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World Terrorist Attacks Up 37% in '95

Violence: American interests were increasingly targeted, State Department says in its annual survey.

May 01, 1996|ROBIN WRIGHT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Despite new anti-terrorism legislation and improved global cooperation in the 1990s, international terrorist attacks increased by 37% last year and represent a serious threat to the United States and 50 other countries, according to the State Department's annual survey of incidents, released Tuesday.

Acts of international terrorism worldwide rose from 322 in 1994 to 440 in 1995, making it the worst year since 1991. Attacks against American interests were up 50% from 66 in 1994 to 99 last year.

"Terrorists failed to achieve ultimate political goals, as in the past, but they continued to cause major political, psychological and economic damage," the report says.

Some developments were heartening. International collaboration to pressure state sponsors of terrorism, through economic sanctions and other restrictions, has "largely contained" extremism by many states, including Libya, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba and Syria, according to the survey, "Patterns of Global Terrorism 1995."

"Today [terrorists] are most often in the rear guard, rather than the vanguard. They're predominantly reactionary and anti-democratic. And, in the court of world opinion, they and their causes are increasingly on the defensive," Philip C. Wilcox Jr., the State Department's coordinator for counter-terrorism, said Tuesday at a news conference.

Also in Washington on Tuesday, President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres signed an agreement to cooperate more closely on combating terrorism.

The accord was proposed in March after a series of suicide bombings in Israel that left more than 60 dead. Under the agreement, the United States will provide Israel with $100 million in counter-terrorism aid, including bomb detection technology and new intelligence capabilities.

"Maintaining our resolve for peace [in the Middle East] does not mean . . . turning the other cheek," Clinton said in a brief signing ceremony at the White House. "We must do everything in our power to stop the killing and bring the terrorists to justice."

The White House also announced creation of a U.S.-Israeli committee to seek ways to strengthen the two nations' security ties.

The panel, to be co-chaired by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak, will consider "all options," a senior administration official said, including perhaps a formal defense pact between the two countries.

Clinton is to meet with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat at the White House today to discuss the progress of the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. No formal agreements or announcements are expected, however, a White House official said.

The State Department's terrorism report, meanwhile, identifies Iran as the "premier state sponsor" of terrorism. Its attacks in Europe decreased last year, but Tehran's agents and surrogates are "deeply involved" in both plotting and carrying out extremist acts, the report says. Iran also supports radical groups from North Africa to Central Asia and has been linked to the killing of seven dissidents around the world, the State Department charges.

The number of deaths from international terrorism was almost halved, from 314 in 1994 to 165 last year. Yet the number of injuries increased by a factor of 10--to 6,291. The majority, about 5,500, were victims of the gas attack in Tokyo that has been linked to the Aum Supreme Truth cult, which is a Japanese-based group with foreign branches.

The United States was an exception to the decreasing death toll. The number of Americans killed tripled from four to 12. The only good news is that most attacks on U.S. interests were not conducted in the U.S.; the 1993 World Trade Center bombing remains unusual.

Like other world trends, however, terrorism is in transition. State-sponsored terrorism is increasingly being overshadowed by international attacks carried out by individuals or loosely organized cells or groups, the report says.

With the help of modern technology and transportation, terrorism is also going global, making the perpetrators "more difficult to track and apprehend than members of the old established groups or those sponsored by states," the report warns.

Another trend is a shift in targets. Attacks on U.S. government and military facilities, which peaked at 200 in 1986, declined to 39 in 1995 because of intensive security. Aircraft hijackings also declined. Business bears the brunt of international terrorism today, Wilcox said.

Times staff writer John M. Broder contributed to this report.

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