U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
1997 APRIL: PATTERNS OF GLOBAL TERRORISM, 1996
Office of the Secretary
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Philip C. Wilcox, Jr.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
During 1996 there were 296 acts of international terrorism, the lowest
annual total in 25 years and 144 fewer than in 1995. In contrast, the total
number of casualties was one of the highest ever recorded: 311 persons
killed and 2,652 wounded. A single bombing in Sri Lanka killed 90 persons
and wounded more than 1,400 others.
Two-thirds of the attacks were bombings or firebombings. Only about
one-sixth of the total number (45) resulted in fatalities. Approximately
one-fourth (73) were anti-US attacks, and most of those were low-intensity
bombings of oil pipelines in Colombia owned jointly by the Government of
Colombia and Western companies but seen as US targets by Colombian
Approximately one in four attacks (76) recorded last year were part of
an ongoing terrorist campaign being waged by the Kurdistan Workers' Party
(PKK) in Germany. Most of these attacks were minor bombings that produced
no casualties and caused little damage. The level of PKK attacks during
1996 was significantly lower than in previous years.
Among the significant attacks during the year:
- On 25 June a large fuel truck exploded outside the US military's Khubar
Towers housing facility near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US citizens
and wounding some 500 persons.
- On 17 December terrorists belonging to Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Movement (MRTA) took over the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima
during a diplomatic reception, taking some 500 persons hostage, including
eight US officials who were released after five days. The group's primary
demand was the release of convicted MRTA terrorists from prison. At year's
end, 81 hostages remained in captivity, and attempts to resolve the siege
peacefully were ongoing.
- There were several deadly bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by the
Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS). On 25 February a suicide bomber blew
up a bus in Jerusalem, killing 26 persons, including three US citizens, and
injuring at least 80 others, including another three US citizens. On 3
March a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device on a bus in Jerusalem,
killing 19 persons, including six Romanians, and injuring six others. On 4
March a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside Dizengoff
Center, a large shopping mall in Tel Aviv, killing 20 persons and injuring
75 others, including two US citizens.
- The deadliest attack of the year occurred in Sri Lanka on 31 January,
when terrorists belonging to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) rammed an explosives-laden truck into the Central Bank in the
heart of downtown Colombo, killing 90 persons and wounding more than 1,400
others. Among the wounded were two US citizens, six Japanese, and one Dutch
national. The explosion caused major damage to the Central Bank building,
an American Express office, the Intercontinental Hotel, and several other
- On 9 February a bomb detonated in a parking garage in the Docklands
area of London, killing two persons and wounding more than 100 others,
including two US citizens. The Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility
for the attack.
Twenty-four US citizens died in international terrorist attacks last
year, more than twice the number that died in 1995. Nineteen were killed in
the 25 June truck bombing of the US military housing facility near Dhahran,
Saudi Arabia. This was the highest number of US citizens killed in a single
act of international terrorism since the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103, in
which 189 US citizens died. Five US citizens died in bus bombings and
drive-by shootings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Two hundred and fifty US
citizens were wounded in acts of terrorism around the world last year, five
times the number injured in 1995.
There were no international terrorist attacks in the United States
during the year.
On 19 July a US district court in Washington, DC, convicted Omar
Mohammed Ali Rezaq of air piracy in connection with the 1985 terrorist
hijacking of Egypt Air Flight 648. The Athens-to-Cairo flight was diverted
to Malta by Rezaq and two other hijackers. On the plane, Rezaq separated US
and Israeli passengers from the others and shot them in the head at point
blank range. One US citizen and one Israeli died; two US citizens and one
Israeli survived their wounds. When Egyptian commandos stormed the plane,
dozens more died. Rezaq, the sole surviving hijacker, was tried and
convicted in Malta on various charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison,
but he was released after serving only seven years. With cooperation from
the Governments of Nigeria and Ghana, FBI agents arrested Rezaq in Nigeria
in 1993 and brought him to the United States to be tried for air
piracy. Rezaq, a member of the Abu Nidal organization, claimed at his trial
that he had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was therefore
insane at the time he hijacked the airplane. He further claimed that,
because of his insanity, he could not be held criminally liable for his
conduct. The jury found Rezaq guilty and rejected his claim that he was
insane at the time he committed the crime. In October Rezaq was sentenced
to life imprisonment.
On 5 September Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan
Amin Shah were convicted of a terrorist conspiracy to plant bombs aboard a
number of US passenger airliners operating in East Asia. Yousef also was
found guilty of placing a bomb aboard a Philippine airliner bound for Tokyo
in December 1995 that exploded in midair, killing one person and injuring
several others. This bombing was intended as a "trial run" for
the planned multiple attacks against US aircraft, which were to take place
over two days. Yousef is awaiting trial on charges that he was involved in
the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.
On 22 September an Asian country turned over to US custody suspected
Japanese Red Army terrorist Tsutomu Shirosaki to stand trial for a 1986
mortar attack against the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.