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U.S. Assails Terror by Afghanistan : Annual Report Focuses on Bomb Campaign in Pakistan

August 23, 1988|JIM MANN | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The most important development in international terrorism last year was a series of high-casualty bombings carried out by Afghan government agents against targets in Pakistan, the State Department said Monday.

In its annual report on global terrorism, the State Department said the bombing campaign by Afghanistan's Soviet-trained intelligence service killed 234 people and wounded another 1,200 in Pakistan last year. The 127 Afghan-inspired attacks in Pakistan made up more than half of all incidents of state-sponsored terrorism around the world in 1987.

"In view of the close relationship (Afghanistan's intelligence service) has with the KGB . . . we consider it likely that the Soviet Union has been cognizant of Afghan intelligence's overall operations in Pakistan," the report said. Pakistan has been the base for the guerrilla groups attempting to overthrow Afghanistan's Marxist government.

Before Zia's Death

The State Department study was completed before the unexplained plane crash in Pakistan last Wednesday that killed President Zia ul-Haq, several of his top generals and the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. defense attache in Islamabad.

Although one State Department official has said that the Afghan intelligence service "certainly would be high on a list of suspects" in that crash, he and other experts have said that a number of other groups with grievances against Zia and his aides could have been responsible. So far, there is not enough evidence to establish the cause of the crash.

Except for the bombing campaign in Pakistan, the new study concluded that terrorist incidents in the world declined by almost 10% last year from 1986.

There was an especially significant reduction in terrorism in the Middle East. In 1986, terrorist incidents in the Middle East or by Middle Eastern groups in Western Europe killed 450 people and injured another 1,125. Last year, the casualties dropped to 295 killed and 770 wounded.

The State Department attributed the decline to several factors, including improved physical security at offices that are potential targets of terrorism, improved cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts and a reduction in terrorist activity by Libya, Syria and groups in Lebanon.

Despite the drop, the Middle East remained the site of 371 terrorist attacks, or 45% of the 832 incidents recorded in the world last year. If attacks in Western Europe sponsored by Middle Eastern groups are included, the Middle East accounted for half of all the incidents in the world last year.

For Americans, however, the most dangerous region in the world last year remained Latin America. Three countries--Chile, Peru and Colombia--accounted for nearly two-thirds of all the terrorism in Latin America.

Of the 149 terrorist incidents directed against U.S. targets throughout the world in 1987, 47% took place in Latin America, 24% in Western Europe, 16% in Asia, 9% in the Middle East and 4% in Africa.

U.S. Casualties Lower

The number of U.S. casualties from international terrorism dropped last year to seven killed and 47 wounded. In 1986, the casualties were 12 killed and 100 wounded.

According to the report, nine American hostages remain in captivity in Lebanon. "We believe that all of the hostages are held by Lebanese Shia (Muslim) extremists" associated with the Hezbollah, or Party of God, the State Department said. It characterized the Hezbollah as "Iranian-backed Shia extremists."

The motives for holding the hostages, the State Department said, "include to force the release of Shia terrorists imprisoned outside Lebanon, to extract high ransom payments, to inhibit Syrian or other forces from attacking Shia strongholds or to be used as bargaining chips in Iran's confrontation with the West."

The terrorism in Pakistan dates back to 1985, when there were a series of bombings directed at Afghan resistance and refugee camps on Pakistani soil in the border areas of nearby Afghanistan. In 1986, the State Department said, the attacks spread to Pakistani civilians, and last year they spread out from the border areas to the leading cities of Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

In July, 1987, two car bombs exploded in a busy market in Karachi, killing 70 people and wounding more than 200 others.

"Most of the explosive devices recovered in Pakistan during the terrorist campaign have been of Soviet manufacture," said the State Department. "Some of this materiel can be purchased on the international black market, but the time-delay devices used in many of the bombings can be obtained only through Soviet sources."

Last November, Zia maintained that the bombings in Pakistan were carried out "at the behest of the Soviet Union." The State Department said that Soviet officials had "vehemently" denied any complicity in the bombings.

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