, where negotiators were able to facilitate an agreement between the IMU and Kyrgyzstani representatives.
On 25 October the militants finally released all hostages except a Kyrgystani soldier they had executed. Kyrgyzstan released an IMU prisoner, but Kyrgyzstani and Japanese officials denied Japanese press reports that they paid a monetary ransom for the hostages’ release. Although an agreement stipulated that all IMU militants would leave Tajikistani territory after the hostage crisis, some IMU militants may have remained in the region. Central Asian officials and most external observers feared that a similar IMU incursion into Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan could occur in the spring, either from bases in Tajikistan or from terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
In the fall a series of bombings in Russian cities claimed hundreds of victims and raised concern about terrorism in the Russian Federation. On 4 September a truck bomb exploded in front of an apartment complex at a Russian military base in Buynaksk, Dagestan, killing 62 persons and wounding 174. Authorities discovered a second bomb on the base the same day and disarmed it before it caused further casualties. On 8 and 13 September powerful explosions demolished two Moscow apartment buildings, killing more than 200 persons and wounding 200 others. The two Moscow incidents were similar, with explosive materials placed in rented facilities on the ground floor of each building and detonated by timing devices in the early morning. The string of bomb attacks continued when a car bomb exploded in the southern Russian city of Volgodonsk on 16 September, killing 17 persons and wounding more than 500 others.
A caller to Russian authorities claimed responsibility for the Moscow bombings on behalf of the previously unknown “Dagestan Liberation Army,” but no claims were made for the incidents in Buynaksk and Volgodonsk. Russian police suspected insurgent groups from Chechnya and Dagestan conducted the bombings at the behest of Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev and the mujahidin leader known as Ibn al-Khattab, although Russian authorities did not release evidence to confirm their suspicions. Russian authorities arrested eight individuals and issued warrants for nine others believed to be hiding in Chechnya but presented no evidence linking Chechen separatists to the bombings.
In response to the apartment building bombings and to an armed incursion by Basayev and Khattab into Dagestan from Chechnya, Russian troops entered Chechnya in October in a campaign to eliminate “foreign terrorists” from the North Caucasus. The forces fighting the Russian army were mostly ethnic Chechens and supporters from other regions of Russia. They received some support from foreign mujahidin with extensive links to Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Central Asian Islamist extremists, as well as to Usama Bin Ladin. At yearend, Chechen militant activity had been localized in the North Caucasus region, but Russia and Chechnya’s neighboring states feared increased radicalization of Islamist populations would encourage violence and spread instability elsewhere in Russia and beyond.
There were few violent political acts against the United States in Russia during the year. Anti-NATO sentiment during the Kosovo campaign sparked an attack on the US Embassy in Moscow in late March when a protester unsuccessfully attempted to launch a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at the facility. The perpetrator sprayed the front of the building with machinegun fire after he failed to launch the RPG. At yearend no progress had been made in identifying or apprehending the assailant.
Security for the international community in Tajikistan did not improve in 1999. The US Embassy in Dushanbe suspended operations in September 1998 because of the Tajikistani Government’s limited ability to protect the safety of US and foreign personnel there. US personnel were moved to Almaty, although they travel regularly to Dushanbe.
The IMU’s use of Tajikistan as a staging ground for its incursion into Kyrgyzstan was the most significant international terrorist activity in Tajikistan in 1999. The IMU militants entered Kyrgyzstan from bases in Tajikistan and returned to the area with their Japanese and Central Asian hostages when they fled Kyrgyzstan in late September and October. As part of the agreement that resolved the incident, the Uzbekistani militants left Tajikistan, although some IMU fighters may have remained in some regions of the country.
On 16 February five coordinated car bombs targeted at Uzbekistani Government facilities exploded within a two-hour period in downtown Tashkent, killing 16 persons and wounding more than 100 others. Such an attack was unprecedented in a former Soviet republic. Uzbekistani officials feared the attacks were aimed at assassinating President Islom Karimov and suspected the IMU, some of whose members had opposed the Karimov regime for many years. By summer the government had arrested or questioned hundreds of suspects about their possible involvement in the bombings. Ultimately the government condemned 11 suspects to death and sentenced more than 120 others to prison terms.
The IMU threat to Uzbekistan continued, however, with the group’s incursion into Kyrgyzstan in August. Although the IMU militants did not attack Uzbekistani soil or personnel at the time, they tried to achieve a foothold in Uzbekistan for future IMU action. The militants in Kyrgyzstan also publicly declared jihad against the Uzbekistani Government on 3 September.
In November a group of Uzbekistani forest rangers encountered a group of IMU members in a mountainous region approximately 80 kilometers east of Tashkent. Initially reported to be bandits, the IMU militants killed four foresters and three Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) police. An extensive MVD search-and-destroy operation resulted in the death of 15 suspected insurgents and three additional MVD special forces officers. During a press conference, the Minister of the Interior identified some of the insurgents as IMU members who had taken hostages in Kyrgyzstan in August.
Europe experienced fewer terrorist incidents and casualties in 1999 than in the previous year. Strong police and intelligence efforts—particularly in France, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, and Spain—reduced the threat from Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorists in those countries. Nonetheless, some European governments avoided their treaty obligations by neglecting to bring PKK terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan to justice during his three-month stay in Italy. Greece’s performance against terrorists of all stripes continued to be feeble, and senior government officials gave Ocalan sanctuary and support. There were signs of a possible resurgence of leftwing and anarchist terrorism in Italy, where a group claiming to be the Red Brigades took responsibility for the assassination of Italian labor leader Massimo D’Antono in May.
In the United Kingdom, the Good Friday accords effectively prolonged the de facto peace while the various parties continued to seek a resolution through negotiations. The Irish Republican Army’s refusal to abandon its caches of arms remained the principal stumbling block. Some breakaway terrorist factions—both Loyalist and Republican—attempted to undermine the process through low-level bombings and other terrorist activity.
Turkey moved aggressively against the deadly DHKP-C, which attempted a rocket attack in June against the US Consulate General in Istanbul. Following Abdullah Ocalan’s conviction on capital offenses, PKK terrorist acts dropped sharply. The decrease possibly reflected a second-tier leadership decision to heed Ocalan’s request to refrain from conducting terrorist activity.
Despite Albania’s counterterrorist efforts and commitment to fight terrorism, a lack of resources, porous borders, and high crime rates continued to provide an environment conducive to terrorist activity. After senior US officials canceled a visit to Albania in June because of terrorist threats, Albanian authorities arrested and expelled two Syrians and an Iraqi suspected of terrorist activities. The men had been arrested in February and charged with falsifying official documents but were released after serving a prison sentence.
In October, Albanian authorities expelled two other individuals with suspected ties to terrorists, who officially were in the region to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees. Albanian authorities suspected the two had connections to Usama Bin Ladin and denied them permission to return to Albania.
As with many west European countries, Austria suffered a Kurdish backlash in the aftermath of the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya on 16 February. Kurdish demonstrators almost immediately occupied the Greek and Kenyan Embassies in Vienna, vacating the facilities peacefully the following day. Kurds also held largely peaceful protest rallies in front of the US chancery and at numerous other locations across the country. PKK followers subsequently refrained from violence, focusing instead on rebuilding strained relations with the Austrian Government and lobbying for Ankara to spare Ocalan’s life. In addition to the PKK, the Kurdish National Liberation Front—a PKK front organization—continued to operate an office in Vienna.
In the fight against domestic terrorism, an Austrian court in March sentenced Styrian-born Franz Fuchs to life imprisonment for carrying out a deadly letter-bomb campaign from 1993 to 1997 that killed four members of the Roma minority in Burgenland Province and injured 15 persons in Austria and Germany. Jurors unanimously found that Fuchs was the sole member of the fictitious “Bajuvarian Liberation Army” on whose behalf Fuchs had claimed to act.
In a shootout in Vienna in mid-September, Austrian police killed suspected German Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorist Horst Ludwig-Mayer. Authorities arrested his accomplice, Andrea Klump, and on 23 December extradited her to Germany to face charges in connection with membership in the outlawed RAF, possible complicity in an attack against the chairman of the Deutsche Bank, and involvement in an attack against a NATO installation in Spain in 1988.
In September, Belgian police raided a safehouse in Knokke belonging to the Turkish terrorist group DHKP/C and arrested six individuals believed to be involved in planning and support activities. During the operation officials seized false documents, detonators, small-caliber weapons, and ammunition. All six detainees filed appeals, and, at yearend, Belgian authorities released two of them. The Turkish Government requested the extradition of one group member, Fehriye Erdal, for participating in the murder in 1996 of a Turkish industrialist.
A claim made in the name of the GIA in July threatened to create a “blood bath” in Belgium “within 20 days” if Belgian authorities did not release imprisoned group members. Brussels took the threat seriously but showed resolve in not meeting any of GIA’s demands, and no terrorist acts followed the missed deadline. In addition, a Belgian court in October convicted Farid Melouk—a French citizen of Algerian origin previously convicted in absentia by a French court as an accessory in the Paris metro bombings in 1995—for attempted murder, criminal association, sedition, and forgery and sentenced him to imprisonment for nine years. In the same month, Belgium convicted a second GIA member, Ibrahim Azaouaj, for criminal association and sentenced him to two years in prison.
France continued its aggressive efforts to detain and prosecute persons suspected of supporting Algerian terrorists or terrorist networks in France. Paris requested the extradition of several suspected Algerian terrorists from the United Kingdom, but the requests remained outstanding at yearend. In addition, the French Government’s nationwide “Vigi-Pirate” plan—launched in 1998 to prevent a repeat of the Paris metro attacks by Algerian terrorists—remained in effect. Under the plan, military personnel reinforced police security in Paris and other major cities, particularly at strategic sites such as metro and train stations and during holiday periods. Vigi-Pirate also increased border controls and expanded identity checks countrywide.
French officials in January and February arrested David Courtailler and Ahmed Laidouni, who had received training at a camp affiliated with Usama Bin Ladin in Afghanistan. Laidouni, who also was charged in connection with the “Roubaix” GIA Faction, and Courtailler remained imprisoned in France, and a French magistrate was investigating their cases, although there is no known evidence that they were planning a terrorist act.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin vowed to increase France’s already close and successful cooperation with Spain to track down ETA terrorists taking refuge in or launching attacks from France. French officials arrested some of ETA’s most experienced cadre and seized several large weapons and explosives caches. Nonetheless, in September, ETA militants stole large quantities of explosives from an armory in Brittany, some of which were later seized from ETA terrorists in Spain. In late October, French officials arrested ETA terrorist Belen Gonzalez-Penalva, believed to be involved in the car-bomb attack on 9 September 1985 against Spanish security officials that also killed a US citizen. Gonzalez’s capture followed a celebrated arrest earlier in September in southwest France of ETA members who may have been operating with Breton separatists. At yearend several senior ETA Basque leaders were on trial in Paris.
On the judicial front, a special court in Paris in March tried and convicted in absentia six Libyan terrorists for their involvement in the bombing in 1989 of UTA flight 772 over Niger and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The court assessed Libya 211 million French francs to compensate the victims’ families. By midyear, Libya had transferred the payment to the French Government. France filed lookout notices for the six convicted terrorists with INTERPOL. A French court also allowed an investigating magistrate to file a civil suit on behalf of the victims’ families against Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi for his alleged complicity in the UTA affair.
German officials saw no signs of renewed leftwing terrorism in 1999. The Red Army Faction (RAF) officially disbanded in March 1998, and authorities uncovered no renewed RAF activity. Several former RAF members still were wanted by German authorities, who assessed that the terrorists were willing to use violence to avoid capture. In mid-September, Austrian police in Vienna killed suspected German RAF terrorist Horst Ludwig-Mayer and arrested his accomplice Andrea Klump. Klump was extradited to Germany for membership in the outlawed RAF, possible complicity in an attack on the Deutsche Bank chairman, and involvement in an attack against a NATO installation in Spain in 1988.
Officials have no evidence of organized, politically motivated rightwing terrorist activity in Germany, but rightwing “skinheads” continued to attack foreigners in 1999. The government stepped up efforts to combat xenophobic violence, including trying some skinheads at the federal level and initiating a program called the “German Forum to Prevent Criminality” to deal with the social causes of violence. Some German states also set up antiterrorist police units that successfully reduced attacks by skinheads.
German police took an active stance against terrorism in 1999. On 19 October a special German commando unit apprehended the hijacker of an Egypt Air flight after the plane landed in Hamburg. The perpetrator, who requested political asylum in Germany, was slated to be tried in German courts. Officials had no reason to believe the hijacker was linked to any terrorist organizations.
Germany showed far less resolve when it refused to seek extradition of PKK terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan following his detention in Italy in November 1998 on a German INTERPOL warrant. The German Government refused to act because it feared that a trial in Germany would cause widespread street violence, posing an unacceptable threat to Germany’s domestic security. This and other factors eventually led the Italians to release Ocalan, whose subsequent flight to Russia and Greece culminated in his capture in Kenya in February. News of Ocalan’s capture produced violent Kurdish protests throughout Germany, including demonstrations against US diplomatic facilities and the storming of Greek, Kenyan, and Israeli diplomatic missions. In Berlin, Israeli security personnel shot to death four protesters who had stormed the Israeli Consulate General.
On the judicial front, the trial of five suspects charged in the bombing in 1986 against Labelle Discotheque in Berlin, which killed two US servicemen and one Turkish citizen, progressed slowly in 1999. The trial may take several more years to reach a conclusion.
On 1 September a German court convicted two members of the leftwing terrorist group “Anti-Imperialist Cell” and sentenced them to lengthy jail terms for their ties to a series of bombings in 1995 against several German politicians’ residences.
Greece remained one of the weakest links in Europe’s efforts against terrorism. Greece led Europe in the number of anti-US terrorist attacks in 1999 and ranked second worldwide only to Colombia. Greek terrorists committed 20 acts of violence against US Government and private interests in Greece and dramatically increased their attacks against Greek and third-country targets. The absence of strong public government leadership and initiatives to improve police capabilities and morale contributed to the lack of breakthroughs against terrorists. Popular opinion makers generally downplayed terrorism as a threat to public order, even as terrorists continued to act with virtual impunity.
In attempting to help PKK terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan find safehaven, senior government officials facilitated Ocalan’s transit through Greece and provided temporary refuge in the Greek Ambassador’s residence in Nairobi. The Foreign Minister, the Minister of Public Order, the Minister of Interior, and the intelligence chief subsequently resigned for their roles in these actions. After Ocalan’s rendition to Turkey, the Greek Government extended political asylum to two of Ocalan’s associates. In March the terrorist group Revolutionary Organization 17 November issued a communique blaming the Greek Government, among others, for Ocalan’s arrest and challenging the US Government to apprehend them.
NATO action against Serbia precipitated several months of violent anti-US and anti-NATO actions in Greece. From March to May, Western interests suffered some 40 attacks. In early April a woman attempting to firebomb the US Consulate in Thessaloniki was caught by an alert Consulate guard, but Greek authorities released the woman after a few days’ detention with a nominal fine. The incident was the only arrest by Greek authorities for a terrorist act committed in 1999. Later in the month, Greek police defused a bomb outside the Fulbright Foundation in Thessaloniki. On 27 April a bomb exploded at the Intercontinental Hotel in Athens, killing one Greek citizen and injuring another; a terrorist group known as Revolutionary Nuclei claimed responsibility. Numerous bomb and other threats against the US Embassy, Consulate, and the American Community School proved to be hoaxes. In response to these incidents, the US Government issued a public announcement in April advising US citizens and travelers of the security conditions in Greece.
Although it never claimed responsibility, 17 November is suspected of conducting seven rocket attacks and bombings against US, Greek, and third-country interests from March through May. The targets included two offices of the governing PASOK party; American, British, and French banks; and the Dutch Ambassador’s residence. A rocket attack in May on the German Ambassador’s residence yielded excellent forensic evidence, but the Greek police did not follow up aggressively and made no arrests.
Numerous other terrorist attacks during the year involved the use of improvised explosive or incendiary devices or drive-by shootings from motorcycles. President Clinton’s visit to Greece in November precipitated violent and widespread anti-US demonstrations and attacks against US, Greek, and third-country targets.
Greece and the United States signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and, at yearend, nearly had completed a police cooperation agreement. Newly appointed Minister of Public Order Chrysochoidis met in July with US Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Ambassador Michael Sheehan, to discuss improving counterterrorist cooperation. In an October visit to Washington, Chrysochoidis outlined plans to modernize the Greek counterterrorist police. By yearend these promised reforms had not yet yielded results. Greek counterterrorist cooperation with the United States and other Western nations will require substantially greater attention and commitment if Greece is to achieve success.
On 23 December, Greek narcotics police arrested Avraam Lesperoglou, a suspect in six murders and one attempted murder from the 1980s, after he arrived at Athens airport under a false name. Lesperoglou was sentenced to three and one half years on misdemeanor charges relating to his false documents and illegal entry; a trial was pending on the more serious charges. Lesperoglou was believed to be linked to Revolutionary People’s Struggle and possibly other terrorist groups.
The major domestic terrorist act in 1999 was the murder in May of Massimo D’Antona, an adviser to Italy’s Labor Minister, by individuals who claimed to be from the Red Brigades, despite the leftist group’s dormancy since 1988. Prime Minister D’Alema subsequently said Italy had let down its guard on domestic terrorism in the mistaken belief that homegrown terrorist groups no longer posed a danger. He added that Rome was now working hard to identify and neutralize the group that killed D’Antona.
In spite of that attack, Italy achieved some success against domestic terrorism during the year. Italian law enforcement and judicial officials arrested and sentenced several individuals tied to terrorist groups, while magistrates requested that many more cases be opened in the year 2000. A notable success for Italian security was a raid against the instigators of the demonstration on 13 May at the US Consulate in Florence protesting NATO airstrikes in Kosovo. The instigators included several members of the Red Brigades, Lotta Continua (The Continuous Struggle), and the Cobas Union.
The Italian Government dealt ineptly in the matter of PKK terrorist leader Ocalan, who arrived in Rome in November 1998 and requested political asylum. Italian authorities detained him on an international arrest warrant Germany had issued but declined a Turkish extradition request because Italy’s Constitution prohibits extradition to countries that permit capital punishment. The Italian Government sought unsuccessfully to find a European trial venue while declining to invoke the 1977 European counterterrorist convention to prosecute Ocalan in Italy. Unable to find a third country willing to take the PKK leader, the government simply told Ocalan 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 capture by Turkish security forces in Kenya in February. Following Ocalan’s arrest, PKK and other Kurdish sympathizers held demonstrations—some violent—in several Italian cities, including the Greek consulate in Milan. Since February, however, PKK followers were nonviolent and focused on rebuilding strained relations with the Italian Government and lobbying for Ankara to spare Ocalan’s life.
The NATO bombing campaign against Serbia produced leftwing anger and some anti-US violence. The leftist Anti-imperialist Territorial Nuclei, which formed in 1995 and was believed to be allied with former Red Brigades members, held several anti-NATO, anti-US demonstrations. Militant leftists conducted some low-level violence against US interests, such as vandalizing the US airbase at Aviano, and issued public threats to US businesses located in Italy.
The terrorist group ETA ended its 14-month-old unilateral cease-fire on 27 November, and members of the group conducted low-level attacks in December. Spanish security authorities intercepted two vans loaded with explosives and reportedly headed for Madrid, detaining one driver. ETA and Spanish Government representatives met in Switzerland in May but could not find common ground. The ETA had hoped to use the talks to make progress toward its goal of Basque self-determination and eventual independence, while Madrid pushed for the ETA to declare a permanent end to terrorism and renewed its offer for relief for the group’s prisoners and exiles.
The Spanish Government energetically combated the ETA even as it sought a dialogue with the terrorist group. Spanish law enforcement officials, working closely with counterparts in France and other countries where ETA fugitives reside, arrested several of the group’s most experienced leaders and cadre and shut down one of its last known commando cells. Spanish and French security forces also confiscated large amounts of explosives, weapons, logistics, and targeting information. Moreover, in late October, French authorities arrested terrorist Belen Gonzalez-Penalva, believed to be involved in the car-bomb attack in 1985 against Spanish security officials that also killed a US citizen. Madrid’s request for extradition of accused ETA terrorist Ramon Aldasoro from the United States was delayed by court appeals in 1998. Aldasoro finally was extradited to Spain in late December 1999.
Spain’s other domestic terrorist group, the First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group (GRAPO), remained largely inactive in 1999, mounting only a few symbolic attacks against property. The last major case involving GRAPO, the kidnapping of a Zaragoza businessman in July 1995, remained unsolved.
On 29 January, Swiss authorities arrested Red Brigades activist Marcello Ghiringhelli and a Swiss accomplice on suspected violations of the war materiels law. Police seized several weapons and rounds of ammunition. The trial started in La Chaux-de-Fonds in December. Italy requested the extradition of Ghiringhelli, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy.
Switzerland also was caught in the Kurdish backlash in the aftermath of Ocalan’s apprehension in Kenya on 16 February. That day about 70 Kurds stormed the Greek Consulate in Zurich, taking hostage a policeman and the building’s owner. The same day, 30 to 100 Kurds occupied the Greek Embassy in Bern while another 200 protesters gathered out-side. The occupiers carried canisters of gasoline and threatened to immolate themselves but did not follow through. Both incidents ended peacefully.
On 19 February several Kurds took two persons hostage at the Free Democratic Party Headquarters in Bern but released them unharmed a few hours later. The Swiss Government prosecuted the hostage takers in Bern and Zurich but took no further action against the Kurdish protesters in the Greek Embassy because the Greek Embassy did not press charges for trespassing or property damage. On 20 February, PKK sympathizers carried out several arson attacks against Turkish-owned businesses and torched two trucks from Turkey in Basel. At yearend, police investigations were pending. Since February, however, PKK followers were nonviolent, focusing instead on rebuilding strained relations with the Swiss Government and lobbying Ankara to spare Ocalan’s life.
Ocalan’s arrest, as well as the conflict in Kosovo, gave rise to several demonstrations in front of the US Embassy in Bern. The Swiss Government took no action to ban the events because the protests were organized lawfully, although not always conducted as the organizers had promised. Bern, however, called up approximately 500 Swiss militia from March to November to guard the US and UN missions and other embassies considered to be potential terrorist targets.
Turkish authorities struck a significant blow against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism in mid-February when PKK Chairman Abdullah Ocalan was apprehended after he left his safehaven in the Greek Ambassador’s residence in Nairobi, Kenya. The Turkish State Security Court tried Ocalan in Turkey in late June and sentenced him to death for treason, a decision the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld in a ruling issued on 25 November. The government took no further action on the sentence in 1999, although Turkish law requires that all death sentences be ratified by Parliament and endorsed by the President. Ocalan’s lawyers requested the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) review the case. The ECHR asked Turkey to delay a decision on whether Ocalan should be executed until the Court completed its review.
Meanwhile, Ocalan launched a “peace offensive” in early August, requesting a dialogue with Ankara and calling on PKK militants to end the armed struggle against Turkey and withdraw from Turkish territory. The PKK’s political wing quickly expressed support for the move, and press reports indicated that several hundred militants had left Turkey by October. In December, Turkish General Staff Chief Kivrikoglu said that 500 to 550 PKK militants remained in Turkey. Although the PKK exodus to neighboring Iran, Iraq, and Syria is an annual event, it usually starts later in the fall, suggesting that the withdrawal in 1999 was tied to Ocalan’s announcement. In addition, two groups of about eight PKK members each turned themselves in to Turkish authorities in October and November as a gesture of goodwill and as a means of testing a new Turkish repentance law.
The leftwing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) fell victim to numerous Turkish counterterrorist operations in 1999. Turkish police killed two DHKP/C members in a shootout on 4 June as the terrorists prepared unsuccessfully to fire a light antitank weapon at the US Consulate in Istanbul from a nearby construction site. Authorities also arrested some 160 DHKP/C members and supporters in Turkey and confiscated numerous weapons, ammunition, bombs, and bombmaking materials over the course of the year, dealing a harsh blow to the organization.
Turkish authorities continued to arrest and try Islamist terrorists vigorously in 1999. Nonetheless, militants from the two major groups—Turkish Hizballah, a Kurdish group not affiliated with Lebanese Hizballah, and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders-Front—managed to conduct low-level attacks.
Meanwhile, there were at least two attempted bombings against Russian interests in Turkey during 1999. On 10 December authorities discovered a bomb outside a building housing the offices of the Russian airline Aero-flot in Istanbul. The bomb weighed approximately 14 kilograms, was concealed in a suitcase, and was similar to a bomb found on the grounds of the Russian Consulate in Istanbul in mid-November. Turkish officials suspect that Chechen sympathizers were responsible.
The United Kingdom continued its aggressive efforts against domestic and international terrorism in 1999. In December the Blair Government introduced new national antiterrorist legislation meant to replace laws that had been developed to combat terrorism in Northern Ireland. The bill, which is expected to become law by midsummer 2000, would extend most provisions of earlier laws to all forms of international and domestic terrorism. The police would have authority to arrest, detain, confiscate evidence, and seize cash suspected of being used to fund terrorist activities and designated terrorist organizations. The legislation includes provisions for proscribing membership in terrorist groups.
The United Kingdom continued its close cooperation with the United States to bring terrorists to justice. In 1999 the British Government detained numerous individuals suspected of conducting anti-US violence and whom the United States sought to extradite. At yearend, the United Kingdom was holding three of the 15 individuals indicted in the Southern District of New York on charges connected with the bombings in 1998 of the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.
In April the Libyan Government handed over the two Libyans charged with the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, after a joint US-UK initiative enabled a Scottish court to sit in the Netherlands to try the accused. Scottish authorities intend to charge the two Libyans with murder, breach of the UK aviation security act, and conspiracy. The trial was set to begin in May 2000.
In the immediate aftermath of the arrest in February of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya, PKK members and supporters staged violent demonstrations in London, and militants occupied the Greek Embassy for two days. British officials subsequently arrested 79 individuals and suspended the broadcast license for Med-TV, a Kurdish satellite television station tied to the PKK. Following subsequent broadcasts that were deemed inflammatory, authorities revoked Med-TV’s license. Since February, PKK followers were peaceful, focusing instead on rebuilding strained relations with the British Government and lobbying for Ankara to spare Ocalan’s life.
Washington’s ties to London and Dublin played a key role in facilitating historic political developments in the Northern Ireland peace process that resulted in a significant decline in terrorist activity. Following a year of intense negotiations and a review of the entire peace process by former US Senator George Mitchell, Britain devolved power to Ulster, and Ireland gave up its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland; the Catholic and Protestant parties agreed to govern Ulster together in a joint Executive, which held its inaugural meeting on 13 December. Much of the contention between the parties was, and remains, about how to address the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, including the issue of decommissioning paramilitary weapons.
Republican and Loyalist paramilitary splinter groups, including the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA, the Red Hand Defenders, and the Orange Volunteers, continued terrorist activities during the year. These included punishment attacks on civilians as well as actions against police, military, and security personnel. Among the most heinous attacks was the car-bombing murder on 15 March of Rosemary Nelson, a prominent lawyer and human rights campaigner. Although it is widely assumed that hardline loyalist paramilitaries were responsible, no charges were filed in the case. The British Government said that a scaling back or normalization of the security presence in Northern Ireland will be linked to a reduction of the security threat there.
Latin America Overview
Although much of Latin America continued to be free from terrorist attacks, Colombia, Peru, and the triborder region experienced terrorist activity. In Colombia, insurgent and paramilitary terrorist groups continued to pose a significant threat to the country’s national security and to the security of innocent civilians caught up in the conflict. Despite the beginnings of a slow and sometimes unsure peace process, Colombia’s two largest guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), failed to moderate their terrorist attacks. The ELN carried out several high-profile kidnappings, including the hijacking in April of an aircraft carrying 46 persons and the kidnapping in May of a church congregation that resulted in 160 hostages. The FARC increased its attacks on Colombian security officials and attempted to use kidnapped soldiers and police officers as bargaining chips in negotiations. The FARC also kidnapped and killed three US nongovernmental organization workers in March and outraged international public opinion by refusing to turn over the perpetrators to the proper judicial authorities. The FARC continued refusing to account for the three New Tribes Missionaries it kidnapped in 1993.
Over the year, US concern grew over the involvement of the FARC, the ELN, and paramilitary groups in protecting narcotics trafficking. Estimates of the profits to terrorist groups from their involvement in narcotics ranged into the hundreds of millions of dollars. During 1999 the Colombian Army trained, equipped, and fielded its first counternarcotics battalion, designed to support national police efforts to break terrorist links to narcotics production.
In a development in the investigation of the bombing in 1992 of the Israeli Embassy, the Supreme Court of Argentina released in May a report identifying the cause as a car bomb and issued an international arrest warrant for Hizballah terrorist leader Imad Mughniyah. Argentine authorities similarly brought charges against all suspects being held in connection with the bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Community Center (AMIA) in 1994.
Peru’s determination to combat terrorism diminished the capabilities of both the Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Peruvian authorities arrested and prosecuted several of the few remaining active SL members in 1999, including Principal Regional Committee leader Oscar Alberto Ramirez Durand. Nonetheless, the SL continued to attack government targets in the Peruvian countryside. A particularly deadly skirmish occurred in November, leaving five soldiers and six guerrilla fighters dead. The MRTA has not conducted a major terrorist operation since the end of the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima in April 1997.
Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay consolidated efforts to stem the illicit activities of individuals linked to Islamist terrorist groups in the triborder region and cooperated in promoting regional counterterrorist efforts. Argentina led efforts to create the Inter-American Committee on Counterterrorism within the Organization of American States (OAS).
Investigations continued into the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the terrorist attack against the Argentine-Israeli Community Center (AMIA) in 1994, both in Buenos Aires. In May the Argentine Supreme Court released a report concluding that the attack on the Israeli Embassy was a car bomb and issued an international arrest warrant for Hizballah terrorist leader Imad Mughniyah. The investigating judge in the AMIA case determined in February that there was insufficient evidence to continue holding an Iranian woman for possible complicity in the bombing. In July, Argentine authorities brought charges against all suspects then held in connection with the bombing, but at yearend the trials had yet to begin.
The Argentine Government was one of the primary motivators in the creation of the Inter-American Committee on Counterterrorism within the Organization of American States.
The nascent and slow-moving peace process did not prompt Colombia’s two largest guerrilla groups, the FARC and the ELN, or their paramilitary opponents to reduce their terrorist activity. Bogota’s exclusion of the ELN in talks it began with the FARC was a factor in the ELN’s series of spectacular hijackings and kidnappings—including the Avianca hijacking in April that netted 41 hostages, including one US citizen, and the Cali church kidnapping in May that took 160 hostages. With these acts the ELN sought to demonstrate its continued viability and induce President Andres Pastrana to include it in the peace process as an equal. For its part, the FARC escalated insurgent violence targeting security officials to demonstrate its power and strengthen its negotiating position.
Colombian insurgent groups and paramilitaries continued to fund their activities by protecting narcotics traffickers. Estimates of the profits to terrorist groups from their involvement in narcotics ranged into the hundreds of millions of dollars. In 1999 the Colombian Army trained, equipped, and fielded its first counternarcotics battalion, designed to support national police efforts to break terrorist links to narcotics production.
The FARC and ELN also generated income by kidnapping Colombians and foreigners for ransom and extorting money from businesses and individuals in the Colombian countryside. In addition, both insurgent groups attacked the nation’s energy infrastructure—including US commercial interests—by bombing oil pipelines and destroying the electric power grid. US citizens who fell victim to guerrilla terrorism, including three Indian rights workers the FARC kidnapped in Colombia and murdered in Venezuela in March, were targeted because of wealth or opportunity rather than their nationality. The whereabouts of the three New Tribes missionaries kidnapped by the FARC in 1993 remain unknown.
In December, President Pastrana extended the FARC’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) through 7 June 2000. Reports of FARC abuses inside the DMZ continued to reduce the FARC’s popularity. Colombia’s peace commissioner asserted that Bogota would not enter official peace talks or a “National Convention” with the ELN until all remaining hostages were released.
In 1999 the Peruvian judicial system continued to prosecute vigorously persons accused of committing acts of international and domestic terrorism. Peruvian authorities arrested and prosecuted several of the few remaining active SL members in 1999, including Principal Regional Committee leader Oscar Alberto Ramirez Durand (a.k.a. Feliciano). Feliciano had headed the decimated group since the capture in 1992 of its founder and leader Abimael Guzman, and his arrest dealt a mortal blow to one of the region’s most violent rebel groups.
Peru’s tough antiterrorist legislation and improved military intelligence diminished the capabilities of both the SL and the MRTA. Both groups failed to launch a significant terrorist operation in Lima in 1999 and generally limited their activities to low-level attacks and propaganda in the rural areas. The SL continued to attack government targets in the Peruvian countryside. Deadly clashes between the SL and the military continued in the central and southern regions as soldiers pursued two columns of approximately 60 to 80 rebels, led by “Comrade Alipio,” through the southern jungle region. A particularly deadly skirmish occurred in November, leaving five soldiers and six guerrilla fighters dead. The MRTA has not conducted a major terrorist operation since the end of the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima in April 1997.
The Government of Peru requested the extradition of SL member and suspected terrorist Cecilia Nunez Chipana from Venezuela. The Government of Uruguay informed Peru that MRTA member Luis Alberto Samaniego, whom Uruguay refused to extradite in 1996, had disappeared.
Triborder Region: Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay
In 1999 the Governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay consolidated efforts to stem the illicit activities of individuals linked to Islamist terrorist groups in the triborder region and continued to cooperate actively in promoting regional counterterrorist efforts. Despite some success, however, the triborder remained the focal point for Islamist extremism in Latin America.
Middle East Overview
Middle Eastern terrorist groups and their state sponsors continued to plan, train for, and carry out acts of terrorism in 1999 at a level comparable to that of the previous year. Casualties remained relatively low, partly as result of counterterrorist measures by various governments, improved international cooperation, and the absence of major incidents that might have caused high numbers of fatalities. Nonetheless, certain terrorist groups remained active and continued to try to mount lethal attacks. These included Usama Bin Ladin’s multinational al-Qaida organization as well as The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), both of which receive support from Iran.
In Egypt, for the first time in years, there were no terrorism-related deaths, due in large measure to successful counterterrorist efforts by the Egyptian Government and a cease-fire declared by the Gama’at al-Islamiyya, Egypt’s largest terrorist group. Egyptian authorities released more than 2,000 Gama’at prisoners during the year but continued to arrest and convict other active Gama’at terrorists as well as Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) members. The EIJ continued to threaten Egyptian and US interests despite the eruption of internal schisms that wracked the group during the year.
The Algerian Government also made progress in combating domestic terrorism during the year, undertaking aggressive counterinsurgency operations against the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), weakening the GIA’s campaign of indiscriminate violence against civilians. The pace of killings slowed, but suspected GIA militants still carried out massacres, the worst of which left 27 dead in a village in Bechar in August. The Islamic Salvation Army maintained its cease-fire throughout the year.
Palestinians and Israeli Arabs opposed to the peace process mounted small-scale terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, injuring a small number of civilians. Several failed bombing attempts were traced to HAMAS and the PIJ. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) scored successes in their efforts to disrupt these groups’ operations; Israeli officials publicly credited the PA with preventing a bombing in Tel Aviv in March.
Jordanian authorities in December arrested a group of terrorists associated with Usama Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida organization reportedly planning to attack US and Israeli targets in connection with millennium events. Jordan also closed the Amman offices of the HAMAS political bureau in August, arrested a number of HAMAS activists, and expelled several group leaders.
Overall security conditions in Lebanon continued to improve in 1999, despite several local terrorist incidents that included the assassination of four judges in Sidon in June. The lack of effective government control in parts of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon enabled numerous terrorist groups to operate with impunity, as they had in previous years. Hizballah, HAMAS, the PIJ, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), and other Palestinian groups used camps in Lebanon for training and operational planning. Hizballah continued to fire rockets from southern Lebanon at civilian centers in Israel. The Lebanese Government remained unresponsive to US requests for cooperation in bringing to justice terrorists responsible for attacks on US citizens in the 1980s.
Iran, Syria, and Iraq all persisted in their direct or indirect state sponsorship of terrorism. In most cases, the support included providing assistance, training, or safehaven to terrorist groups opposed to the Middle East peace process. In some cases, particularly Iran, it also included targeting regime dissidents and opponents for assassination or harassment. Libyan support for terrorism has declined significantly in recent years, but Libya continued to have residual contacts and relationships with terrorist organizations.
The Government of Algeria in 1999 made significant progress in combating domestic terrorism, which President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said has claimed approximately 100,000 lives since Islamist extremists began their brutal campaign to overthrow the secular regime in 1992. As a result, terrorist attacks—especially against civilians—decreased significantly. Increased factionalization within the ranks of Antar Zouabri’s Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and Hassan Hattab’s dissident faction, the Salafi Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), contributed further to the reduction in terrorist activity. Bouteflika, who in April replaced President Liamine Zeroual, initiated an amnesty plan under the Law on Civil Concord that is intended to expand the ceasefire with the Islamic Salvation Army that took effect in October 1997. At yearend the government was attempting to convince the GSPC to surrender, but dissidents within the GSPC and the GIA—which denounced the reconciliation plan and vowed to continue fighting—were attempting to thwart those efforts.
No foreign nationals were killed in Algeria during the year. Although the tempo of violence in Algeria decreased noticeably in 1999, the killings continued. The worst terrorist incident occurred on 17 August when suspected GIA extremists massacred 27 civilians in Bechar near the Moroccan border. In November a senior official of the banned Islamic Salvation Front, Abdelkader Hachani, was assassinated. Other massacres and acts of violence continued throughout the year.
No terrorist-related deaths were reported in Egypt in 1999. In early September, a lone assailant attacked President Hosni Mubarak during a campaign rally in Port Said. Mubarak was wounded slightly, but it is unclear whether the attack had links to terrorism. The absence of international terrorist incidents in 1999 is attributable in part to the unilateral cease-fire that Egypt’s largest terrorist group, al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, issued in March and in part to successful Egyptian counterterrorist efforts. Al-Gama’at’s incarcerated spiritual leader, Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, initiated the cease-fire, which senior Gama’at leaders imprisoned in Egypt later endorsed. Al-Gama’at’s external leaders also endorsed the cease-fire in an attempt to negotiate with the Egyptian Government for the release of their jailed comrades. Although Cairo said publicly it would not negotiate with al-Gama’at, it released more than 2,000 Gama’at prisoners during the year. The Egyptian Government continued to arrest other Gama’at members in Egypt, and security officials in September disrupted a Gama’at cell outside Cairo, resulting in the death of Farid Kidwani, the group’s operational leader in Egypt.
The Egyptian Government tried and convicted more than 100 Egyptian extremists in April, including Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) members responsible for planning an attack against the US Embassy in Albania in August 1998. A faction of the EIJ closely allied to Usama Bin Ladin’s organization continued to levy threats against the United States.
Gama’at leader Rifa’i Taha Musa—who is closely associated with Bin Ladin—broke ranks with other Gama’at leaders, threatening anti-US action in October and warning in late November of another attack similar to the one at Luxor in November 1997 that killed 58 foreign tourists. International counterterrorist cooperation remained a key foreign policy priority for the Egyptian Government in 1999.
Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip
Violence and terrorism by Palestinian groups opposed to the peace process continued in 1999. Throughout the year, HAMAS and the PIJ were responsible for numerous small-scale attacks, such as shootings and stabbings, although the number of incidents continued to decline from previous years. Among the more notable attacks were two failed bombing attempts in Haifa and Tiberias on 5 September carried out by Israeli Arabs working on behalf of HAMAS’s military wing. The bombs—intended for Israeli buses—exploded prematurely, killing three of the perpetrators and injuring two Israelis.
Other terrorist incidents included a shooting in early August in Hebron that injured two Israeli settlers; a double murder of a young Israeli couple hiking near Megiddo in late August; and several explosions of homemade pipe bombs in Netanya in August, November, and December, one of which injured more than 30 Israelis. In mid-August a West Bank Palestinian, who was reported to have been inspired by literature on HAMAS, rammed his car into a group of hitchhiking Israeli soldiers, injuring at least 11. In late October a shooting attack on a bus near the Tarqumiya junction wounded five Israelis.
Israel continued vigorous counterterrorist operations, including numerous arrests and seizures of weapons and explosives. In early May, Israeli officials uncovered a plan to smuggle several wanted Palestinians—who were carrying paraphernalia for manufacturing bombs—from Gaza into Israel. In mid-August, Israeli authorities apprehended seven members of a PIJ cell near Janin who admitted to perpetrating four attacks on Israelis dating back to 1998. Israeli authorities also captured a four-man PIJ squad in late August as the men tried to infiltrate into Israel to carry out a suicide mission. In mid-December an undercover unit of the Israeli Defense Force killed two HAMAS members—one of whom was a leader of the group’s military wing—in a shootout near Hebron. Authorities detained three other HAMAS militants in the incident.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which was responsible for security in Gaza and most major West Bank cities, continued to act against Palestinian perpetrators of violence against Israel. The PA’s security forces preempted several terrorist attacks over the year, including the arrests in mid-May of two close associates of a senior HAMAS military leader and, in early June, of 10 HAMAS members who planned to carry out anti-Israeli bombings. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and other senior officials publicly acknowledged the continuing improvement in Israeli-PA security cooperation. Israeli security officials publicly credited the Palestinian security services for foiling a terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv in March and for preventing at least two attacks against Israeli civilians in October. The PA also sought more actively to develop leads about HAMAS and PIJ activity and acted—in some cases—in cooperation with Israel to disrupt the groups’ activities. While the PA’s counterterrorist campaign showed improvement, it continued to face challenges from the resilient terrorist infrastructure of groups opposed to the peace process.
In early September the PA and Israel signed a follow-on accord to the Wye agreement at Sharm el-Sheikh, which reaffirmed a number of provisions regarding security cooperation.
There were no major international terrorist attacks in Jordan in 1999. Jordan continued its strong counterterrorist stand, highlighted by the arrests in December of several extremists reportedly planning terrorist attacks against US and Israeli tourists during millennium celebrations in Jordan, its crack-down on HAMAS in August, and its quick response to various security incidents in the latter part of the year.
In early December, Jordanian authorities arrested a group of Jordanians, an Iraqi, and an Algerian with ties to Bin Ladin’s al-Qaida organization who reportedly were planning to carry out terrorist operations against US and Israeli tourists visiting Jordan over the new year. The Jordanians in mid-December took custody of Khalil al-Deek, a dual US-Jordanian citizen arrested in Pakistan, who allegedly had links to the arrested group. Some group members had undergone explosives and weapons training in Afghanistan, according to Jordanian authorities.
In late August, Jordanian authorities closed the HAMAS Political Bureau offices in Amman, detained 21 HAMAS members, and issued arrest warrants for the group’s senior Jordan-based leaders, three of whom were in Iran at the time. Jordanian officials arrested two of the HAMAS officials—Jordanian citizens Khalid Mishal and Ibrahim Ghawsha—upon their return to Amman in September and refused entry to a third—Musa Abu Marzuq, who holds Yemeni citizenship. Jordanian authorities in November expelled Mishal, Ghawsha, and two other members to Qatar; released the remaining detainees; and announced that the HAMAS offices would remain closed permanently. Charges against the HAMAS officials included possession of weapons and explosives for use in illegal acts—crimes that can carry the death penalty.
Several low-level incidents kept security forces focused on combating threats to the Kingdom. Police in Ma’an detained approximately 60 suspects in connection with the firebombings on 25 October of cars belonging to professors at al-Hussein University and Ma’an Community College and a machinegun attack two days later on a female student residence at al-Hussein University.
Leaflets distributed by a group calling itself the “Islamic Awakening Youths” charged that the professors were masons and that the female students fraternized with men. The assailants appeared to have ties to the outlawed al-Tahrir movement, which was the target of a government crackdown in 1998.
In late November, Jordanian authorities arrested a 22-year-old Jordanian of Palestinian descent who had pointed a fake gun at the Israeli Embassy in Amman. An Embassy guard shot the suspect in the hand, wounding him slightly. Authorities released him after it was determined that he had not committed any crime, had a history of mental problems, and was not affiliated with any terrorist group.
The Jordanian State Security Court in April sentenced members of the outlawed “Reform and Defiance Movement”—a small, mostly indigenous radical Islamist group—for conducting a string of small bombings in Amman between mid-March and early May 1998 targeting Jordanian security forces, the Modern American School, and a major hotel. The attacks caused minor property damage but no casualties. The individuals were convicted of membership in an illegal terrorist organization, possession of illegal arms and explosives, and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. Three were convicted in absentia and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor, while another received a 15-year prison sentence. Three others were acquitted. Meanwhile, no ruling was issued against six members of the Takfir wa al-Hijra (Apostasy and Migration) group, whose case was referred to the courts in October 1998. The six had been arrested for possession and sale of explosives with the intent to conduct terrorist attacks.
Amman continued to maintain tight security along its borders to thwart any attempts to smuggle weapons and explosives via Jordan to Palestinian rejectionist groups in the West Bank. Jordan permitted the limited presence—and monitored closely the activities—of several Palestinian rejectionist groups, including the PIJ, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). Amman allowed HAMAS members to reside in Jordan but banned them from engaging in activities on behalf of the group.
The Jordanian Government was outspoken in its support for the Middle East peace process and made it clear it would not tolerate efforts to undermine the negotiations from its territory. Senior government officials, including King Abdallah, condemned major terrorist incidents in the region, including attacks by Palestinian rejectionist groups against Israeli targets. In October, Jordan hosted a meeting between leaders of the DFLP and Israeli Knesset members to discuss the possible entry of DFLP members into the Palestinian-controlled areas.
Jordan continued to cooperate with other regional states and the United States concerning terrorist threats to the region. In August the government refused to grant a request by a lower house of Parliament committee to pardon Ahmed Daqamseh, a Jordanian soldier who killed six Israeli schoolgirls in 1997, and 11 Jordanian “Arab Afghans” serving life sentences for their conviction in 1995 for plotting against the state.
Security conditions in Lebanon continued to improve in 1999 despite a series of terrorist-related activities. The government’s continued lack of control in parts of the country, however—including portions of the Bekaa Valley, Beirut’s southern suburbs, Palestinian refugee camps, and south Lebanon—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.
A variety of terrorist groups continued to operate with relative impunity in those areas, conducting terrorist training and other operational activities. The groups include Hizballah, HAMAS, the PIJ, the PFLP-GC, the Abu Nidal organization (ANO), Asbat al-Ansar, and several local Sunni extremist organizations. Hizballah represents the most potent threat to US interests in Lebanon by an organized group. Although Hizballah has not attacked US targets 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 the country. Hizballah leaders routinely denounced US policies in the region and continued to condemn the peace process.
Lebanon suffered several terrorist attacks in 1999 involving local actors and victims. On 8 September, for example, a bomb exploded at the Customs Department office in Sidon, causing no injuries. Unidentified gunmen on 8 June shot and killed four judges at a courthouse in Sidon. Although Lebanese authorities had not apprehended the assailants, they believed the Palestinian extremist group Asbat al-Ansar was responsible. Moreover, a previously unknown group, the Liberation Army of Veneration, on 28 June issued a communiqué containing a death threat to the US Ambassador in Lebanon. Local authorities speculated that the Asbat al-Ansar was behind the threat.
The Lebanese Government continued to support international counterterrorist initiatives. It agreed in principle to examine a Japanese request to take custody of five Japanese Red Army members whose jail sentences in Lebanon end in March 2000. The Lebanese Government, however, did not act on repeated US requests to turn over Lebanese terrorists involved in the hijacking in 1985 of TWA flight 847 and in the abduction, torture, and—in some cases—murders of US hostages from 1984 to 1991.
Several threats against US military and civilian personnel and facilities in Saudi Arabia were reported in 1999, but there were no terrorist incidents. Terrorist Usama Bin Ladin, based in Afghanistan, continued publicly to threaten US interests in Saudi Arabia during the year.
The Saudi Arabian Government, at all levels, continued to reaffirm its commitment to combating terrorism. Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah stated publicly that terrorist actions are un-Islamic and called for a “concerted international effort” to eradicate terrorism. The Saudi Minister of Defense indicated during a visit to Washington that he was determined to work with the United States to defeat terrorism. The Saudis urged the Taliban to expel Bin Ladin from Afghanistan so that he may be brought to justice in another country.
The Government of Saudi Arabia continued to investigate the bombing in June 1996 of the Khubar Towers housing facility near Dhahran and to cooperate with the United States in its investigation of the incident. Saudi authorities arrested and detained several persons in connection with the attack but reached no conclusion in the investigation. The Saudi Government stated that it still was looking for three Saudi suspects linked to the bombing who authorities believed were outside the Kingdom. The United States expelled Saudi national Hani al-Sayegh to Saudi Arabia on 11 October. He faces charges there for his alleged role in the bombing. Al-Sayegh originally was detained in Canada in March 1997, and documents submitted to the Canadian court alleged al-Sayegh, as a member of the Saudi Hizballah, had participated in the Khubar Towers bombing.
Yemen expanded security cooperation with other Arab countries in 1999 and signed a number of international antiterrorist conventions. The government introduced incremental measures to better control its borders, territory, and travel documents and initiated specialized training for a newly established counterterrorist unit within the Ministry of Interior. Nonetheless, lax and inefficient enforcement of security procedures and the government’s inability to exercise authority over remote areas of the country continued to make the country a safehaven for terrorist groups. HAMAS and the PIJ had official representatives in Yemen, and sympathizers or members of other international terrorist groups—including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya, Libyan opposition groups, and the Algerian Armed Islamic Group—also resided in the country.
Yemeni courts convicted the four surviving terrorists involved in the kidnapping in December 1998 of Western tourists in Mudiyah following a lengthy trial and appeals process. The 16 Western tourists held captive in that incident included 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. The leader of the Islamic Army of Aden, Zein al-Abidine al-Midhar, admitted to all charges against him in the incident and was executed by firing squad on 17 October. The three other defendants each received 20-year prison sentences. In a separate case, a Yemeni court in August convicted 10 terrorists—eight Britons and two Algerians—of conspiring to commit terrorist acts, including attacks targeting US citizens.
Kidnappings of foreigners by well-armed and independent tribesmen continued to be fairly common in Yemen. The tribesmen’s grievances were more often with the Yemeni Government than with Western governments. Tribesmen kidnapped and released fewer than 30 foreign nationals during the year, a significant decline from the number abducted the previous year. On 17 January, two US Embassy employees escaped a kidnap attempt; later the same day, tribesmen kidnapped six Europeans, who overheard their captors saying they wanted “to kidnap an American.” In October, tribesmen kidnapped three US citizens and released them unharmed in less than two days. In an effort to contain the kidnapping of foreigners, the Yemeni Government in October announced the creation of a special court and prosecutor to try suspects charged under a law, promulgated in August 1998, that imposes severe punishment for convicted kidnappers and saboteurs.
North America Overview
International terrorist attacks in North America are relatively rare. In 1999 the United States and Canada cooperated in investigating a noteworthy incident involving the smuggling of explosives from Canada into Washington State.
In mid-December, US authorities arrested Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian national, as he entered the United States from Canada at Port Angeles, Washington. The vehicle he was driving was carrying explosives and detonating devices. The Government of Canada cooperated closely in the follow-up investigation into Ressam’s activities and associates in Canada. Some Algerians arrested in connection with this case apparently are “Afghan alumni,” who trained with the mujahidin in Afghanistan and are linked to Usama Bin Ladin. Canada has a longstanding cooperative relationship with the United States on counterterrorist matters, and the two countries meet regularly to discuss ways to enhance this cooperation and improve border security.
While a potentially serious incident was avoided with Ressam’s arrest, at yearend both Canada and the United States remained concerned about the possibility of a heightened threat of terrorism in North America, and the two countries were exploring new mechanisms for exchanging information on individuals with links to terrorism.