Great Seal logo Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1998


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The cowardly and deadly bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 were powerful reminders that the threat of international terrorism still confronts the world. These attacks contributed to a record-high number of casualties during 1998: more than 700 people died and almost 6,000 were wounded. It is essential that all law-abiding nations redouble their efforts to contain this global threat and save lives.

Despite the Embassy bombings, the number of international terrorist attacks actually fell again in 1998, continuing a downward trend that began several years ago. There were no acts of international terrorism in the United States last year. This decrease in international terrorism both at home and abroad reflects the diplomatic and law enforcement progress we have made in discrediting terrorist groups and making it harder for them to operate. It also reflects the improved political climate that has diminished terrorist activity in recent years in various parts of the world.

The United States is engaged in a long-term effort against international terrorism to protect lives and hold terrorists accountable. We will use the full range of tools at our disposal, including diplomacy backed by the use of force when necessary, as well as law enforcement and economic measures.

US Policy

The United States has developed a counterterrorism policy that has served us well over the years and was advanced aggressively during 1998:

This last element is especially important in light of the evolving threat from transnational terrorist groups. These loosely affiliated organizations operate more independently of state sponsors, although those relationships still exist. They are highly mobile and operate globally, raising large amounts of money, training in various countries, and possessing sophisticated technology. The United States must continue to work together with like-minded nations to close down these terrorist networks wherever they are found and make it more difficult for them to operate any place in the world.

The US Response to the Africa Bombings

Following the bombings of the two US Embassies in East Africa, the US Government obtained evidence implicating Usama Bin Ladin's network in the attacks. To preempt additional attacks, the United States launched military strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan on 20 August. That same day, President Clinton amended Executive Order 12947 to add Usama Bin Ladin and his key associates to the list of terrorists, thus blocking their US assets-including property and bank accounts-and prohibiting all US financial transactions with them. As a result of what Attorney General Janet Reno called the most extensive overseas criminal investigation in US history, and working closely with the Kenyan and Tanzanian Governments, the US Government indicted Bin Ladin and 11 of his associates for the two bombings and other terrorist crimes. Several suspects were brought to the United States to stand trial. The Department of State announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any of the suspects anywhere in the world. (1)

New Presidential Decision Directives

On 22 May President Clinton announced the signing of two new Presidential decision directives, or PDDs, on combating terrorism and protecting critical infrastructures.

US Diplomatic Efforts

On 24 August, Secretary Albright, in an effort to bring to justice the two Libyans suspected in the Pan Am 103 bombing, announced a joint US-UK proposal to try them in the Netherlands before a Scottish court with Scottish judges applying Scottish law. The Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement endorsed the proposal. At yearend, however, Libya continued to defy UN Security Council resolutions by refusing to turn over the suspects for trial.

The Group of 8 (G-8) partners intensified their exchange of basic information on persons and groups suspected of terrorist-linked activities. The eight nations also focused their efforts on trying to deprive terrorist groups of the money, acquired through criminal activities or raised by front organizations, used to fund operations. Toward this end, the G-8 placed major emphasis on countering terrorist fundraising and did substantial work to advance a French draft international convention to make such fundraising illegal. The G-8 also worked for the acceptance of a Russian-proposed international convention against nuclear terrorism, discussed improved export controls on explosives and other terrorist-related materials, and considered guidelines for the prevention and resolution of international hostage-taking incidents.

Representatives from the Organization of American States met in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on 23-24 November for the second Inter-American Specialized Conference on Terrorism. They agreed to recommend the creation of an Inter-American Committee on Terrorism to combat the threat in Latin America. They also agreed to establish a central database of information about terrorists, to follow certain guidelines for improving counterterrorism cooperation, and to adopt measures to eliminate terrorist fundraising.

The United States conducts a successful program to train foreign law enforcement personnel in such areas as airport security, bomb detection, maritime security, VIP protection, hostage rescue, and crisis management. To date, we have trained more than 20,000 representatives from more than 100 countries. We also conduct an active research and development program to adapt modern technology for use in defeating terrorists.

As Secretary Albright declared shortly after the US military strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan: "The terrorists should have no illusion: Old Glory will continue to fly wherever we have interests to defend. We will meet our commitments. We will strive to protect our people. And we will wage the struggle against terror on every front, on every continent, with every tool, every day."

Legislative Requirements

This report is submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(a), which requires the Department of State to provide Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of Section (a)(1) and (2) of the Act. As required by legislation, the report includes detailed assessments of foreign countries where significant terrorist acts occurred and countries about which Congress was notified during the preceding five years pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (the so-called terrorism list countries that repeatedly have provided state support for international terrorism). In addition, the report includes all relevant information about the previous year's activities of individuals, terrorist organizations, or umbrella groups known to be responsible for the kidnapping or death of any US citizen during the preceding five years and groups known to be financed by state sponsors of terrorism.

In 1996, Congress amended the reporting requirements contained in the above-referenced law. The amended law requires the Department of State to report on the extent to which other countries cooperate with the United States in apprehending, convicting, and punishing terrorists responsible for attacking US citizens or interests. The law also requires that this report describe the extent to which foreign governments are cooperating, or have cooperated during the previous five years, in preventing future acts of terrorism. As permitted in the amended legislation, the Department of State is submitting such information to Congress in a classified annex to this unclassified report.


No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

The US Government has employed these definitions of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.

Domestic terrorism is a more widespread phenomenon than international terrorism. Because international terrorism has a direct impact on US interests, it is the primary focus of this report. Nonetheless, the report also describes, but does not provide statistics on, significant developments in domestic terrorism.


Adverse mention in this report of individual members of any political, social, ethnic, religious, or national group is not meant to imply that all members of that group are terrorists. Indeed, terrorists represent a small minority of dedicated, often fanatical, individuals in most such groups. It is those small groups-and their actions-that are the subject of this report.

Furthermore, terrorist acts are part of a larger phenomenon of politically inspired violence, and at times the line between the two can become difficult to draw. To relate terrorist events to the larger context, and to give a feel for the conflicts that spawn violence, this report will discuss terrorist acts as well as other violent incidents that are not necessarily international terrorism.

Michael A. Sheehan
Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism


(1) Legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President in 1998 increased the maximum amount of a reward offered under the Counterterrorism Rewards Program from $2 million to $5 million.

(2) For purposes of this definition, the term "noncombatant" is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed or not on duty. For example, in past reports we have listed as terrorist incidents the murders of the following US military personnel: the 19 airmen killed in the bombing of the Khubar Towers housing facility in Saudi Arabia in June 1996; Col. James Rowe, killed in Manila in April 1989; Capt. William Nordeen, US defense attache killed in Athens in June 1988; the two servicemen killed in the La Belle discotheque bombing in West Berlin in April 1986; and the four off-duty US Embassy Marine guards killed in a cafe in El Salvador in June 1985. We also consider as acts of terrorism attacks on military installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does not exist at the site, such as bombings against US bases in Europe, the Philippines, or elsewhere.

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