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Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1991

Asia Overview

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The number of international terrorist incidents in Asia decreased from 92 incidents in 1990 to 47 in 1991, partly because of the Philippine Government successes against the Communist New People's Army. The death toll from attacks by Sikh, Kashmiri, Assamese, and other militant groups in India continued to rise, with foreigners increasingly targeted or caught in the crossfire. Sri Lankan terrorists carried out several fatal attacks in the capital of Colombo and elsewhere and are believed responsible for the assassination of Congress-I party leader Rajiv Gandhi in India. There was an increased number of attacks against Western aid workers and moderate Afghans in northwestern Pakistan attributed to militant Afghan fundamentalist groups. Also, Iraqi terrorists and their surrogates attempted or planned attacks in several Asian countries, none of which resulted in serious injuries or death to any but the terrorists themselves.


Four international acts of terrorism occurred in Afghanistan in 1991, all directed at Western humanitarian organizations operating in the midst of civil strife. In January, a commander affiliated with the Afghan resistance group Hezb-I Islami kidnapped and briefly held four International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers. On 6 August, a Swiss employee of the ICRC was kidnapped by a member of an unidentified faction of the Afghan resistance about 60 kilometers north of Kabul; he was released 12 days later. Two Americans working for a British aid organization were seized by Afghan insurgents on 7 July in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan; one was released in October and the other in December. A French national working on a USAID project in Zabol province was kidnapped on 4 July and released on 16 July.

India The level of indigenous terrorism was high throughout 1991, as Punjabi, Kashmiri, and Assamese separatists conducted attacks in a bid to win independence for their states. Violence related to separatist movements claimed at least 5,500 lives in Punjab and over 1,500 lives in Kashmir.

The separatists regularly assassinated civil servants, political candidates, and presumed government informers. Last spring in the Punjab, Sikh terrorists killed 23 candidates running for state and national office. Sikh terrorists also carried out random attacks and bombings, which included massacres of people aboard trains and buses. In Assam, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) was responsible for a spate of terrorist operations, particularly kidnappings. One such kidnapping targeted a Soviet technician, who was killed, as were several Indian kidnap victims. Kashmiri militants routinely planted bombs in and around bridges and communications targets and extorted money from local businessmen. They also kidnapped relatives of prominent officials and several foreigners.

Separatists also have stepped up attacks against journalists. In January, Sikh extremists declared war on the press in Punjab and forced reporters to stop calling them terrorists. Newsmen critical of Sikh terrorist tactics received death threats. Kashmiri groups also assassinated journalists, including the editor of the Urdu daily Al-Safa in April.

Although Assamese and Kashmiri terrorists limited their operations to their respective states, Sikh terrorists expanded their operations outside Punjab. In late January, Sikh terrorists bombed a movie theater in New Delhi, injuring six people. Sikh extremists probably also were responsible for a bombing in New Delhi in late April that killed three people and wounded eight. In mid-October, a Sikh bomb killed at least 55 people and wounded 125 others at a Hindu festival in Uttar Pradesh, near the Nepalese border. In late August, four members of the Khalistan Liberation Front unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate the Indian Ambassador to Romania in Bucharest; Romanian antiterrorist experts killed one person and captured the other three. This was the first Sikh terrorist operation outside India since 1987. Separatists also conducted a spate of kidnappings of foreigners in a bid to attract international attention to their cause:

-- On 31 March in western Kashmir, the Muslim Janbaz Force (MJF) kidnapped two Swedish engineers working at a hydroelectric project. The MJF had pledged to hold the pair until the United Nations or Amnesty International investigated alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir. On 5 July, however, the engineers escaped when they were left unguarded.

-- On 26 June an obscure Kashmiri group, Pasdaran-i-Inquilab-e-Islam, kidnapped seven Israelis and a Dutch woman who were visiting Kashmir. The Dutch national was freed shortly after being captured. One of the Israelis was killed and two others injured when the Israeli prisoners jumped the kidnappers. One Israeli who did not escape was freed in early July.

-- On 1 July, the ULFA seized a Russian mining engineer and 14 Indian nationals; the Russian later was killed as were several of the Indians.

-- On 9 October Sikh terrorists kidnapped the Romanian Charge in New Delhi shortly after he left his home for work. The Khalistan Liberation Front claimed responsibility and demanded the release of three imprisoned Sikh terrorists. The diplomat was released on 26 November without the conditions being met.

-- On 14 October the Kashmiri separatist group Al-Fateh kidnapped a French engineer in Kashmir. He was freed in early 1992.

The Sri Lankan separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is believed responsible for the 21 May assassination of Congress-I party president Rajiv Gandhi in southern India. Seventeen others also died in the bombing, which occurred while Gandhi was campaigning. The terrorist detonated explosives strapped to her waist as she approached and greeted Gandhi. The attack may have been conducted to avenge Gandhi's decision in 1987, when he was Prime Minister, to dispatch more than 50,000 troops to Sri Lanka to quell the Tamil separatist campaign. Numerous LTTE members suspected of involvement in the operation have committed suicide to avoid capture by Indian authorities.

Iraqi terrorists or their surrogates probably were responsible for the bombing of the American Airlines Travel Agency, an Indian-owned agent of American Airlines, in New Delhi on 16 January. The blast caused extensive damage but no casualties. New Delhi plans to either extradite or prosecute two Burmese students who hijacked a Thai airliner to Calcutta in 1990; however, the Communist-led state government in West Bengal says the pair are "freedom fighters" and is resisting New Delhi's efforts. India also has cracked down on LTTE elements in southern India following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Pakistan Westerners and moderate Afghans in northwestern Pakistan, particularly Peshawar, have increasingly become the targets of terrorist attacks. Although the sponsors of these attacks are not known, radical Afghan fundamentalist groups are suspected:

-- On 24 February, a bomb blast in Peshawar at the office of the Swedish Relief Committee -- a private voluntary organization (PVO) involved in cross-border work in Afghanistan -- seriously injured an Afghan-Australian national who later died from the wounds.

-- On 13 August, an Afghan-American USAID contractor was wounded in a shooting attack in Peshawar.

-- On 30 October, an Afghan working for an Austrian PVO in Peshawar was shot and wounded.

-- On 25 November, the Afghan director of the English language program of the International Rescue Committee, an American private voluntary agency, was shot and killed by unidentified assailants.

There were also numerous bombings in Pakistan's major cities throughout the year. The Pakistani Government frequently attributed these attacks and other acts of violence to the intelligence services of India and Afghanistan. The United States is unable, however, to determine if the incidents were carried out by terrorists or criminals, or if there was external involvement.

Several terrorist attacks related to the Persian Gulf war and probably organized by Iraq or Iraqi sympathizers occurred in Pakistan in 1991. In January, gunmen fired at the Saudia Airlines office in Karachi, shattering windows but causing no casualties. In February a bomb exploded as it was thrown over the wall of the residence of the Saudi Consul General in Karachi, injuring a security guard. Later in the month a British-sponsored humanitarian organization in Peshawar was bombed.

During the Persian Gulf war, Pakistani authorities actively sought to counter possible terrorist threats. At least one Iraqi diplomat was declared persona non grata and two other Iraqis were arrested and expelled for their questionable activities. Pakistan has also cooperated with the U.S. investigation of an additional suspect in the 1986 hijacking of Pan American Flight 73.

There were continuing credible reports throughout 1991 of official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups engaged in terrorism in Indian-controlled Kashmir, as well as support to Sikh militant groups engaged in terrorism in Indian Punjab. This support allegedly includes provision of weapons and training.

Sri Lanka Although the separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield in 1991, it continued to pose a terrorist threat.

In March 1991, the LTTE returned to urban terrorism with the car-bomb assassination of Deputy Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne in Colombo. Scores of innocent bystanders were killed or injured. A second car-bomb attack in June devastated the government's Military Operations Headquarters, again taking many civilian lives. Interrogation of LTTE suspects reportedly revealed that future targets included government figures and major public utilities.

In India, a Madras court indicted the leader of the LTTE and his intelligence chief in connection with the 21 May assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Seventeen others also died in this bombing, which occurred while Gandhi was campaigning. Numerous LTTE suspects tracked by Indian police committed suicide to avoid capture.

The LTTE also continued to assassinate rival Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka and India. In rural areas, the Tigers massacred hundreds of Sinhalese and Muslim villagers to drive them from areas deemed part of a "Tamil Homeland."


One act of international terrorism ended in Singapore in 1991. On 26 March, four Pakistanis claiming to be members of the Pakistani People's Party (PPP) hijacked a Singapore Airlines flight shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and demanded the release of several people reportedly imprisoned in Pakistan. The PPP denied any involvement in the operation. The plane landed in Singapore, and local counterterrorist forces stormed the plane after six hours of negotiations proved futile. The hijackers were killed; all passengers and crew were unharmed.


The Philippine government made major strides in its counterterrorist efforts in 1991, arresting over 80 middle- and high-level members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People's Army (NPA). Those arrested include Romulo Kintanar, chief of the NPA's General Command, and most of the other members of the General Command. The government also successfully prosecuted two NPA operatives for the murder of U.S. Army Col. James Rowe in April 1989. Both were sentenced in February to life imprisonment.

Primarily because of the arrests, the Communists were able to conduct only sporadic terrorist operations. The only attack against U.S. interests occurred early in the year on 31 January, when the NPA planted bombs at the Voice of America (VOA) transmitter in Tinang; the devices were successfully disarmed. Communists in Northern Luzon, however, continue to hold an American, Arvey Drown, who was kidnapped there in October 1990. They demanded the suspension of Philippine government military operations in the region and release of captured NPA members.

CPP leader Jose Maria Sison continues to reside in exile in the Netherlands. We believe that he is involved in raising money for his movement, mostly from sympathetic European leftist groups.

Philippine authorities aggressively worked against terrorists during the Persian Gulf war, particularly Iraqis who planned to conduct operations against Western targets in Manila. On 19 January, a bomb exploded close to the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center in Manila, killing the man carrying the device -- an Iraqi national -- and seriously injuring his partner, also an Iraqi. Following the attempted bombing, the consul general of the Iraqi embassy was expelled. Manila also rejected the credentials of an arriving Iraqi diplomat and forced him to depart. Two Iraqi students were also expelled.

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