| Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999|
Latin America Overview
Although much of Latin America continued to be free from terrorist attacks, Colombia, Peru, and the triborder region experienced terrorist activity. In Colombia, insurgent and paramilitary terrorist groups continued to pose a significant threat to the country's national security and to the security of innocent civilians caught up in the conflict. Despite the beginnings of a slow and sometimes unsure peace process, Colombia's two largest guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), failed to moderate their terrorist attacks. The ELN carried out several high-profile kidnappings, including the hijacking in April of an aircraft carrying 46 persons and the kidnapping in May of a church congregation that resulted in 160 hostages. The FARC increased its attacks on Colombian security officials and attempted to use kidnapped soldiers and police officers as bargaining chips in negotiations. The FARC also kidnapped and killed three US nongovernmental organization workers in March and outraged international public opinion by refusing to turn over the perpetrators to the proper judicial authorities. The FARC continued refusing to account for the three New Tribes Missionaries it kidnapped in 1993.
Over the year, US concern grew over the involvement of the FARC, the ELN, and paramilitary groups in protecting narcotics trafficking. Estimates of the profits to terrorist groups from their involvement in narcotics ranged into the hundreds of millions of dollars. During 1999 the Colombian Army trained, equipped, and fielded its first counternarcotics battalion, designed to support national police efforts to break terrorist links to narcotics production.
In a development in the investigation of the bombing in 1992 of the Israeli Embassy, the Supreme Court of Argentina released in May a report identifying the cause as a car bomb and issued an international arrest warrant for Hizballah terrorist leader Imad Mughniyah. Argentine authorities similarly brought charges against all suspects being held in connection with the bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Community Center (AMIA) in 1994.
Peru's determination to combat terrorism diminished the capabilities of both the Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Peruvian authorities arrested and prosecuted several of the few remaining active SL members in 1999, including Principal Regional Committee leader Oscar Alberto Ramirez Durand. Nonetheless, the SL continued to attack government targets in the Peruvian countryside. A particularly deadly skirmish occurred in November, leaving five soldiers and six guerrilla fighters dead. The MRTA has not conducted a major terrorist operation since the end of the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima in April 1997.
Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay consolidated efforts to stem the illicit activities of individuals linked to Islamist terrorist groups in the triborder region and cooperated in promoting regional counterterrorist efforts. Argentina led efforts to create the Inter-American Committee on Counterterrorism within the Organization of American States (OAS).
Colombian insurgent groups and paramilitaries continued to fund their activities by protecting narcotics traffickers. Estimates of the profits to terrorist groups from their involvement in narcotics ranged into the hundreds of millions of dollars. In 1999 the Colombian Army trained, equipped, and fielded its first counternarcotics battalion, designed to support national police efforts to break terrorist links to narcotics production.
The FARC and ELN also generated income by kidnapping Colombians and foreigners for ransom and extorting money from businesses and individuals in the Colombian countryside. In addition, both insurgent groups attacked the nation's energy infrastructure--including US commercial interests--by bombing oil pipelines and destroying the electric power grid. US citizens who fell victim to guerrilla terrorism, including three Indian rights workers the FARC kidnapped in Colombia and murdered in Venezuela in March, were targeted because of wealth or opportunity rather than their nationality. The whereabouts of the three New Tribes missionaries kidnapped by the FARC in 1993 remain unknown.
In December, President Pastrana extended the FARC's demilitarized zone (DMZ) through 7 June 2000. Reports of FARC abuses inside the DMZ continued to reduce the FARC's popularity. Colombia's peace commissioner asserted that Bogota would not enter official peace talks or a "National Convention" with the ELN until all remaining hostages were released.
Peru's tough antiterrorist legislation and improved military intelligence diminished the capabilities of both the SL and the MRTA. Both groups failed to launch a significant terrorist operation in Lima in 1999 and generally limited their activities to low-level attacks and propaganda in the rural areas. The SL continued to attack government targets in the Peruvian countryside. Deadly clashes between the SL and the military continued in the central and southern regions as soldiers pursued two columns of approximately 60 to 80 rebels, led by "Comrade Alipio," through the southern jungle region. A particularly deadly skirmish occurred in November, leaving five soldiers and six guerrilla fighters dead. The MRTA has not conducted a major terrorist operation since the end of the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima in April 1997.
The Government of Peru requested the extradition of SL member and suspected terrorist Cecilia Nunez Chipana from Venezuela. The Government of Uruguay informed Peru that MRTA member Luis Alberto Samaniego, whom Uruguay refused to extradite in 1996, had disappeared.
Triborder Region: Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay
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