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Although the number of international terrorist incidents has dropped in recent years and more terrorists are being arrested and tried for their crimes, international terrorism remains a serious, ongoing threat around the world. Individual bombings and armed attacks, while fewer in number than last year, continue to cause horrendous casualties. Moreover, domestic--rather than international--terrorism continues to beset countries such as Algeria, where numerous brutal massacres of ordinary citizens have been perpetrated by terrorists during the past five years.

During 1997 there were 304 acts of international terrorism worldwide, an increase of eight from the previous year. This figure is one of the lowest annual totals recorded since 1971. More than one-third of the year's attacks occurred in Colombia, 90 of which were low-level bombings of oil pipelines that caused damage but no casualties.

Countering the terrorist threat remains a high priority for the United States. We have developed a three-part counterterrorist policy that has served us well over the years:

First, make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals.

The United States has learned over time that this policy works. We supported the Government of Peru for steadfastly refusing to give in to demands made by terrorists who held 72 hostages in the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima for four months last year. The government's unyielding refusal to release convicted terrorists from prison allowed it time to plan and execute a successful rescue of the hostages in April.

Second, bring terrorists to justice for their crimes.

Continuing a positive trend of recent years, more terrorists are being apprehended, put on trial, and given severe prison terms for their crimes; several important trials and convictions of international terrorists occurred in 1997. The terrorists who planned and helped carry out the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing were convicted of the crime in New York. The terrorist who murdered two Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employees outside CIA Headquarters in January 1993 was found guilty by a jury in Virginia. A highly publicized judgment in Berlin demonstrated in open court that the Government of Iran follows a deliberate policy of "liquidating" its political opponents abroad. The notorious "Carlos the Jackal" was convicted in Paris of three murders that he committed there 23 years ago. A terrorist who attempted to bomb the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, by launching rockets into the complex in 1986 was found guilty by a jury in Washington, DC.

Third, isolate and apply pressure on states that sponsor and support terrorism to force them to change their behavior.

The Secretary of State has designated seven countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. A range of bilateral and multilateral sanctions have been imposed and remain in place to discourage these countries from continuing their support for international terrorism.

In November, President Clinton signed an executive order imposing additional, comprehensive economic sanctions on Sudan for its sponsorship of international terrorism, its efforts to destabilize neighboring countries, and its abysmal human rights record. The new sanctions ban all US exports to Sudan, impose a total ban on imports from Sudan, and prohibit US investment there.

President Clinton signed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which deprives foreign companies of certain economic benefits in the United States if they invest in the development of Iran's and Libya's energy sectors. The Act's objective is to deny revenue to these state sponsors in advance of evidence that those states are prepared to change their behavior. We believe that sponsorship and support of international terrorist activities should be discouraged by the international community, not rewarded.

In March, July, and November, the United Nations Security Council reviewed Libyan compliance with resolutions that require Libya to surrender the two named suspects in the Pan Am 103 bombing to US or UK authorities for trial; cooperate with the US, French, and British investigations into the attacks against Pan Am 103 and UTA Flight 772; pay appropriate compensation; and renounce and cease its support for international terrorism. The Security Council found that Libya was not in compliance. The sanctions that were imposed on Libya for its non-compliance remain in place, the November review marking the 17th time the sanctions have been reviewed and renewed for another 120 days.

In October, Secretary of State Albright formally designated 30 foreign terrorist organizations under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which makes it illegal for US institutions and citizens to provide funds or other forms of material support to such groups. The law also makes members and representatives of those terrorist groups ineligible for US visas and subject to exclusion from the United States. Moreover, US financial institutions are required to block the funds of those groups and of their agents and to report the blocking action to the Department of the Treasury. A complete list of the designated foreign terrorist organizations is included in appendix B.

At the Denver Summit of the Eight held in June, leaders from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom made significant progress in countering the terrorist threat:

  • The Eight worked with other UN General Assembly members to complete the work on the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, a new counterterrorism instrument that was initiated by the Eight in December 1996. This Convention fills an important gap in international law by creating a framework for addressing terrorist bombing attacks anywhere in the world. (The United States signed the Convention on 12 January 1998.)
  • The Eight have launched an international campaign to promote by the year 2000 the universal adoption and ratification of the existing international terrorism conventions.
  • The Eight continue to promote improved international standards for airport security, explosives detection, and vehicle identification. Related experts' meetings, information exchanges, and multilateral diplomacy have sought to enhance the protection of public transportation against terrorism.
  • Agreement among the Eight to promote stronger domestic laws and controls over the manufacture, trading, and transport of explosives will reduce the threat to our citizens from terrorist attacks.

The United States has trained more than 20,000 foreign law enforcement officials from more than 90 countries in such areas as airport security, bomb detection, maritime security, VIP protection, hostage rescue, and crisis management. We also conduct an active research and development program to use modern technology to defeat terrorists.

As President Clinton declared in November following the brutal terrorist attack in Luxor, Egypt: "Once again, we are reminded of a painful truth: Terrorism is a global threat. No nation is immune. That is why all nations must redouble our commitment to fight this scourge together."

Legislative Requirements

This report is submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(a), which requires the Department of State to provide Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of Section (a)(1) and (2) of the Act. As required by legislation, the report includes detailed assessments of foreign countries where significant terrorist acts occurred and countries about which Congress was notified during the preceding five years pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (the so-called terrorism list countries that have repeatedly provided state support for international terrorism). In addition, the report includes all relevant information about the previous year's activities of individuals, terrorist organizations, or umbrella groups known to be responsible for the kidnapping or death of any US citizen during the preceding five years and groups known to be financed by state sponsors of terrorism.

In 1996 Congress amended the reporting requirements contained in the above-referenced law. The amended law requires the Department of State to report on the extent to which other countries cooperate with the United States in apprehending, convicting, and punishing terrorists responsible for attacking US citizens or interests. The law also requires that this report describe the extent to which foreign governments are cooperating, or have cooperated during the previous five years, in preventing future acts of terrorism. As permitted in the amended legislation, the Department of State is submitting this information to Congress in a classified annex to this unclassified report.


No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

  • The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant(1) targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
  • The term "international terrorism" means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.
  • The term "terrorist group" means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism. The US Government has employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.

Domestic terrorism is probably a more widespread phenomenon than international terrorism. Because international terrorism has a direct impact on US interests, it is the primary focus of this report. Nonetheless, the report also describes, but does not provide statistics on, significant developments in domestic terrorism.

(1) For purposes of this definition, the term ?noncombatant? is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty. For example, in past reports we have listed as terrorist incidents the murders of the following US military personnel: the 19 airmen killed in the 1996 bombing of the Khubar Towers housing facility in Saudi Arabia; Col. James Rowe, killed in Manila in April 1989; Capt. William Nordeen, US defense attache killed in Athens in June 1988; the two servicemen killed in the La Belle discotheque bombing in West Berlin in April 1986; and the four off-duty US Embassy Marine guards killed in a cafe in El Salvador in June 1985. We also consider as acts of terrorism attacks on military installations or on armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does not exist at the site, such as the bombings against US bases in Europe, the Philippines, and elsewhere.


Adverse mention in this report of individual members of any political, social, ethnic, religious, or national group is not meant to imply that all members of that group are terrorists. Indeed, terrorists represent a small minority of dedicated, often fanatical, individuals in most such groups. It is those small groups--and their actions--which are the subject of this report.

Furthermore, terrorist acts are part of a larger phenomenon of politically inspired violence, and at times the line between the two is difficult to draw. To relate terrorist events to the larger context, and to give a sense for the conflicts that spawn violence, this report will discuss terrorist acts as well as other violent incidents that are not necessarily international terrorism.

Christopher W. S. Ross
Coordinator for Counterterrorism

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