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World: Terrorism Declines Due To Firmer Government Policies

Washington, 1 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department attributes a significant decline in international terrorism last year to concerted efforts by governments around the world to combat acts of violence.

The State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Philip Wilcox, said yesterday "this more resolute policy against terrorism is a change." He spoke at a press conference marking the release of the State Department's annual report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism 1996."

It said the number of international terrorist incidents worldwide was one of the lowest in 25 years, dropping more than one-third compared to 1995, to a total of 296 incidents. But the number of victims killed by the attacks rose sharply, nearly doubling, to more than 300.

Wilcox said terrorism is a more lethal threat than it ever has been in the past because of the use of more powerful bombs. He said explosives are readily available and terrorists can also get technology to make their own weapons.

Wilcox said "today's volatile mix of religious fanaticism, pathological terrorists and other dangerous and perverse forces and their access to modern technology increases the danger of terrorism tremendously."

The report said terrorism by religious groups, especially Islamic organizations in the Middle East, continued to dominate in 1996.

A growing threat, according to the report, comes from what it calls "free-lance, trans-national terrorists, many of whom are trained in Afghanistan."

Ethnically motivated terrorism also took a heavy toll last year, especially in Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Tajikistan, according to the report.

It said ethnic tensions led to terrorist activity also in Armenia, Azerbiajan and Georgia, as well as Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

According to the report, Balkan groups were responsible for several small-scale attacks, mostly against international groups in Bosnia. But there was also an incident in Italy when unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the Consulate of Serbia and Montenegro in Italy a year ago.

The report said ethic violence in Turkey continued as the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) maintained its campaign of terror, although the number of PKK attacks in Turkey and other European countries was lower than in 1995.

The PKK was responsible for many acts of arson and vandalism against Turkish-owned businesses in Germany but no one was killed in the attacks, according to the report.

Mandated by the U.S. Congress since 1979, it looks only at incidents of international terrorism defined as involving citizens or territories of more than one state.

To help legislators in decisions on aid and trade, a major focus of the report is on governments -- those that sponsor terrorism and the degree to which others cooperate with the U.S. effort to fight it.

The report said Russia has joined in the fight against terrorism, participating in international conferences on the issue and strengthening domestic counter-terrorist measures.

Nevertheless, the report said Russian authorities made no progress in investigations of a series of bombs placed in the Moscow public transport system and elsewhere in the country in 1996.

They also failed to bring to justice those responsible for the bombing of an apartment building in Kaspiysk that killed more than 50 people and for the December murder of six International Red Cross workers.

The most anxiously awaited chapter in the report -- on state-sponsored terrorism -- remains unchanged for the third year in a row. It still lists Cuba, Iran and Iraq, as well as Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.