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Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1991

Western European Overview

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1991 saw a marked resurgence of European leftwing terrorist groups, especially through attacks during the Persian Gulf war. Four Americans were killed in terrorist attacks in Europe this year -- three were victims of indigenous leftist groups -- as compared with none in 1990.

A particular concern was a surge in terrorist attacks against U.S., Western, and other interests in Greece and Turkey in 1991 by indigenous groups. The deadly 17 November organization carried out several bombing attacks in Greece and assassinated a U.S. serviceman during the first quarter of 1991. In Turkey, the Turkish Revolutionary Left (Dev Sol) and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) were both involved in terrorist activities such as assassinations, bombings, and kidnappings. Two Americans died in such attacks. A third American was killed in a fundamentalist-related murder.

Looking to the future, Western Europe may experience a growth in rightwing terrorism as European integration progresses and international migration into Europe increases.

Eastern European Overview Cooperation between the countries of Eastern Europe and the West on counterterrorist issues began in earnest with the fall of communist regimes in 1989 and continued unabated in 1991. This cooperation was strengthened during the Persian Gulf crisis, as East European governments closed borders to suspected terrorists, monitored or expelled suspect alien residents, and took steps to protect U.S. and other coalition government interests on their territories. Official procoalition stances by East European governments during the war increased the risk in several of these countries, as evidenced by numerous terrorist threats. However, only in Yugoslavia was there a war-related attack: a failed firebombing in February of a U.S. Information Service office in Sarajevo by unknown assailants.

Incidents of international terrorism remained relatively few in Eastern Europe for the rest of the year as well. In Hungary, a caller claiming to represent "The Movement for the Protection of Jerusalem" said that the group set off a bomb in December near a bus containing Jews emigrating from the former Soviet Union to Israel. Two Hungarian policemen in an escort vehicle were severely injured in the blast. Several days before, a terrorist failed in his attempt to assassinate the Turkish Ambassador in Budapest. An anonymous caller claiming to represent the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility for that attack. In August, Sikh militants in Bucharest attempted to assassinate the Indian Ambassador to Romania, who had previously served as Director-General of Police in Punjab. Sikh extremists later kidnapped a Romanian diplomat in India, demanding the release of both the two assailants held by the Romanian authorities in the attack on the Indian Ambassador and three Sikh militants held by Indian authorities for other crimes. Although none of those demands was met, the Romanian diplomat was released seven weeks later. A Soviet commercial airliner was hijacked in January to Bulgaria, where the lone Soviet hijacker was arrested. Soviet Consulates in Poland were the targets of firebombs after the Soviet crackdown in Lithuania and Latvia in January 1991. In Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania more than a dozen bombings were aimed at political party offices and security installations, especially during the first quarter of 1991. In July, seven Lithuanian border guards were shot dead execution style. Reactionary elements were probably responsible for the incidents in the Baltics.

The civil war that consumed Yugoslavia in 1991, however, generated serious concern that combatants or their sympathizers abroad would resort to international terrorism to continue the fight on other fronts. To discourage diplomatic recognition of Croatia, for example, Serbian extremist groups made threats against German and Austrian officials and interests abroad. Actual terrorist incidents were few, however, and included the firebombing, probably by Serb nationalists, of a Croatian church near Munich and the attempted firebombing, most likely by Croat nationalists, in November of Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Canada and Germany.

For political and budgetary reasons, police presence in the East European countries continued to decline in 1991, possibly reducing the control authorities wielded over the activities of potential terrorists. The United States and others sponsored training programs in antiterrorist techniques for law enforcement and other officials of several countries in the region. Police cooperation was the subject of several bilateral agreements between Eastern and Western European countries. All states in the region except Albania are members of Interpol. Czechoslovakia, which joined Interpol in 1991, also ratified the International Civil Aviation Organization Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection. (Semtex, a plastic explosive used in several terrorist incidents, including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, is a product of Czechoslovakia.)

There were no prosecutions in Eastern Europe of suspects of international terrorism in 1991. Hungary did, however, extradite to Greece a suspected Greek terrorist in August.

Bulgaria cooperated with Western countries in investigating the alleged involvement of its former Communist government in the assassination in London in 1978 of dissident writer Georgi Markov and the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981.

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