Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism 1998
Terrorist attacks sponsored by states have declined in recent years but remain a serious threat. With state sponsorship a terrorist group often receives safehaven, money, weapons, training, logistic support, or use of diplomatic facilities. Some of the most violent terrorist attacks on record would not have been possible without such sponsorship.
Usama Bin Ladin
The bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 7 August 1998 underscored the global reach of Usama Bin Ladin--a long-time sponsor and financier of Sunni Islamic extremist causes--and his network. A series of public threats to drive the United States and its allies out of Muslim countries foreshadowed the attacks. The foremost threat was presented as a Muslim religious decree and published on 23 February 1998 by Bin Ladin and allied groups under the name "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders." The statement asserted that it was a religious duty for all Muslims to wage war on US citizens, military and civilian, anywhere in the world.
The 17th son of Saudi construction magnate Muhammad Bin Ladin, Usama joined the Afghan resistance almost immediately after the Soviet invasion in December 1979. He played a significant role in financing, recruiting, transporting, and training Arab nationals who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan. During the war, Bin Ladin founded al-Qaida--the "Base"--to serve as an operational hub for like-minded Sunni Islamic extremists. In 1994 the Saudi Government revoked his citizenship and his family officially disowned him. He moved to Sudan in 1991 but international pressure on Khartoum forced him to move to Afghanistan in 1996.
Bin Ladin leads a broad-based, versatile organization. Suspects named in the wake of the Embassy bombings--four Egyptians, one Comoran, one Jordanian, three Saudis, one US citizen, one or possibly two Kenyan citizens, and one Tanzanian--reflect the range of al-Qaida operatives. The diverse groups under his umbrella afford Bin Ladin resources beyond those of the people directly loyal to him. With his own inherited wealth, business interests, contributions from sympathizers in various countries, and support from close allies like the Egyptian and South Asian groups that signed his so-called fatwa, he funds, trains, and offers logistic help to extremists not directly affiliated with his organization.
Bin Ladin seeks to aid those who support his primary goal--driving US forces from the Arabian Peninsula, removing the Saudi ruling family from power, and "liberating Palestine"--or his secondary goals of removing Western military forces and overthrowing what he calls corrupt, Western-oriented governments in predominantly Muslim countries. To these ends, his organization has sent trainers throughout Afghanistan as well as to Tajikistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, and has trained fighters from numerous other countries, including the Philippines, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, and Eritrea.
Using the ties al-Qaida has developed, Bin Ladin believes he can call upon individuals and groups virtually worldwide to conduct terrorist attacks. His Egyptian and South Asian allies, for example, publicly threatened US interests in the latter half of 1998. Bin Ladin's own public remarks underscore his expanding interests, including a desire to obtain a capability to deploy weapons of mass destruction.
On 4 November indictments were returned in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with the two US Embassy bombings in Africa. Charged in the indictment were: Usama Bin Ladin, his military commander Muhammad Atef, and Wadih El Hage, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, all members of al-Qaida. Two of these suspects, Odeh and al-Owhali, were turned over to US authorities in Kenya and brought to the United States to stand trial. Another suspect, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, was arrested in Germany and extradited to the United States in December. On 16 December five others were indicted for their role in the Dar es Salaam Embassy bombing: Mustafa Mohammed Fadhil, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Fahid Mohommed Ally Msalam, and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan.
Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are the seven governments that the US Secretary of State has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism. US policy is to pressure these states to cease their support by applying a broad range of sanctions, both unilateral and multilateral. International cooperation is essential in making these sanctions work, and more needs to be done in this area.
Cuba has reduced significantly its support to leftist revolutionaries in Latin America and elsewhere, but it maintains close ties to other state sponsors of terrorism and leftist insurgent groups and continues to provide safehaven to a number of international terrorists.
Iran continues to plan and conduct terrorist attacks, including the assassination of dissidents abroad. It supports a variety of groups that use terrorism to pursue their goals--including several that oppose the Middle East peace process--by providing varying degrees of money, training, safehaven, and weapons.
Iraq provides safehaven to terrorist and rejectionist groups and continues its efforts to rebuild its intelligence network, which it used previously to support international terrorism. The leader of the Abu Nidal organization may have relocated to Baghdad in late 1998.
Libya continues to harbor two Libyan intelligence operatives charged in the United States and Scotland for the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am Flight 103. Libya's action defies UN Security Council resolutions requiring Tripoli to surrender them for trial and ignores a US-UK offer to prosecute them before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands. Libya also harbors six suspects in the bombing of UTA flight 772 in 1989, although French authorities agreed to try the six in absentia. Several Middle Eastern terrorist groups continue to receive support from Libya, including the PIJ and the PFLP-GC. There is no evidence of Libyan involvement in recent acts of international terrorism, however.
Although North Korea has not been linked definitively to any act of international terrorism since 1987, it continues to provide safehaven to terrorists who hijacked a Japanese airliner to North Korea in 1970.
Sudan provides safehaven to some of the world's most violent terrorist groups, including Usama Bin Ladin's al-Qaida, Lebanese Hizballah, the PIJ, the ANO, and HAMAS. The Sudanese Government also refuses to comply with UN Security Council demands that it hand over for trial three fugitives linked to the assassination attempt in 1995 against Egyptian President Mubarak in Ethiopia.
There is no evidence of direct Syrian involvement in acts of international terrorism since 1986, but Syria continues to provide sanctuary and support for a number of terrorist groups that seek to disrupt the Middle East peace process.
CubaCuba no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America or elsewhere. Previously, the Castro regime provided significant levels of funding, military training, arms, and guidance to various revolutionary groups across the globe. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Havana has been forced to reduce dramatically its support to leftist revolutionaries.
Cuba, nonetheless, continues to maintain close ties to other state sponsors of terrorism and leftist insurgent groups in Latin America. For instance, Colombia's two main terrorist groups, the FARC and the ELN, maintain representatives in Cuba. Moreover, Havana continues to provide safehaven to a number of international terrorists and US terrorist fugitives.
IranIran in 1998 continued to be involved in the planning and execution of terrorist acts. Tehran apparently conducted fewer antidissident assassinations abroad in 1998 than in 1997. Tehran continued, however, to support a variety of groups that use terrorism to pursue their goals. Despite Iranian public statements condemning certain terrorist acts or expressing sympathy for Kenyan and Tanzanian victims of the August 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Iranian support for terrorism remains in place.
Tehran is reported to have conducted several assassinations outside Iran during 1998. In June the "League of the Followers of the Sunna" accused Iranian intelligence agents of murdering an Iranian Sunni cleric, Shaikh Nureddin Ghuraybi, in Tajikistan. In September the leaders of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a virulently anti-Shia sectarian group, accused Iran of responsibility for the murders of two of the organization's leaders, Allama Shoaib Nadeem and Maulana Habibur Rehman Siddiqui. In late November the National Council of Resistance claimed that the Iranian regime had kidnapped and killed Reza Pirzadi in Pakistan. Pirzadi was described as a warrant officer who had been released from prison in Iran in 1996.
Members of Iran's Ministry of Security and Intelligence (MOIS) may have conducted five mysterious murders of leading writers and political activists in Iran. Late in the year, Tehran announced the discovery of an operational cell within the MOIS that it alleged operated without the knowledge of senior government officials. Tehran reportedly arrested the cell's members.
The Iranian Government stated publicly that it would take no action to enforce the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, a British citizen, which has been in effect since 1989. The Iranian Government's assurance led the UK Government to upgrade its diplomatic relations with Iran. Tehran stated, however, that revoking the fatwa is impossible since its author is deceased. Moreover, the Iranian Government has not required the Fifteen Khordad Foundation to withdraw its reward for executing the fatwa on Rushdie, and in November the Foundation increased its offer to $2.8 million.
Iran continued to provide support to a variety of terrorist groups, including the Lebanese Hizballah, HAMAS, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which oppose the Middle East peace process through violence. Iran supports these groups with varying amounts of training, money, and/or weapons.
In March, a US district court ruled that Iran should pay $247 million to the family of Alisa Flatow, a US citizen killed in a PIJ bomb attack in Gaza in April 1995. The court ruled that Iran was responsible for her death because it provided funding to the PIJ, which claimed responsibility for the act. Palestinian sources said Iran supported the PIJ's claimed attack in Jerusalem in early November 1998, in which two suicide bombers injured some 21 persons.
Iran still provides safehaven to elements of the PKK, a Turkish separatist group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey and on Turkish targets in Europe.
Iran also provides support to North African groups. In an interview in April 1998, former Iranian president Bani Sadr accused Tehran of training Algerian fighters, among others.
Tehran accurately claims it also is a victim of terrorism. In 1998 several high-ranking members of the Iranian Government were attacked and at least two were killed in attacks claimed by the terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK claimed responsibility for the killing on 23 August of Asadollah Lajevardi, the former director of Tehran's Evin Prison. It also claimed responsibility for the deaths in June of several persons, including Haj Hassan Salehi, allegedly a torturer at the prison, during a bombing attack on the Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office in Tehran.
Mohsen Rafiqdust, head of the Foundation for the Oppressed and Disabled, escaped an attack on his life on 13 September. He said counterrevolutionary elements had embarked on efforts to make the country insecure.
At least nine Iranian diplomatic and associated personnel died when unknown persons invaded the Iranian Consulate in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, in early August during the Taliban takeover of that city. The Taliban denied responsibility for the deaths.
IraqIn 1998, Baghdad continued efforts to rebuild its intelligence network, which it previously had used to support international terrorism. Press reports indicated that Iraqi intelligence agents may have been planning an attack against Radio Free Europe in Prague in October 1998. Other press reports citing "reliable diplomatic sources" in Amman claimed that Iraq had sent abroad for terrorist purposes intelligence agents who pretended to be refugees and businessmen. Iraqi oppositionists have claimed publicly that the regime intends to silence them and have accused Baghdad of planning to assassinate Iraqi exiles. There are various claims that the Iraqi intelligence service was responsible for the killings of some nine persons in Amman, but we cannot corroborate the charges.
In January 1998 an Iraqi diplomat was fired on in Amman, Jordan. Jordanian authorities arrested five persons who subsequently confessed responsibility. In a separate incident, eight persons--including an Iraqi diplomat--were murdered in the home of an Iraqi businessman. Jordanian authorities in April arrested several persons for this crime.
In southern Iraq, Ayatollah Morteza Borujerdi--a senior Shia cleric--was killed on 22 April. Oppositionists claimed the Iraqi Government assassinated Borujerdi because he refused to cease leading prayers. A second high-ranking Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali Gharavi, was killed on 18 June. The oppositionist Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq accused Baghdad of responsibility. Both men were respected Shia clerics of Iranian origin and their murders remain unsolved.
Iraq continues to provide safehaven to a variety of Palestinian rejectionist groups, including the Abu Nidal organization, the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), and the former head of the now-defunct 15 May Organization, Abu Ibrahim, who masterminded several bombings of US aircraft. In December press reports indicated that Abu Nidal had relocated to Iraq and may be receiving medical treatment. Abu Nidal's move to Baghdad--if true--would increase the prospect that Saddam may call on the ANO to conduct anti-US attacks. Iraq also provides bases, weapons, and protection to the MEK, a terrorist group that opposes the current Iranian regime.
LibyaDespite a joint US-UK offer to prosecute the two Libyans charged with the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am Flight 103 before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands, Libya remained unwilling to meet the demands of UN Security Council resolutions 731, 748, 883, and 1192. These measures call upon Libyan leader Qadhafi to cease all support to terrorism, turn over the two indicted Pan Am 103 suspects for trial, and cooperate in the investigation. (On 5 April 1999, Libya turned over the two suspects, `Abd al Basit al-Megrahi and Lamin Kalifah Fhima, for prosecution in the Netherlands under Scottish law.)
French officials in January completed their investigation into the bombing in 1989 of UTA Flight 772. The French officials believe that the Libyan intelligence service was responsible and named Qadhafi's brother-in-law, Muhammad Sanusi, as the attack's mastermind. (Six Libyan suspects, all intelligence officers, were tried in absentia by a French court in March 1999. The suspects were convicted on 8 March 1999.)
Libya remains the primary suspect in several other past terrorist operations, including the La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin in 1986, which killed two US servicemen, one Turkish civilian, and wounded more than 200. The trial in Germany of five defendants in the case, who are accused of "an act of assassination commissioned by the Libyan state," began in November 1997 and continued through 1998.
Despite ongoing sanctions against Libya for its sponsorship of terrorism, Tripoli in 1998 continued to harass and intimidate expatriate dissidents. Moreover, Qadhafi continued publicly and privately to support Palestinian terrorist groups, including the PIJ and the PFLP-GC. Libya has not been implicated in any international terrorist act for several years, however.
North KoreaThe Democratic People's Republic of Korea has not been linked solidly to the planning or execution of an international terrorist attack since 1987, when a KAL airliner was bombed in flight. North Korea continues to provide safehaven to members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction who participated in the hijacking of a Japanese Airlines flight to North Korea in 1970. In March, P'yongyang allowed members of the Japanese Diet to visit some of the hijackers.
SudanSudan continued to serve as a meeting place, safehaven, and training hub for a number of international terrorist groups, particularly Usama Bin Ladin's al-Qaida organization. The Sudanese Government also condoned many of Iran's objectionable activities, such as funding terrorist and radical Islamic groups operating and transiting Sudan.
Sudan still has not complied fully with UN Security Council Resolutions 1044, 1054, and 1070, passed in 1996, despite the regime's efforts to distance itself publicly from terrorism. The UNSC demands that Sudan end all support to terrorists. It also requires Khartoum to hand over three Egyptian al-Gama'at fugitives linked to the assassination attempt in 1995 against Egyptian President Mubarak in Ethiopia. Sudanese officials continue to deny that they are harboring the three suspects and that they had a role in the attack.
Khartoum continues to provide safehaven to members of several of the world's most violent terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, the PIJ, the ANO, and HAMAS. Khartoum also supports regional Islamic and non-Islamic opposition and insurgent groups in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Tunisia.
Sudanese support to terrorists includes provision of paramilitary training, money, religious indoctrination, travel documents, safe passage, and refuge. Most of the organizations in Sudan maintain offices or other types of representation.
In August the United States accused Sudan of involvement in chemical weapons development. On 20 August the United States conducted military strikes against the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, which was associated with Usama Bin Ladin's terrorist network and believed to be involved in the manufacture of chemical weapons, to prevent an anti-US attack. Sudan has denied that the plant was involved in chemical weapons production and vigorously has protested the US bombing.
SyriaThere is no evidence that Syrian officials have engaged directly in planning or executing international terrorist attacks since 1986. Syria, nonetheless, continues to provide safehaven and support to several terrorist groups, allowing some to maintain training camps or other facilities on Syrian territory. Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, for example, have their headquarters in Damascus. In addition, Syria grants a wide variety of terrorist groups--including HAMAS, the PFLP-GC, and the PIJ--basing privileges or refuge in areas of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley under Syrian control.
In response to Turkish pressure, Damascus took several important steps against the Kurdistan Workers' Party in October. PKK leader Abdallah Ocalan departed Syria, and Damascus forced many PKK members to relocate to northern Iraq. It is unclear whether Damascus has made a long-term commitment to sever its ties to the PKK.
Although Damascus claims to be committed to the Middle East peace process, it has not acted to stop anti-Israeli attacks by Hizballah and Palestinian rejectionist groups in southern Lebanon. Syria allowed--but did not participate in--a meeting of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Damascus in December to reaffirm their public opposition to the peace process. Syria also assists the resupply of rejectionist groups operating in Lebanon via Damascus. Nonetheless, the Syrian Government continues to restrain the international activities of some groups and to participate in a multinational monitoring group to prevent attacks against civilian targets in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.
Source: Patterns of Global Terrorism 1998, U.S. State Department.