Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism


Iraq, as it transitioned to democracy, ceased to support terrorism and its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism was rescinded in October 2004. Libya and Sudan took significant steps to cooperate in the global war on terrorism in 2004. Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria, however, continued to maintain their ties to terrorism. Although some countries in this latter group have taken steps to improve cooperation with global counterterrorism efforts in some areas, all have also continued the actions that led them to be designated as state sponsors.

State sponsors of terrorism impede the efforts of the United States and the international community to fight terrorism. These countries provide a critical foundation for terrorist groups. Without state sponsors, terrorist groups would have a much more difficult time obtaining the funds, weapons, materials, and secure areas they require to plan and conduct operations. Most worrisome is that these countries also have the capabilities to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and other destabilizing technologies that could fall into the hands of terrorists. The United States will continue to insist that these countries end the support they give to terrorist groups.


Throughout 2004, Cuba continued to actively oppose the US-led coalition prosecuting the global war on terrorism. Cuba continues to maintain at the UN and other fora that acts by legitimate national liberation movements cannot be defined as terrorism, and has sought to characterize as "legitimate national liberation movements" a number of groups that intentionally target innocent civilians to advance their political, religious, or social agendas. The Cuban Government claims, despite the absence of evidence, that it is a principal victim of terrorism sponsored by Cuban-Americans in the United States. The Cuban Government’s actions and public statements run contrary to the spirit of the UN conventions on terrorism that it has signed.

In 2004, Cuba continued to provide limited support to designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, as well as safehaven for terrorists. The Cuban Government refuses to turn over suspected terrorists to countries that have charged them with terrorist acts, alleging that the receiving government would not provide a fair trial on charges that are "political." Havana permitted various ETA members to reside in Cuba, despite a November 2003 public request from the Spanish Government to deny them sanctuary, and provided safehaven and some degree of support to members of the Colombian FARC and ELN guerilla groups.

Many of the over seventy fugitives from US justice that have taken refuge on the island are accused of committing violent acts in the Unites States that targeted innocents in order to advance political causes. They include Joanne Chesimard, who is wanted for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973. On a few rare occasions the Cuban government has transferred fugitives to the United States, although it maintains that fugitives would not receive a fair trial in the United States.


Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2004. Its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security were involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups to use terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Iran continued to be unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida members it detained in 2003. Iran has refused to identify publicly these senior members in its custody on "security grounds." Iran has also resisted numerous calls to transfer custody of its al-Qa’ida detainees to their countries of origin or third countries for interrogation and/ or trial. Iranian judiciary officials claimed to have tried and convicted some Iranian supporters of al-Qa’ida during 2004, but refused to provide details. Iran also continued to fail to control the activities of some al Qa’ida members who fled to Iran following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

During 2004, Iran maintained a high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli terrorist activity, both rhetorically and operationally. Supreme Leader Khamenei praised Palestinian terrorist operations, and Iran provided Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups -- notably HAMAS, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command -- with funding, safe haven, training, and weapons. Iran provided an unmanned aerial vehicle that Lebanese Hizballah sent into Israeli airspace on November 7, 2004.

Iran pursued a variety of policies in Iraq during 2004, some of which appeared to be inconsistent with Iran’s stated objectives regarding stability in Iraq as well as those of the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) and the Coalition. Senior IIG officials have publicly expressed concern over Iranian interference in Iraq, and there were reports that Iran provided funding, safe transit, and arms to insurgent elements, including Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces.


Following Libya’s December 19, 2003, announcement that it would eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and non-Missile Technology Control Regime class missiles, the United States, the United Kingdom, and relevant international agencies worked with Libya to eliminate these weapons in a transparent and verifiable manner. In recognition of Libya’s actions, the United States and Libya began the process of improving diplomatic relations. On February 26, the United States lifted its restriction on the use of US passports for travel to Libya and eased some economic sanctions. On April 23, the United States eased more sanctions and terminated the applicability of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act provisions to Libya. On June 28, the United States reestablished direct diplomatic relations with Libya by upgrading its Interests Section to a US Liaison Office. On September 20, the President terminated the state of emergency declared in 1986 and revoked the related executive orders. This rescinded the remaining economic sanctions against Libya under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

Libya remains designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and is still subject to the related sanctions. In 2004, Libya held to its practice in recent years of curtailing support for international terrorism, although there are outstanding questions over its residual contacts with some past terrorist clients. Libya has provided cooperation in the global war on terrorism, and Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi continued his efforts to identify Libya with the international community in the war on terrorism. Prior to the January 30, 2005, elections in Iraq, senior Libyan officials made statements that defended insurgent attacks on US and Coalition forces; following strong US protests, Libya encouraged Iraqi participation in the elections, indicating its intent to recognize the upcoming Transitional Iraqi Government, and support reciprocal diplomatic missions with Iraq.

Following Libya’s steps to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and the September 20 revocation of US economic sanctions related to the national emergency, Libya authorized a second payment of $4 million per family to the families of the 270 victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. This payment was part of a deal concluded in 2003 between Libya and the families in which Libya agreed to pay $10 million per family, or $2.7 billion, contingent upon the lifting of UN and US sanctions and removal of Libya from the state sponsors of terrorism list. By year’s end, UN and US sanctions were lifted and the families had received a total of $8 million each, even though Libya remained designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. A remaining $2 million per family remained in a third-country escrow account, pending Libya’s removal from the terrorism list.

Libya resolved two other outstanding international disputes stemming from terrorist attacks that Libya conducted during the 1980s. In January, the Qadhafi Foundation agreed to pay $170 million to the non-US families of victims of the 1989 bombing of a French UTA passenger aircraft. Separate cases for compensation filed by US victims’ families are still pending in the US courts. In 2001, a German court issued a written opinion finding that the Libyan intelligence service had orchestrated the 1986 bombing of the La Belle nightclub in Berlin, in which two US servicemen and a Turkish woman were killed and 229 people were injured. The Court convicted four individuals for carrying out the attack. In August, the Qadhafi Foundation agreed to pay $35 million to compensate non-US victims of the La Belle attack. In reaching the agreement to pay compensation, Libya stressed that it was not acknowledging responsibility for the attack, but was making a humanitarian gesture. The families of the US victims are pursuing separate legal cases, and Libyan officials publicly called for compensation for their own victims of the 1986 US air strikes in Libya.

In October, Libya was instrumental in the handover of Amari Saifi, also known as Abderrazak al-Para, the number two figure in the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), to Algeria. Al-Para, responsible for the kidnapping of 32 Western tourists in Algeria in 2003, had been held by a Chadian rebel group, the Movement for Democracy and Justice, for several months. In August, Abdulrahman Alamoudi pled guilty to one count of unlicensed travel and commerce with Libya. Alamoudi stated that he had been part of a 2003 plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at the behest of Libyan officials. The United States expressed its serious concerns about these allegations and continues to evaluate Libya’s December 2003 assurances to halt all use of violence for political purposes.

In December 2004, the US designated the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.

At a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in Pyongyang in September 2002, National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il acknowledged the involvement of DPRK "special institutions" in the kidnapping of Japanese citizens and said that those responsible had already been punished. Pyongyang in 2003 allowed the return to Japan of five surviving abductees, and in 2004 of eight family members, mostly children, of those abductees. Questions about the fate of other abductees remain the subject of ongoing negotiations between Japan and the DPRK. In November, the DPRK returned to Japan what it identified as the remains of two Japanese abductees whom the North had reported as having died in North Korea. Subsequent DNA testing in Japan indicated that the remains were not those of Megumi Yokota or Kaoru Matsuki, as Pyongyang had claimed, and the issue remained contentious at year’s end. Four Japanese Red Army members remain in the DPRK following their involvement in a jet hijacking in 1970; five of their family members returned to Japan in 2004.

Although it is a party to six international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, Pyongyang has not taken substantial steps to cooperate in efforts to combat international terrorism.


In 2004, despite serious strains in US-Sudanese relations regarding the ongoing violence in Darfur, US-Sudanese counterterrorism cooperation continued to improve. While Sudan’s overall cooperation and information sharing improved markedly and produced significant progress in combating terrorist activity, areas of concern remain. In May, the US Government certified to Congress a list of countries not fully cooperating in US antiterrorism efforts. For the first time in many years, this list did not include Sudan.

Sudan increased cooperation with Ugandan authorities to diminish the capabilities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan group which has terrorized civilians in northern Uganda and has claimed that it wants to overthrow the current Ugandan Government. The Ugandan military, with Sudanese Government cooperation, inflicted a series of defeats on the LRA at its hideouts in southern Sudan, forcing its leaders to flee into Uganda and engage in peace talks with the Ugandan Government.

Domestically, the Government of Sudan stepped up efforts to disrupt extremist activities and deter terrorists from operating in Sudan. In March 2004, a new HAMAS representative arrived in Khartoum. According to some press reports, he was received by Sudanese officials in an official capacity. In response to ongoing US concern, the Sudanese Government closed a HAMAS office in Khartoum in September. In August, Sudanese authorities arrested, prosecuted, and convicted Eritreans who had hijacked a Libyan aircraft and forced it to land in Khartoum. In October, the United States designated the Khartoum-based NGO Islamic African Relief Agency as a supporter of terrorism under EO 13224 for its support of Usama bin Ladin and al-Qa’ida.

The Sudanese Government also took steps in 2004 to strengthen its legislative and bureaucratic instruments for fighting terrorism. In January, Sudan co-hosted a three-day workshop on international cooperation on counterterrorism and the fight against transnational organized crime with the United Nations Office of Drug Control. Neighboring countries from the Horn of Africa and member states of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) attended the workshop, which culminated in the "Khartoum Declaration on Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime," in which IGAD member states reaffirmed their commitment to the fight against terrorism. The Khartoum Declaration also focused on the technical assistance needs of the IGAD member states with regard to implementing the 12 international conventions and protocols against terrorism.


The Syrian Government in 2004 continued to provide political and material support to both Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups. HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), among others, continue to operate from Syria, although they have lowered their public profiles since May 2003, when Damascus announced that the groups had voluntarily closed their offices. Many of these Palestinian groups, in statements originating from both inside and outside of Syria, claimed responsibility for anti-Israeli terrorist attacks in 2004. The Syrian Government insists that these Damascus-based offices undertake only political and informational activities. Syria also continued to permit Iran to use Damascus as a transshipment point for resupplying Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon.

Syrian officials have publicly condemned international terrorism, but make a distinction between terrorism and what they consider to be the legitimate armed resistance of Palestinians in the occupied territories and of Lebanese Hizballah. The Syrian Government has not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986, although Israeli officials accused Syria of being indirectly involved in the August 31, 2004, Beersheva bus bombings that left 16 dead.

Damascus has cooperated with the United States and other foreign governments against al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations and individuals; it also has discouraged signs of public support for al-Qa’ida, including in the media and at mosques.

In September 2004, Syria hosted border security discussions with the Iraqis and took a number of measures to improve the physical security of the border and establish security cooperation mechanisms. Although these and other efforts by the Syrian Government have been partly successful, more must be done in order to prevent the use of Syrian territory by those individuals and groups supporting the insurgency in Iraq.

Source: “Country Reports on Terrorism,” Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. State Department, (April 27, 2005)