Great Seal logo

Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1992

European Overview

Blue Bar

European countries experienced a relatively low level of international terrorism during 1992. The major events in Europe this year--the Olympics in Albertville and Barcelona, the World's Fair in Seville, and ceremonies marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to America--passed virtually without incident. Leftwing terrorist groups, with the exception of Dev Sol in Turkey, were relatively quiet, and Germany's Red Army Faction renounced terrorism altogether, although it may be premature to write the group's obituary. Separatist groups, particularly the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), intensified their attacks on government targets, however, and showed increasing disregard for civilian casualties.

There is a danger that ethnic violence could turn to terrorism in Western and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet republics as ethnic conflicts and rivalries emerge. European police and security services have taken measures to try to reduce the chances for terrorist organizations or their state sponsors to move agents, weapons, and funds from one country to another as a result of EC 92 initiatives to produce a borderless Europe. Violence against foreigners, which increased dramatically in some countries in 1992, particularly Germany, suggests that Western Europe may increasingly experience rightwing terrorism as European integration and international migration expand.

No Americans died as a result of terrorist attacks in Europe this year, as compared to four in 1991.

Germany Germany had 28 incidents of international terrorism in 1992, one fewer than in 1991. Those that occurred involved third-country nationals such as the September assassinations of four Kurdish dissidents in Berlin and probably the August murder of a dissident Iranian poet in Bonn.

The Red Army Faction (RAF) in Germany has not adapted its leftist ideology to the post-Cold War world and has essentially abandoned its commitment to violent attacks against the German state and economy. The group has apparently not been able to recruit replacements for its aging, imprisoned members. It has not launched an attack since firing on the US Embassy in Bonn in February 1991. In April 1992, RAF leaders announced a cease-fire, demanding in return the release of imprisoned terrorists, improved treatment for remaining RAF inmates, and German Government flexibility on a variety of social issues.

Two German relief workers (Kemptner and Struebig), the last of the Western hostages held in Lebanon, were released on 17 June 1992 after three years of captivity. Their abductors continue to press for release from German prisons of fellow Hizballah members Mohammed Ali Hammadi and his brother Abbas Ali Hammadi. Mohammed Ali Hammadi, imprisoned for the murder of an American, air piracy, hostage taking, aggravated battery, and illegal importation of explosives and forgery, is serving a life sentence. Abbas Ali Hammadi was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment for plotting the kidnapping of two West Germans in the hope of forcing the release of his brother. The German Government has refused to yield to terrorist demands.

Rightwing sentiment increased in Western Europe during 1992. The greatest risk of rightwing violence resembling terrorism in 1992 was in Germany, where skinheads and neo-Nazis committed more than 2,000 attacks on foreigners; these included firebombings and brutal assaults, resulting in the deaths of at least 17 people. Extreme rightwing leaders have capitalized on dissatisfaction with mainstream political parties, high unemployment rates, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Third World, and latent xenophobia. Thus far, neither the skinheads nor the neo-Nazis have organized beyond the local level, and they have not joined forces with nationally organized far-right political parties. They have apparently had some contact with members of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Greece Although it did not attack any US target in 1992, the Greek Revolutionary Organization 17 November still poses a serious threat to US citizens. Its operations during 1992 were more reckless and less well planned than in the past, increasing the risk of incidental injury. In July, for the first time, the group killed a bystander in the course of a rocket attack in downtown Athens on the Greek Finance Minister. In late November, authorities arrested one of Greece's most wanted terrorists--a suspected member of the ``Anti-State Struggle'' organization who may be linked to 17 November. The group continued to attack official Greek targets, including the shooting in December of a Greek parliamentarian and the bombings of tax offices.

Spain Incidents of international terrorism in Spain fell sharply. Neither of the country's major terrorist groups--Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) or the First October Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO)--mounted attacks in Spain during the Barcelona Olympics or the Seville World's Fair.

ETA suffered a severe setback early in 1992 when Spanish and French police arrested three of its top leaders and more than 100 terrorists and collaborators, thereby disrupting its financial and logistic infrastructure. Midlevel leaders and several experienced terrorists remain at large, however, and ETA claimed responsibility for several attacks against Spanish officials and against Spanish and French interests in France and Italy. The preferred ETA targets continue to be Spanish business interests, National Police, Guardia Civil, and the military, but not foreign nationals.

GRAPO carried out several low-level bombings against Spanish targets this year. Fernando Silva Sande, one of its key leaders, escaped from prison in March and remains at large. Although GRAPO is opposed to Spanish membership in NATO and to the US military presence in Spain, it did not attack US or NATO targets in 1992. In December paramilitary police arrested Laureano Ortega Ortega, leader of the group's last known operational cell in Spain.

Turkey Among European groups, the Turkish revolutionary leftist group Dev Sol remains the major terrorist threat to Americans. US military personnel and commercial facilities are prime targets. The group tried to assassinate a US religious hospital administrator with a car bomb in Istanbul in July and also attacked the US Consulate General in Istanbul twice, in April and July. Dev Sol currently is recovering from the arrests of a number of its leaders and raids on several safehouses in the spring and summer of 1992.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) poses a growing threat to US personnel and facilities in Turkey, even though the group is not targeting Americans directly. It started as a rural-based insurgency but over the last year has increased operations in major cities such as Istanbul, Adana, and Izmir as well as in the Anatolia tourist region. In the summer and fall of 1992, the PKK launched six attacks on Turkish/Western joint-venture oil facilities in southeastern Turkey, firebombed several commuter ferries, burned three passenger trains and derailed a fourth, and probably was responsible for firing at a Turkish airliner departing from

Adana. Although no deaths resulted, such attacks markedly increase the chances of random injury to US citizens. The Turkish military campaign against the PKK in Iraq and Turkey killed hundreds of guerrillas but did not deal a fatal blow to the group.

The shadowy Turkish Islamic Jihad remains a threat to US interests in Turkey. The group has claimed responsibility for eight operations since 1985, including car-bomb attacks that killed a US serviceman in October 1991 and an Israeli diplomat in March 1992. The group appears to be comprised of local fundamentalists sympathetic to Tehran. All of its targets have been external enemies of the Iranian regime.

United Kingdom In 1992, as in 1991, there were no incidents of international terrorism in the United Kingdom. Sectarian violence, however, produced 84 terrorist-related deaths, only slightly fewer than the 94 in 1991. For the first time in the 24-year-old conflict, victims (38) of Protestant loyalist attacks exceeded those (34) of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). There have been 3,029 sectarian terrorist-related deaths since 1969.

The Strand talks aimed at bringing together all parties on the Northern Ireland question ended in November with the fall of the Irish Government. Nevertheless, while the talks have not provided any major breakthroughs, all parties appear interested in pursuing them.

The PIRA remains by far the most active and lethal terrorist group in Western Europe. In April, following the British election, it exploded a van bomb--the largest ever detonated on the British mainland--in London's financial district, killing three people and wounding more than 90 others, including one American. The amount of property damage caused by this single attack is estimated to be $1.5 billion. The PIRA launched a bombing spree in London against train stations, hotels, and shopping areas in the autumn of 1992--16 attacks in October alone--that resembled its terror campaign of the mid-1970s. The latest round would have been even more devastating had police not found and defused three bombs loaded in abandoned vans; two of the three contained over 1 ton of explosives each. British insurance companies announced at the end of the year that terrorism riders on building insurance would be dropped because of the large costs of bomb damage.

Former Yugoslavia During 1992 regions of the former Yugoslavia were convulsed by ethnic and religious conflict. The death toll in this violence was great, and the range of human rights abuses, horrific crimes, and atrocities against civilians was more extensive than any similar situation in Europe since World War II. The US Government has consistently condemned this violence and kept under close scrutiny the possible international terrorist dimension of the situation.

Former Soviet Union In the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, there were activities traditionally associated with terrorism--such as bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings. They generally have been related to civil wars and have not been directed against foreign interests. The potential for ethnic-based terrorism is growing as national groups assert themselves following decades of Communist-imposed ``peaceful coexistence.'' Moreover, the Central Asian region in particular offers potentially fertile ground for some Middle Eastern groups, particularly Iran-supported Hizballah, to operate or seek recruits.

[End of Document]

Blue Bar

Patterns of Global Terrorism Contents