Great Seal logo

Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1991

The Year in Review

Blue Bar

The number of international terrorist incidents rose in 1991 as a result of the Persian Gulf war, when terrorists in many regions of the world attacked targets belonging to the international coalition opposed to Saddam Hussein. Most of these were minor incidents, resulting only in property damage. War-related attacks brought the total number of international terrorist incidents in 1991 to 557, up from 456 in 1990. Fully half of the incidents in 1991 occurred during January and February, while Operation Desert Storm was under way. After the war, however, the number of terrorist incidents dropped sharply and actually fell below 1990 levels.

Several events in 1991 revealed the threat and extent of state-sponsored terrorism, particularly as practiced by Iraq, Libya, and Iran.

In the months following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Iraq issued repeated exhortations to terrorists to strike at coalition targets worldwide. Terrorists of many stripes embraced Saddam Hussein and publicly vowed to launch attacks in the event of war. During Operation Desert Storm, we recorded 275 terrorist incidents. Most of these attacks, however, were sporadic, uncoordinated, and low-level incidents. Only a small percentage resulted in deaths, significant injuries, or property damage. The Iraqi government was directly involved in several incidents, but the threatened massive wave of Middle Eastern terrorism that Saddam promised did not materialize; the numerous terrorist groups that had sworn allegiance to Saddam failed to act.

After an extensive investigation of worldwide scope, U.S. and British authorities developed evidence that conclusively linked Libya to the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. On 14 November 1991 both governments issued indictments for two Libyan agents, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, charged with carrying out the bombing. In addition, French authorities issued warrants for four Libyan agents in connection with the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772 that killed 171 people, including seven Americans.

Nine long-held Western hostages were freed from captivity in Lebanon last year, including six Americans, and the remains of William F. Buckley and Col. William R. Higgins were recovered and returned to the United States. The hostages, including the two who died while in captivity, had been held by elements of the Iranian-supported terrorist group Hizballah, which receives substantial amounts of financing, training, and political direction from Tehran. The release of the hostages was achieved largely through the efforts of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar and his special envoy Giandomenico Picco. The releases apparently reflected a belief held by both the Government of Iran and the hostage holders themselves that the continued detention of the hostages served no purpose. The United States made no concessions to gain the hostages' release.

At year's end, two German hostages, Thomas Kemptner and Heinrich Struebig, remained captive in Lebanon. We continue to call for the immediate, safe, and unconditional release of all persons held outside the legal system in the region as well as an accounting of all those who may have died while in captivity.

During 1991 Iran continued to build closer ties to Palestinian terrorist groups and Islamic militant organizations. Iran has used conferences like "Intifadah and the Islamic World" -- held in Iran during the period 19-22 October -- to maintain contact with numerous terrorist groups. Subsequent to this conference, some such groups issued threats to participants in the Middle East peace talks.

Iran also continued its practice of assassinating dissidents; Iranian agents are the prime suspects in the murder of former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris last August, and the French government has issued an international arrest warrant for an Iranian official suspected of supporting the operation.

Seven Americans died during 1991 in terrorist attacks: -- On 2 January in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) downed a U.S. helicopter carrying three U.S. military advisers who were en route to Honduras. Two of them, Lt. Col. David Pickett and crew chief PFC Earnest Dawson, were brutally executed after surviving the crash. The third, CWO Daniel Scott, died of injuries suffered in the shootdown. (The incident is considered terrorism because the three advisers provided administrative/logistic support from Honduras to U.S. military personnel assigned to El Salvador and were thus noncombatants.)

-- The Turkish terrorist group Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left or Dev Sol) murdered two Americans last year. On 7 February in Adana, Bobbie Eugene Mozelle, an American contract employee of the Department of Defense, was shot as he left his apartment on the way to his car. On 22 March in Istanbul, another American contract employee of the Department of Defense, John Gandy, was murdered when three gunmen entered his office, separated him from the other employees, and shot him in the head.

-- On 12 March in Glyfada, Greece, U.S. Air Force Sgt. Ronald Odell Stewart was killed by a bomb explosion outside his residence. The Greek terrorist group 17 November was responsible.

[End of Document]

Blue Bar

Patterns of Global Terrorism Contents