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Growing Peril to Diplomats

October 30, 2002

Jordanian officials rounded up dozens of people Tuesday, searching for the killer of Laurence Foley, a top official of the U.S. Agency for International Development. If extremists are found responsible for the shooting of Foley outside his home in Amman, the capital, it will be the latest example of the danger of representing this country abroad at a time of increasing disappointment with and even hatred of the United States.

Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed Adwan said politics rather than robbery probably motivated the killer. Although Jordan generally has been considered a safe posting for diplomats, several Islamic militant groups are entrenched, and anger at America for its strong backing of Israel next door is widespread. More than half of Jordan's population is Palestinian, and officials have tried to keep militants from using the country as a staging area for attacks in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.

U.S. embassies and diplomats have been periodic targets of extremists for many years. A group in Greece that opposed a 1970s military coup killed several American diplomats before being broken up this year. Al Qaeda bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing hundreds of people, several of them diplomats.

The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, repeatedly sought a new embassy in Nairobi before the attack, complaining that the existing structure was vulnerable to car bombs. Since those bombings, the State Department has improved security at many embassies and residences of diplomats. After the Sept. 11 attacks, security officials in Southeast Asia learned of plans to attack embassies and personnel there, causing embassies to be closed periodically.

One hundred percent security is not possible, and diplomats are told to be alert to threats and to vary their work habits and driving routes. America cannot develop its policies based on whether they please others, but it does need to recognize the threat from terrorists and do as much as possible to protect the men and women who execute those policies.

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