Patterns of Global Terrorism Report/1996/Europe and Eurasia Overview

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Patterns of Global Terrorism Report - 1996
United States Department of State
Europe and Eurasia Overview

The total number of incidents in Europe in 1996 declined significantly from 272 in 1995 to 121 in 1996. Most of the terrorist acts in 1996 were nonlethal acts of arson or vandalism against Turkish-owned businesses in Germany. These acts are widely believed to be the work of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The number of terrorist acts instigated by the PKK was down significantly in 1996.

In 1996 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resumed a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, breaking a 17-month cease-fire. Loyalist paramilitary groups maintained their cease-fire but are considering a resumption of violence in response to IRA bombings.

Algerian extremists are believed responsible for France's most devastating terrorist attack during 1996, when a bombing on a Paris commuter train during rush hour on 3 December killed four persons and injured more than 80. Although no one claimed responsibility for the incident, similarities between this attack and several bombings claimed by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in 1995 lead authorities to suspect Algerian extremists.

France was also the scene of several assassinations during 1996. An Iranian who served as Deputy Education Minister under the Shah was shot to death near Paris on 28 May; he had published writings opposing the Islamic regime in Tehran. On 5 August unidentified assailants brutally murdered the local chief representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a delegate of the "Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Government" in Paris. Local Kurd leaders blamed Iraqi or Iranian state agents for the crime. On 26 October suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) gunmen shot and killed the LTTE's international treasurer and a companion in Paris.

France and Spain worked vigorously against the separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group in 1996, arresting at least three dozen members and sympathizers and uncovering several weapons caches. Among those arrested was Juan "Isuntza" Aguirre Lete, who is accused of being the mastermind behind a plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos in Majorca in 1995.

Unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the Consulate of Serbia and Montenegro in Milan, Italy, in mid-April. The building suffered only minor damage, and there were no injuries.

The Greek Government made no headway in its pursuit of Greek terrorists. The indigenous leftist Revolutionary Organization 17 November and other domestic terrorist groups continued to threaten US interests and to target Greek business interests. In Turkey, the number of terrorist incidents committed by the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) decreased significantly due to the group's almost yearlong self-imposed unilateral cease-fire. After the cease-fire ended in the fall of 1996, the PKK stepped up attacks against military and civilian targets, using the tactic of suicide bombings. The Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front, known by the Turkish initials DHKP/C-the successor to the group formerly known as Devrimci Sol-perpetrated a spectacular terrorist act in January with the assassination of a prominent Turkish businessman.

In Eurasia, the total number of terrorist incidents increased from five in 1995 to 24 in 1996. In Bosnia, several small-scale terrorist incidents occurred; the prime targets were international and multinational organizations assisting in the country's postwar transition. Ethnic tensions in the countries of the former Soviet Union continued to produce terrorist acts in many of these. In Russia, the ongoing hostilities between the government and Chechen rebels resulted in the taking of hostages and other acts, and Tajikistan was also the site of acts of violence against noncombatants. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia also experienced ethnic-related terrorist activity.

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Several small-scale terrorist incidents occurred in Bosnia in 1996; the prime targets were international and multinational organizations assisting in the country's postwar transition. A grenade was tossed into an International Police Task Force (IPTF) vehicle in November; there were no injuries. In August security officials in Sarajevo, tipped off by a telephone warning, defused a bomb in a building housing offices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A bomb exploded outside IPTF headquarters in Vlasenica in July, damaging three vehicles and breaking some 30 windows in nearby buildings. That same month an assailant threw a handgrenade at a vehicle belonging to a member of the local OSCE office in Banja Luka; the blast destroyed the car and damaged a nearby building. The perpetrators of all of these attacks remain unidentified, but disgruntled members of the former warring factions are suspected.

On 15 February, Implementation Force (IFOR) troops raided a joint Bosnian-Iranian intelligence training facility in Fojnica and detained 11 persons, including three Iranians. Searches of the camp revealed classrooms and an extensive armory. Evidence collected at the site-including boobytrapped children's toys-indicated that at least some of the training was in terrorist tactics.

Croatia[edit]

A Croatian court sentenced five Bosnians on 21 June to prison terms ranging from four months to two years following their conviction on charges of plotting to assassinate Bosnian rebel leader Fikret Abdic. The Bosnians, who were arrested on 4 April in a town on the Dalmatian coast, allegedly planned to kill Abdic as he drove along a coastal highway. The group reportedly possessed a variety of weapons-including at least one hand-held grenade launcher, grenades, and machineguns-and was to receive financial remuneration for the assassination. Croatian officials claimed that the Bosnians had made statements implicating local Bihac and federal Bosnian security authorities as the masterminds of the plot; Sarajevo vociferously denied the charges.

France[edit]

The most devastating terrorist attack in France during 1996 was a bombing on a Paris commuter train during rush hour on 3 December that killed four persons and injured more than 80, some of them seriously. The bomb, a gas canister filled with explosives and nails, was designed and timed to cause extensive casualties. Although no one claimed responsibility for the incident, similarities between this attack and several bombings tied to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in 1995 lead authorities to suspect that Algerian extremists were responsible.

Several assassinations took place in France during 1996. An Iranian who served as Deputy Education Minister under the Shah was shot to death at his apartment near Paris on 28 May. The victim, Reza Mazlouman, had political refugee status in France and reportedly was active in opposition movements against the Iranian regime. At France's request, German authorities arrested an Iranian national in Bonn two days later on suspicion of participating in the assassination; the Iranian was extradited to France in October. A second assailant escaped and is believed to be in Iran. On 5 August unidentified assailants brutally murdered Jaffar Hasso Guly, the local chief representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a delegate of the "Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Government," in his home in Paris. Local Kurd leaders blamed Iraqi or Iranian state agents for the crime.

Suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) gunmen shot and killed Kandiah Perinbanathan, the LTTE's international treasurer, and a companion in Paris on 26 October. Sri Lankan authorities said the treasurer may have been killed for extorting funds from his assailants.

French authorities worked vigorously against the separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) group in 1996, arresting at least three dozen members and sympathizers-some of whom were later released-and uncovering several weapons caches. In a key arrest in November, French customs authorities nabbed Juan "Isuntza" Aguirre Lete as he tried to run a checkpoint set up at a tollbooth. Madrid has accused Isuntza of masterminding a plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos in Majorca in 1995. Joint French-Spanish operations in July and November resulted in the capture in France of several ETA members and supporters, including Daniel Derguy, believed to be ETA's chief French operative; Julian "Pototo" Achurra Egurola, the head of the group's logistics wing; and Juan "Karpov" Maria Insausti, who Spanish authorities say is ETA's chief recruiter and explosives trainer. French officials also arrested Maria Nagore Mugica, one of Spain's most wanted criminals, at Charles de Gaulle Airport in May. Nagore belonged to various ETA command cells-including the group's chief cell in Madrid-between 1990 and 1993 and is suspected of involvement in several bombings. A French court authorized her extradition to Spain in December.

Antiterrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere announced in September the completion of his investigation into the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772 over Niger. Arrest warrants-including two issued in 1996-are outstanding for a total of six Libyan Government officials, including a brother-in-law of Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi, for their alleged participation in the bombing. Bruguiere traveled to Libya in July to interview numerous secret service officials. Tripoli allowed him to return to France with a replica of the boobytrapped suitcase used in the bombing, as well as timers and detonators believed similar to those used to set off the explosives.

Germany[edit]

German prosecutors put their star witness, exiled former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, on the stand in the trial of five men-four Lebanese and an Iranian-accused of murdering four Iranian dissidents in a gangland-style shooting at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in 1992. Bani Sadr told the court in August that Iran's religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the killings of the three exiled Iranian Kurdish leaders and their translator and that President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani signed the order. He also referred to a suspected former Iranian intelligence officer (so-called Witness C and later identified as Abolqasem Messbahi), who also was called to testify. Statements in the prosecution's summation in November, which implicated Iran's senior leadership for directing the Mykonos killings, led to demonstrations in front of the German Embassy in Tehran and threats against the prosecutors. In March prosecutors issued an arrest warrant against Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahiyan in connection with the killings. A Berlin state court has spent almost three years hearing evidence in the Mykonos case. (Guilty verdicts for four of the accused were announced in April 1997.)

Suspected Palestinian terrorist Yasser Shraydi was extradited from Lebanon to Germany in May to stand trial in connection with the La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin in 1986. In October three other suspects in the case were arrested and are in German custody. Arrest warrants also were issued against four former Libyan diplomats and intelligence officers believed to have been involved in the bombing. German prosecutors, who have stated that this bombing was a case of state terrorism directed from Tripoli, hope to begin the trial in mid-1997.

The number of terrorist acts instigated by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) decreased significantly in 1996. Security Services Chief Klaus Gruenewald had visited PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in August 1995 to demand the cessation of PKK violence on German soil. PKK-attributable violence in Germany continued at a negligible level until early March when, on the occasion of Kurdish New Year's Day, PKK-affiliated demonstrations in Dortmund and other cities turned violent and injured several German policemen. Ocalan blamed the incidents on the German police but, in view of negative German public reaction, later apologized and promised to halt further PKK incidents in Germany. Earlier in the year, Ocalan had threatened to use PKK suicide bombers in Germany and also issued death threats against Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Kinkel, but he later retracted these statements. This reflects his dual strategy of threatening to carry out violence in Germany, on the one hand, and trying to operate within the parameters of German law, on the other.

The Red Army Faction (RAF) has not been active in Germany for the past several years, although German authorities continue to pursue and prosecute RAF members for crimes committed during the 1980s. Following two years of hearings, the German courts convicted RAF member Birgit Hogefeld in November of three counts of murder-including the 1985 murder of a US soldier and the subsequent bombing attack at the US Rhein-Main Airbase-and four counts of attempted murder. She was sentenced to life in prison. Christoph Seidler-who was alleged to be, but claims never to have been, a member of the RAF-the main suspect in the 1989 car-bomb killing of Deutsche Bank chief executive Alfred Herrhausen, turned himself in to German authorities in November but was later released and a longstanding arrest warrant lifted.

German authorities scored a coup with the arrest of two suspected members of the shadowy leftist Anti-Imperialist Cell (AIZ) in February. The two men-Bernhard Falk and Michael Steinau-are awaiting trial. The AIZ had claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks on the homes of second-tier conservative politicians in 1995, the last occurring in December 1995. Because no further incidents have occurred since the February arrests, the German Government believes the AIZ is no longer a viable threat.

Greece[edit]

The Greek Government continues to make no headway in its pursuit of Greek terrorists, in particular, the Revolutionary Organization 17 November that is responsible for numerous attacks against US interests, including the murder of four US officials. On 15 February an antiarmor rocket was fired at the US Embassy in Athens, causing some property damage but no casualties. Circumstances of the attack suggest it was a 17 November operation. On 28 May the IBM building in Athens was bombed, resulting in substantial property damage but no casualties. An anonymous call later claimed responsibility on behalf of the "Nihilist Faction," which first surfaced earlier in the year with bomb attacks against the residence of a supreme court prosecutor and a shopping mall in downtown Athens.

The Greek Government also continues to tolerate the official presence in Athens of two Turkish terrorist groups-the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan, which is the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)-formerly Devrimci Sol-which is responsible for the murder of two US Government contractors in Turkey.

The Greek judicial system continues to be hampered by obstacles to the prosecution of terrorists. The latest pending piece of legislation authorizes judges to exclude the testimony of a defendant against a codefendant in a criminal proceeding-including terrorist cases-which would make it difficult to obtain convictions against members of terrorist groups.

Under the terms of another Greek law that allows for release after two-fifths of a sentence has been served, on 5 December the Greek Government released convicted terrorist Mohammed Rashid from prison and expelled him from Greece. Rashid had been in jail for his role in the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am aircraft in which a 15-year old Japanese citizen was killed. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which was subsequently reduced to 15 years. The United States deplored the early release of this convicted terrorist, calling the court ruling "incomprehensible."

The Greek Government, however, also demonstrated some willingness to extradite non-Greeks in two high-profile cases: after completing a five-year Greek prison sentence on various charges, Abdul Rahim Khaled was handed over to Italian authorities pursuant to his conviction in absentia in 1987 by an Italian court for his part in the Achille Lauro hijacking; and Andrea Haeusler, a German citizen, faced extradition to Germany on charges stemming from her alleged participation in the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. (She was extradicted in January 1997.)

Italy[edit]

Unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the Consulate of Serbia and Montenegro in Milan on two successive nights in mid-April. The building suffered only minor damage, and there were no injuries. Following the second set of attacks, an anonymous caller telephoned the Milan police and reported the incident. Italian authorities also found traces of a poster saying "Free Bosnia" on the wall of the Consulate.

In a multicity operation on 7 November, Italian National Police officers arrested more than two dozen suspected members and supporters of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) following a yearlong investigation. Authorities have charged the suspects, who include Algerians and other North Africans, with weapons trafficking, counterfeiting documents, and facilitating the illegal entry into Italy of Algerian terrorists. Police reported that some suspects were in possession of hardcopy and computer manuals regarding the preparation of explosives and the use of weapons.

Poland[edit]

On 24 April a group calling itself GN 95 detonated a bomb at a Shell gas station in Warsaw, killing a policeman who was preparing to defuse the device. GN 95 later justified the explosion by stating its opposition to the expansion of foreign investments into Poland. The group demanded $2 million from the Royal Dutch Shell Group.

Russia[edit]

Russia has sought to combat terrorism in a number of ways both overseas and at home. Moscow participated in a G-7/P-8 ministerial conference on counterterrorism in Paris in July and in a follow-up conference in October. Russian security authorities also conducted exercises of their counterterrorist components. The Russian prosecution of three Armenians for involvement in four bombings of Moscow-Baku passenger trains in 1993 and 1994 led to convictions and jail sentences.

The Russians have not made any headway, however, in their investigation of a series of bombs placed in public transportation vehicles in Moscow and elsewhere in the country, or of a bombing that leveled a nine-story apartment building in Kaspiysk, killing more than 50.

Several other terrorist acts took place in Russia during 1996. In January a Chechen group took as hostages up to 200 noncombatants in Pervomayskoye. On 7 August in St. Petersburg, a gunman shot and wounded Finnish Deputy Consul General Olli Perkheyentupa outside a hotel; no one claimed responsibility. In Vladivostok, a South Korean official was murdered on 1 October; Seoul suspects that North Korean agents were involved. On 17 December six Westerners who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross were murdered in Novyy Atagi. In late December authorities arrested several suspects, but released them without charging them.

Spain[edit]

The separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) organization conducted its biggest campaign against Spanish tourist sites in years-a total of 14 bombings or attempted bombings in July and August. In the most devastating attack, 35 persons-including approximately two dozen British tourists-were injured on 20 July when a bomb exploded in a waiting room at an airport near the coastal city of Tarragona. Authorities also believe that ETA, which occasionally targets French businesses in Spain, was responsible for a package bomb that exploded in a Citroen car dealership near Zaragoza in July, injuring the owner and his son. In March police defused a car bomb placed in front of a French-owned store in Madrid following a telephone warning from a caller claiming to represent the Basque extremist group. ETA also continued to attack Spanish military, police, and economic targets throughout 1996.

The Aznar government, which came to power in May, has vowed to work diligently to neutralize ETA and has put special emphasis on strengthening cooperation with other states-particularly France-in this effort. In May press reports indicated that France planned to assign a police attache to its Embassy in Madrid to coordinate daily cooperation with Spain. Moreover, Madrid and Paris signed an agreement in June that allowed for the establishment of four joint police stations-three on the French side of the border. Meanwhile, Spain persuaded France to help reform a European extradition treaty in the European Union to allow "simple membership in an armed band" to be sufficient cause for extradition.

Spanish authorities extradited Achille Lauro hijacker Majed Yousef al-Molqi to Italy in early December. They had captured al-Molqi on 22 March in southern Spain after he failed to return to an Italian prison in February following a 12-day furlough for good behavior. In 1986 an Italian court sentenced al-Molqi, a Palestinian affiliated with the Abu Abbas faction of the Palestine Liberation Front, to 30 years in prison for killing Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound US citizen, during the hijacking of the Italian luxury ship in 1985.

Madrid struck a blow against the Algerian Armed Islamic Group's (GIA) infrastructure in Spain with the arrest of suspected GIA member Farid Rezgui on 14 June. Rezgui reportedly had some 30 sets of false Italian, French, Spanish, and Algerian identification documents in his possession, presumably for use by GIA members to facilitate their movements in Europe. Authorities reportedly also found magazines published by GIA and other Islamic extremist groups, as well as video and audiocassette tapes of speeches by Islamic leaders, including Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the Egyptian extremist al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya.

Tajikistan[edit]

Unidentified assailants conducted attacks against Russian servicemen stationed in Tajikistan, as well as their dependents. On 4 June several gunmen shot and killed two Russian servicemen's wives while the victims were visiting a cemetery in Dushanbe. No one claimed responsibility. On 15 August a remote-controlled explosive device with 2.5 pounds of TNT destroyed a Russian military truck. One serviceman was killed and one was wounded. On 20 November gunmen shot at two Russian servicemen getting off a bus in a Dushanbe neighborhood. Both servicemen were seriously wounded. Two days later assailants ambushed a bus of Russian border guards in Dushanbe using grenade launchers and handgrenades, killing the bus driver and injuring several border guards. On 20 December members of an armed independent gang kidnapped UN and other officials and demanded that several of their supporters be returned to them. The hostages were subsequently released.

Turkey[edit]

The number of terrorist incidents committed by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey in 1996 declined significantly due to the group's unilateral cease-fire from December 1995 until the fall of 1996. Nonetheless, the PKK was responsible for sporadic terrorist attacks during the cease-fire period, most notably, the 30 June suicide bombing against a Turkish military parade in Tunceli. The attack killed nine security forces personnel and wounded another 35. The suicide bombing marked the first time the PKK had used this tactic even though PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had threatened earlier in the year to use suicide bombings against Turkey's Western cities in an effort to drive away tourists.

Since the end of the cease-fire the PKK has stepped up its attacks against military and civilian targets in southeastern Turkey. The most noteworthy incidents include two more suicide bombings-in Adana and Sivas-in late October that killed two civilians in addition to eight security forces personnel. The suicide bombing in Sivas is of note because the city, well outside of the southeast, is in an area that the Turkish Government previously considered to be relatively secure. In two other incidents four schoolteachers were murdered outside of Diyarbakir in October and three tourists-including a US citizen-were kidnapped outside of Bingol in September. The US citizen and his Polish traveling companion were later released unharmed. There is no word on the status of the third hostage, reportedly an Iranian. The killing of schoolteachers and kidnapping of foreigners are traditional PKK terrorist acts but had not been seen in almost two years.

The number of violent PKK activities in Western Europe also was down in 1996, particularly after German Security Services Chief Klaus Gruenewald visited Ocalan in late 1995 to demand the cessation of PKK-instigated violence in Germany. PKK violence continued at a negligible level until early March when a PKK-affiliated demonstration in Bonn turned violent, injuring several German policemen. Ocalan later apologized for the incident and promised to suspend further PKK incidents on German soil.

The Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)-the successor group to Devrimci Sol-pulled off a spectacular terrorist act in January with the high-profile assassination of prominent Turkish businessman Ozdemir Sabanci in his high-security office building in Istanbul. Previously, DHKP/C had managed only a few low-level assassinations against unprotected Turkish targets. The group also conducted several drive-by shootings of policemen in Istanbul. Although the drive-by shootings are not characteristic of DHKP/C's usually intensive surveillance and planning, its successful murder of Sabanci suggests that it is acquiring greater capabilities and that it could once again become a real threat.

United Kingdom[edit]

In 1996 the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resumed a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, breaking a 17-month cease-fire. The Continuity Army Council (CAC)-also known as the Irish Continuity Army-a hardline Republican movement formed in 1994 to protest the IRA's cease-fire announcement in August of that year, also resumed its campaign of violence. Loyalist paramilitary groups maintained their cease-fire but remained combat ready and were considering a resumption of violence in response to the IRA bombings.

The IRA broke its cease-fire on 9 February, detonating more than 1,000 pounds of a homemade explosive mixture in a flatbed truck under a platform of London's Docklands light railway. The bomb killed two, injured more than 100, and caused extensive damage to five blocks of office buildings. On 18 February an IRA terrorist lost his life when a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely in a bus in London. Nine persons were injured and the bus was destroyed. On 9 March a small improvised explosive device detonated inside a trash bin at the entrance to a London cemetery near a British Defense Ministry building. No one was injured. The IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb three days later.

Destruction from IRA vehicle bombing in the Docklands area of London, 9 February.

On 24 April coded calls led police to a bomb containing about 30 pounds of plastic explosive under London's Hammersmith bridge. Police were evacuating the area when the two detonators exploded but failed to set off the plastic explosive charges; bomb squads disarmed the devices. The next night the IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb, calling its failure to explode "unfortunate."

A large fertilizer-based car bomb exploded near a shopping center in Manchester on 15 June, injuring more than 200 persons and causing an estimated $300 million in structural damage. The explosion coincided with a celebration in London marking the queen's official birthday.

IRA terrorists attacked a British army barracks in Osnabruck, Germany, on 28 June, with three mortar rounds launched from a truck-mounted rocket launcher. One of the shells hit the barracks, causing considerable damage but no injuries. The other two shells did not explode and were disarmed. The IRA also claimed credit for two vehicle bombs, each comprising about 800 pounds of homemade explosives, that exploded on the grounds of the British Army headquarters in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on 7 October. The two blasts killed one serviceman and injured 31. Dual bombings are an IRA signature; the second bomb, placed in the path of victims fleeing from the first bomb, exploded about 10 minutes later.

The CAC claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded on 14 July at a hotel in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. About 40 people were injured in the blast. In similar incidents, on 29 September and 22 November, the CAC planted car bombs loaded with homemade explosives in Belfast and Londonderry, respectively. Following warning calls, army explosives experts found the vehicles and detonated them in controlled explosions.

Ulster peace talks have seen little progress. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, is barred from the talks until the IRA accedes to an unconditional cease-fire. The decommissioning of Republican and Loyalist weapons is also a major sticking point to the talks.