| Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 counter-terrorist 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 counter-terrorist 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.
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 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.
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 outside. 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.
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 counter-terrorist 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 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, Ireland, and 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.
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