[End of Document]
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1997
Europe and Eurasia Overview
Europe and Eurasia Overview
The number of terrorist incidents in Western Europe remained low during 1997. Terrorist acts by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) declined in Germany as PKK leader Ocalan attempted to get out from under Germany's tough sanctions on terrorist organizations.
Spain and France continued to cooperate in bringing to justice members of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist organization, while Spanish authorities have offered to negotiate with Basque groups that foreswear violence. Spanish authorities arrested, tried, and jailed the leadership of the ETA's political wing, the Herri Batasuna.
Although no major terrorist acts took place in France, security forces maintained a high public visibility as a precaution against repeats of the deadly 1996 bombing of a commuter train in Paris.
In Germany, acts of terrorist violence attributable to the PKK declined, although the PKK remains actively engaged in criminal activities, principally extortion and aggravated assault. A judgment by a court in Berlin in April in the so-called Mykonos trial found that the highest levels of Iran's political leadership followed a deliberate policy of murdering political opponents who lived outside the country. In March 1996 a German court had issued an arrest warrant for former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Fallahian in this case.
In the United Kingdom, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced another cease-fire, thereby making it possible for Sinn Fein to join the multiparty talks on Northern Ireland's future. Recalcitrant elements on both the Republican and Loyalist sides, however, showed their determination to continue the armed struggle over whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or be united with the Republic of Ireland. At the end of the year, Republican prisoners in Belfast's Maze prison shot a rival prisoner, Loyalist terrorist leader Billy "King Rat" Wright. Within a day Wright's followers shot and killed a former IRA member in County Tyrone, and several other killings of Catholics followed.
Greek Government efforts during 1997 to crack down on indigenous terrorism continue to yield few successes. There has been no known progress in bringing members of the 17 November terrorist organization to justice. A major suspect in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque was extradited to Germany, however. An Italian Red Brigades terrorist who had been living freely in Greece for 12 years was arrested and entered into extradition proceedings. (A Greek court released him in early 1998).
In eastern Turkey, authorities and security forces remain locked in a war of attrition with the terrorist group PKK. There are also signs that the DHKP/C (formerly the Dev Sol terrorist organization) may be resurfacing and targeting Turkish Government figures and US military and commercial interests.
There were numerous attacks targeted against the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, most consisting of small-scale bombings. Terrorist acts and threats have been triggered by dissatisfaction over the international community's handling of voter registration procedures, the return of refugees, and the apprehension of suspected war criminals.
In Russia, although the armed conflict between Federal forces and Chechen separatists has been resolved, there were numerous incidents of kidnapping and other acts. In Tajikistan, violence claimed the lives of Russian servicemen and a French humanitarian aid worker. Azerbaijan and Georgia also saw continued ethnic-related terrorist violence.
In October, Austrian police arrested a man suspected of a xenophobic letter bomb campaign since 1993 that has claimed the lives of four members of the Roma (gypsy) minority in Burgenland Province and injured 15 persons in Austria and Germany. The ongoing investigation convinced Austrian authorities that the suspect acted on his own and invented the name Bavarian Liberation Army, which was used in claims of responsibility for most of the bombings.
In June an Austrian investigative judge interrogated international terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, alias "Carlos the Jackal," who is incarcerated in Paris. The terrorist is believed to have masterminded the terrorist attack on the OPEC Headquarters in Vienna in 1975.
On 20 June unidentified individuals detonated a bomb at the Turkish Embassy in Brussels. An anonymous caller claimed the attack in the name of the "Gourken Yanikian Military Unite," a covername used by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) terrorist organization during the 1980s. ASALA had not conducted terrorist attacks in several years, however, and it is unclear whether the attack was carried out by ASALA, individual Armenians with no terrorist affiliation, or another terrorist group--such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party--using Yanikian as a covername.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Numerous attacks occurred against the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1997. Most of these attacks consisted of small-scale bombings that resulted in material damage and few casualties. However, during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Bosnia and Herzegovina in April, an unidentified assailant planted over 23 remote-controlled landmines underneath a bridge that was part of the Pope's motorcade route. Acting on a report from a witness claiming to have seen a suspicious person near the bridge, police discovered and defused the mines a few hours before the Pope's arrival. No group claimed responsibility for the attempted attack.
Following the apprehension of two indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals in Prijedor by the Stabilization Force (SFOR) troops on 10 July, unidentified assailants mounted over 20 improvised bombings against facilities and individuals belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Police Task Force, and SFOR. In December unknown attackers threw a handgrenade at a Dutch SFOR compound the day after a Dutch SFOR unit apprehended two indicted Bosnian Croat war criminals near Vitez. Other small-scale bombings against the international community presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina occurred to protest the handling of local elections and voter registration procedures and the return of refugees and displaced persons to their prewar homes.
In November, Bosnian security services began an operation to apprehend former mujahedin--foreign Islamic fighters who served in the Bosnian Army during the war--suspected of involvement in a variety of criminal activities, including the murders of several Bosnian Croats and bombings of Croat houses and churches. By yearend, roughly 20 Arab and Bosnian Muslims had been arrested by Bosnian authorities.
On 18 January, Danish police arrested several neo-Nazis in connection with the mailing of several letter bombs to targets in the United Kingdom. The bombs, which were mailed from Sweden, were intercepted by Swedish police and safely detonated. The remains of the bombs were provided to Danish police as evidence on 20 January. In September a Danish court sentenced three of the neo-Nazis in connection with this case.
French authorities continue to maintain a state of high alert in the aftermath of a wave of terrorist bombings by Algerian Islamic extremists during 1995 and 1996. The French mounted extensive security operations to protect Algeria's 17 consulates in France during the Algerian legislative elections in June, in which an estimated 2 million Algerians resident in France were eligible to vote. On 28 February a bomb exploded outside the American dormitory at Cite Universitaire near Paris. No one was injured in the incident, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
(On 29 January 1998 antiterrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Brugiere officially completed his investigation into the 1989 downing of UTA flight 772. French prosecutors are examining his report in advance of a future trial, in absentia, of the Libyan intelligence agents believed to be responsible for the attack.)
The trial of notorious international terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, alias "Carlos the Jackal," began in mid-December. Later that month, Ramirez was convicted by a French court for the 1975 murders of two French investigators and a Lebanese national.
Factions of the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica (FLNC) continued to carry out a campaign of low-level bombings, primarily directed against symbolic targets, such as banks and police stations. The vast majority of these bombings took place on Corsica, but several attacks were mounted on the French mainland.
French authorities continued to cooperate closely with their Spanish counterparts during 1997 to track down Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorists operating or seeking refuge in France. French authorities arrested more than 140 suspected ETA members and supporters, tried over 60 of these individuals, and extradited 23 ETA terrorists to Spain, including two of the group's key leaders. In May the French Basque group Ipparratarek claimed responsibility for bombing a fast-food restaurant in Saint Jean de Luz, causing extensive material damage but no injuries.
The trial of Jaba Ioselliani, former head of the Georgian Mkhedrioni paramilitary organization, began on 1 December. He and 14 others are accused of conspiring against Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, culminating in an assassination attempt against the President in August 1995. The Georgian Government continues to seek the extradition of Igor Giorgadze, former head of the Georgian Security Ministry, from Russia for his alleged involvement in the plot against Shevardnadze.
PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, in an ongoing effort to encourage the German Government to lift its four-year-old ban on his organization, reiterated his 1996 public promise to forbid PKK-instigated acts of violence on German soil. Indeed, acts of terrorist violence attributable to the PKK in Germany for the year declined significantly and PKK demonstrations were peaceful. The PKK actively engaged, however, in criminal activities, principally extortion, recruitment, and aggravated assault. (In January 1998 the German Federal prosecutor announced that the PKK would no longer be considered a terrorist organization. However, the German Interior Minister stated that the PKK remains a banned criminal organization in Germany and that German authorities will continue to work on PKK prosecutions.)
German prosecutors indicted the former PKK European spokesman, Kani Yilmaz (a.k.a. Faisal Dunlayiei), charging him with being one of the leaders of a terrorist organization and indirectly participating in two series of arson attacks on Turkish establishments in Germany in June and November 1993. (In February 1998 he was convicted and sentenced to seven and a half years. He was released on parole, however, because he had already served more than half of his sentence in pretrial detention in the United Kingdom and Germany.)
An important terrorism trial in Berlin concluded in April 1997. The Mykonos trial involved five defendants--an Iranian and four Lebanese--suspected in the 1992 killing of Iranian Kurdish dissidents, one of whom was then Secretary General of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), in Berlin's Mykonos restaurant. A German judge found the Iranian and three of the Lebanese guilty of the murders. Two defendants, Kazem Darabi and Abbas Rhayel, were sentenced to life in prison. Two others, Youssef Amin and Muhammad Atris, received sentences of 11 years and five years and three months, respectively. The fifth defendant, Ataollah Ayad, was acquitted. The court stated that the Government of Iran had followed a deliberate policy of liquidating the regime's opponents who lived outside Iran, including the opposition KDPI. The judge further stated that the Mykonos murders had been approved at the most senior levels of the Iranian Government by an extra-legal committee whose members included the Minister of Intelligence and Security, the Foreign Minister, the President, and the Supreme Leader. In March 1996 a German court had issued an arrest warrant in this case for Ali Fallahian, the former Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security.
Germany in November 1997 began the trial of five defendants in the 1986 La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin, which killed three persons, including two US servicemen, and wounded more than 200, many of them seriously. Both Italy and Greece arrested suspects in the case during 1997 and extradited them to Germany for trial. In his opening remarks, the German prosecutor said the bombing was "definitely an act of assassination commissioned by the Libyan state." German authorities have issued warrants for four Libyan officials for their role in the case. The four are believed to be in Libya.
Greek Government efforts during 1997 to crack down on indigenous terrorism yielded few successes. Revolutionary Organization 17 November claimed responsibility for its 22nd assassination; previous victims include five US Government employees. On 28 May, Greek shipping tycoon Constantine Peratikos was shot to death in broad daylight on an Athens street. The group issued a manifesto claiming that Peratikos was targeted because he allegedly misused a large government bailout and threatened to close down his shipyard, which would have forced the layoff of 2,000 employees. No member of 17 November has ever been arrested.
Greece's numerous leftist and anarchist groups stepped up the tempo of attacks in 1997, predominantly with Molotov cocktail attacks and low-level bombings against property. Some of the leftist groups--in particular, the Fighting (or Militant) Guerrilla Formation (FGF)--recently have attempted to assassinate Greek officials with improvised explosive devices. For example, the FGF attempted to bomb the home of a former Greek Government counterterrorism adviser in February--the bomb was discovered and dismantled--and also claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded at the Minister of Development's parliamentary constituency office. No arrests have been made in these cases.
On 1 December, the Athens Court of Appeals overturned a 10-year prison sentence and acquitted suspected terrorist George Balafas of aggravated weapons possession and related indictments, including accessory to murder. Balafas is suspected of having links--if not direct involvement--with the Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA), one of the country's more deadly terrorist groups.
Kurdish nationalist groups--including the terrorist PKK--enjoy widespread sympathy and some support among the Greek public. In April, 157 members of the Greek Parliament signed a petition calling for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to be officially invited to Greece.
The Greek Government extradited German citizen Andrea Haeusler to Germany in January for her alleged participation in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. In November, Greek police arrested former Italian Red Brigade member Enrico Bianco in western Greece and initiated procedures for his extradition to Italy, where he had been convicted in absentia. (A Greek court denied the extradition request in January 1998 and Bianco was released.)
Several incidents in Italy during 1997 involved domestic anarchists, although none of these resulted in casualties. A leftist group called Revolutionary Action claimed responsibility for a bombing on 25 April outside Milan's city hall. In May a hand-grenade was found in a store located near the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The gallery had been the target of an anarchist bombing in 1993. In November, five days before local elections, a bomb was discovered before it detonated outside the Palace of Justice in Rome, site of Italy's highest court. The investigation is ongoing, but authorities suspect local anarchists were responsible.
In January several unarmed persons broke into the Peruvian Consulate in Padua and defaced the building with graffiti. Although the Peruvian MRTA claimed responsibility for the incident, Italian police believe Italian supporters of MRTA probably were responsible.
Eight members of a domestic separatist group took over the bell tower in Venice's main square, Piazza San Marco, on 9 May. The suspects were arrested and tried in July on charges of kidnapping for subversive purposes and unauthorized possession of weapons; all eight were found guilty and received sentences ranging from four years and nine months house arrest to six years in prison.
Italian authorities scored notable successes against foreign terrorists during 1997. In June a court in Turin sentenced five members of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) to prison terms of one to three years on charges of forgery and membership in a criminal organization. In August, Italian police arrested Libyan citizen Eter Abulgassem Musbah, a suspect in the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin. Abulgassem was promptly extradited to Germany to stand trial for the La Belle bombing. In September, Italian authorities in Bologna arrested 14 foreign nationals suspected of belonging to the GIA. Nine of the suspects were later released due to lack of evidence.
In Russia, although the armed conflict between Federal forces and Chechen separatists was resolved, there were numerous incidents of kidnapping. Most of these involved ransom demands, although political motives cannot be excluded. Insurgents have been aided with equipment and training by mujahedin with extensive links to Middle Eastern and Southwest Asian terrorists. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, at yearend 71 hostages remained in captivity, including 15 foreign nationals, five of whom are journalists and 10 are NGO representatives.
Despite numerous Spanish counterterrorism successes and increased international cooperation with France and Latin American countries, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist group continued its campaign of murder, bombings, kidnappings, and street violence. ETA killed 13 persons last year, as compared to five during 1996. ETA's primary targets remained members of the Spanish security forces and judicial and prison officials, but the group also stepped up attacks against local politicians belonging to the ruling Popular Party. ETA's kidnapping and murder of a Popular Party town councilor in July provoked widespread international condemnation and anti-ETA demonstrations involving millions of people throughout Spain.
The Spanish Government has energetically and successfully sought extradition from countries in which ETA fugitives reside. Spanish-French cooperation during 1997 led to the arrest in France of more than 140 persons directly or indirectly connected with ETA, including several of the group's key leaders. Some 60 ETA activists went to trial in France during the past year, and Spanish authorities negotiated the extradition to Spain of 23 terrorists. Spain also has sought extraditions from Latin American countries, successfully gaining extradition of ETA fugitives from the Dominican Republic and Mexico during 1997.
The Spanish Government moved for the first time in 1997 to prosecute ETA's legal political wing, the Herri Batasuna (HB) political party, on charges of criminal collaboration with a terrorist organization. The charges stemmed from HB's dissemination during the 1996 national election campaign of a video containing footage of ETA terrorists advocating violence. On 1 December sentences of seven years in prison and fines of about $3,500 were announced for all 23 members of HB's executive committee.
The leftwing terrorist group First of October Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) remained inactive during 1997, even though some of the group's leaders were released from prison.
Spanish authorities moved forcefully against foreign terrorists in their country, breaking up a ring of the Algerian GIA operating in Valencia in April.
In an effort to undermine Sweden's bid to host the summer Olympic Games in the year 2000, "We Who Built Sweden," a previously unknown group, exploded several bombs at Swedish sports stadiums.
Security for the international community in Tajikistan deteriorated as militant followers of renegade Tajik warlords Rezvon and Bahrom Sodirov resorted again to kidnapping employees of international organizations, a precedent the group established in December 1996. In an incident that began on 4 February, armed militants affiliated with Bahrom Sodirov took UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) personnel, Russian journalists, and the Tajik Security Minister hostage. Russian and Tajik negotiators conceded to Bahrom's demands for safe transport of his brother Rezvon Sodirov and his followers from Afghanistan to a camp outside Dushanbe, as well as for weapons and ammunition, and all the hostages were subsequently released. Authorities captured Bahrom following this incident. On 18 November, Rezvon Sodirov masterminded the kidnapping of two French humanitarian aid workers and demanded Bahrom's release from prison. The incident ended violently by month's end; one hostage was either released or escaped on 29 November, but the other hostage was fatally wounded on 30 November during a shootout between the kidnappers and government forces in a government rescue attempt. Reports of Rezvon Sodirov's death in the shootout have not been confirmed.
Unidentified assailants continued sporadic attacks against Russian servicemen in Tajikistan. On 18 February terrorists, probably followers of Rahmon "Hitler" Sanginov, assassinated two ethnic Russian, off-duty US Embassy guards. The assassinations were consistent with a surge in attacks against Russians in Tajikistan; authorities concluded that the victims' affiliation with the US Embassy was not a factor in the attacks.
The Turkish Communist Laborers' Party/Leninist (TKEP/L) placed two improvised explosive devices against the wall of the US Consulate in Istanbul on 5 October. The police removed the devices before detonation, but the event marked the first time that the TKEP/L targeted a US Government facility. Ensuing police sweeps reportedly wrapped up the group's leader and most of its senior cadre members.
The virulently anti-US Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)--formerly known as Dev Sol--conducted three significant attacks during the year: all were light antiarmor weapon (LAW) rocket attacks against Turkish security facilities in Istanbul. The three attacks were flawed in execution: on 16 June the rocket fired at the Turkish National Police (TNP) headquarters missed and struck a wall; the LAW rocket launched against the Harbiye Officers' Club on 14 July hit the wall of the building but caused only minimal damage; and on 16 September the DHKP/C fired another rocket at the TNP headquarters, which glanced off a wall and broke apart. The TNP's counterterrorism operations against the DHKP/C may be forcing the group to use less experienced cadre members and standoff weapons--such as LAW rockets--rather then the group's preferred close-in handgun assassinations.
The Turkish Islamic fundamentalist group, Vasat, claimed responsibility for throwing a grenade at a book fair in Gaziantep on 14 September, killing one person and injuring 24. The attack was the most egregious by Turkey's increasingly violent Islamic terrorist groups, which include Turkish Hizballah and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders/Front (IBDA/C). The latter is suspected of masterminding the 2 December bombing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Cathedral in Istanbul.
PKK activities in Turkey were lower in 1997 than during the previous year, in part due to Turkish military operations into northern Iraq to disrupt the PKK's infrastructure for infiltrating its members into Turkey. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, residing in Syria, once again publicly threatened to target Turkey's tourist sites with bombs in an attempt to disrupt the country's vital tourist industry, but these attacks did not materialize.
In 1997 the IRA continued a campaign of violence begun in February 1996 against Northern Irish police and UK military and economic targets in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. July, however, brought an IRA cessation of hostilities--its second cease-fire in three years--in an effort to secure a place for Sinn Fein, its political wing, in the Ulster peace talks. The IRA cease-fire prompted an increase in activity among Republican and Loyalist splinter terrorist groups opposed to the peace process. The Continuity Army Council (CAC)--also known as the Continuity Irish Republican Army--and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) increased their attacks to protest the talks. The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)--a new group in 1997--attacked both Republican activists and Catholic civilians with no paramilitary affiliations.
The IRA increased the frequency of its attacks during the first months of 1997 in anticipation of British elections on 1 May. By 30 April the group had conducted 29 attacks, as compared with 11 in all of 1996. IRA targets included economic and infrastructure targets on the UK mainland, and their attacks caused massive disruption while avoiding civilian casualties:
- Two IRA bombs damaged railway lines in Wilmslow, England, on 26 March.
- IRA bomb warnings closed the M1, M5, and M6 highways, which connect London and points north, on 3 April. Police found and detonated two bombs, one of which contained up to one and a half pounds of Semtex explosive, and several hoax devices.
- IRA bomb threats on 21 April snarled British transportation, with police temporarily closing 17 rail and subway stations: London's Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, and Stanstead airports; Trafalgar Square; and the eastern dock of the Port of Dover.
The landslide victory of the British Labor Party headed by Tony Blair in the 1 May election led to preliminary talks with Sinn Fein and ultimately to an IRA announcement on 19 July of a cessation of hostilities to take effect the following day. In early September, Sinn Fein leaders agreed to the so-called Mitchell principles of nonviolence--six statements drafted by George Mitchell, currently chairman of the Northern Ireland multiparty talks, that commit all parties to renouncing the use of violence, disarming paramilitary groups, and abiding by a peaceful resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict. Sinn Fein thus secured the party's seat in the Ulster peace talks. In response, hardline IRA members called an extraordinary conference to discuss the IRA's future strategy. The conference delegates reaffirmed Sinn Fein's current peace strategy, but some 20 IRA members resigned from the group in protest. Days later a dozen members of Sinn Fein from Dundalk, Ireland, walked out of a meeting protesting the party's adherence to the Mitchell principles. Since then, most of these dissidents have returned to the fold. However, Bernadette Sands, sister of deceased IRA icon Bobby Sands, reportedly established the "Thirty-Two County Sovereignty Committee" to oppose Sinn Fein's political negotiation and the IRA cease-fire.
In October the US Secretary of State did not include the IRA among 30 groups that she officially designated as foreign terrorist organizations under recently passed antiterrorism legislation. The Secretary took note of the 19 July announcement by the IRA of an unequivocal cease-fire. She also noted the subsequent decision by the British Government that the cease-fire was "genuine in word and deed," permitting Sinn Fein to join inclusive, all-party talks in Belfast. The Department stated that, under these circumstances, the Secretary would continue to review the IRA and that any resumption of violence by the group would have a direct impact on her review.
Following the IRA cease-fire, Republican splinter terrorist groups increased their attacks, seeking to replace the IRA as the dominant Republican terrorist group. On 16 September the CAC exploded a car bomb in Markethill, Northern Ireland--a predominantly Protestant village--causing extensive damage to a police station, a cattle market, and commercial and private premises. The CAC also claimed responsibility for a 30 October bomb attack, which caused minor damage to a British Government office in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. On 19 November a CAC bomb exploded outside Belfast City Hall, causing minor damage.
Gunmen from the INLA murdered a Northern Irish police trainee in Belfast on 9 May. The INLA also carried out several attacks against Northern Irish police and British troops in July during three days of heavy rioting in Belfast over controversial Loyalist parades, injuring five police officers and two Protestant teenagers.
The extremist LVF emerged in February 1997 as a rump of the mainstream Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which is maintaining the cease-fire. The LVF is comprised of UVF radicals and other Protestant criminals. It is notorious for its attacks against Republican activists and Northern Irish Catholic civilians with no political or paramilitary affiliations. The LVF claimed responsibility for firebombing Northern Irish tourist information offices on 9 March to protest cross-border arrangements with Ireland. On 12 May LVF terrorists abducted and murdered a veteran member of the Gaelic Athletic Association, a Catholic sports club. The LVF exploded a small bomb in Dundalk, Ireland, on 25 May. Authorities suspect LVF terrorists in the murder of an 18-year-old Catholic girl in Antrim, Northern Ireland. The girl was shot four times in the head, apparently because she had a Protestant boyfriend. In August unidentified gunmen attacked the homes of two prison guards; although the LVF did not claim responsibility, authorities suspect that the attacks were connected to simultaneous LVF prisoner riots. On 6 August, following a public demand that Catholics stay out of Protestant neighborhoods, LVF members attacked a Catholic taxi driver with Molotov cocktails in Armagh, Northern Ireland. The LVF planted three hoax devices in Dundalk, Ireland, and one small but viable bomb at a Dundalk shopping center on 17 November; bomb experts defused the device. Authorities charged the LVF with the murder of a Catholic man in front of St. Enda's Gaelic Athletic Club in Belfast on 5 December.
On 27 December, INLA members imprisoned in Northern Ireland's Maze Prison assassinated fellow inmate Billy "King Rat" Wright, leader of the LVF. Wright was serving an eight-year sentence in the Maze prison. The INLA gunmen smuggled weapons into the prison and shot him five times at close range. Wright's assassination drew an immediate response from his LVF colleagues. That same evening LVF members hijacked buses and set them on fire in Portadown, Northern Ireland. On 28 December three LVF gunmen opened fire on a hotel frequented by Catholics, killing one person and wounding three, including a teenager.
At the end of 1997 the Ulster peace process included parties from both Unionist and Republican camps, including Sinn Fein. Pressure is building for the parties to reach some agreement before the deadline for a settlement in May 1998. (In January 1998, Sinn Fein was banned from the talks until 9 March 1998 because of murders attributed to the IRA.)