AFPS Article Banner

97344. Terrorism Declines But Threat Remains High

By Linda D. Kozaryn

American Forces Press Service

	WASHINGTON -- Global terrorism dropped to a 25-year low in 

1996, but last year's attacks were much more deadly than in the 

past, according to a State Department report released April 30.

	The number of international terrorist incidents dropped from 

a peak of 665 in 1987 to 296 in 1996, State Department officials 

said. The death toll, however, rose from 163 in 1995 to 311 in 

1996. Officials attribute this increase to more ruthless attacks 

on mass civilian targets and use of more powerful bombs.

	"Terrorists proved again in 1996 that they can command a 

worldwide audience for their crimes and cause great disruption, 

fear and economic damage," the report states.

	While the number of international attacks dropped, State 

Department officials said, the threat of terrorism remains high. 

A growing concern is the possible use of materials of mass 

destruction, officials said. 

	Governments throughout the world have condemned terrorism, 

which has led to a decline in state-sponsored terrorism, 

officials said. Iran, a primary state sponsor, has not been 

deterred, however. "As terrorism becomes more global, cooperation 

among states is indispensable," the report states.

	U.S. counterterrorist policy is three-pronged. First, make 

no deals with terrorists nor submit to blackmail. Second, treat 

terrorists as criminals, pursue them aggressively and apply the 

rule of law. Third, impose economic, diplomatic and political 

sanctions on states that sponsor and support terrorists.

	"We will never surrender to terror," President Clinton said 

in April. "America will never tolerate terrorism. America will 

never abide terrorists. Wherever they come from, wherever they 

go, we will go after them. We will not rest until we have brought 

them all to justice."

	Two-thirds of the 1996 international terrorist attacks were 

"minor acts of politically motivated violence against commercial 

targets," State Department officials said. The other third 

included Marxist terrorists in Lima, Peru, seizing the Japanese 

ambassador's residence and hundreds of hostages. Suicide bombings 

in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem aimed at destroying the Middle East 

peace process killed more than 60. A truck bombing at Khobar 

Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in June killed 19 U.S. airmen 

and wounded hundreds more.

	DoD shifted into high gear to thwart terrorism in the Middle 

East and elsewhere following the Khobar Towers attack. The 

tragedy sparked a vigorous, DoD-wide campaign to safeguard U.S. 

service members. 

	DoD's goal is to be ready for any contingency. About 30 

nations now possess chemical and biological weapons programs and 

at least 12 have advanced missile capabilities, U.S. Defense 

Secretary William S. Cohen said recently at a terrorism 

conference at University of Georgia in Athens.

	Adversaries may use a variety of creative means searching 

for an Achilles' heel, Cohen said. Cyber soldiers and saboteurs 

can threaten the nation with computer viruses or logic bombs. 

Terrorists who resort to weapons of mass destruction can destroy 

hundreds of thousands of lives.

	"This scenario of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon 

in the hands of a terrorist cell or rogue nation is not only 

plausible, it's quite real," Cohen warned. "The information 

superhighway is not traveled only by pilgrims and high priests of 

peace. Sick scoundrels, religious zealots, flat-out  fanatics 

and extreme fundamentalists have entered the stream of electronic 

commerce and communication."

	Cohen likened terrorism to a chronic disease. He said the 

nation must be "constantly alert to the first signs and symptoms 

of these cancers that seek to destroy our life blood and the body 

politic of our nation."

	Algeria, India, Pakistan and other countries are seeing 

growing domestic terrorism, according to the State Department 

report. The United States has trained more than 19,000 foreign 

law enforcement officials from more than 80 countries in airport 

security, bomb detection, maritime security, VIP protection 

hostage rescue and crisis management, officials said. 

	U.S. officials are also ramping up against the threat of 

domestic terrorism. As part of DoD's Domestic Preparedness 

Program, military teams are helping federal, state and local 

emergency response officials in 120 American cities prepare for 

possible chemical/biological attacks.

	The need for such training was highlighted in April in 

Washington, D.C., when a package oozing a red-gelatinous 

substance was delivered to a religious organization, Cohen said. 

Office workers were quarantined and streets barricaded for hours 

as local officials tried to identify the substance, which was 

later found to be nonhazardous.

	The World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings took 

terrorism from the realm of the international to America's home 

turf, Cohen said. He described domestic terrorism as "a real 

threat that's here today" and one heightened by the Information 

Age. The Internet, he noted, offers information on how to make 

bombs and other weapons -- domestic terrorism will likely 

intensify in the years ahead as more groups access this kind of 

information and have the ability to use it.