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Corruption Watch: May 22, 2003

22 May 2003, Volume 3, Number 18
The world has witnessed a well-coordinated offensive of suicide terrorist attacks in recent weeks. In the period from 30 April to 19 May, 166 people were killed by terrorists around the world. In comparison, about 300 U.S. soldiers have died in combat since 1980. According to the 20 April edition of "USA Today": "During that time, the military has fought two wars in the Persian Gulf region, launched actions in Afghanistan, Panama and Grenada and flown bombing campaigns in Yugoslavia and Kosovo."

At approximately 1 p.m. local time on 30 April, British nationals Omar Khan Sharif, 27, (of Pakistani origin) and Asif Mohammed Hanif, 21, (whose parents immigrated to England from Kashmir) arrived at the entrance to a jazz club called "Mike's Place" near the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Hanif then detonated the plastic explosive belt he was wearing, killing himself and three others and injuring approximately 50 people. Sharif's charge failed to detonate and he escaped, only to be found dead on 19 May -- his body washed up on a beach in Tel Aviv.

The event marked the first known instance of British nationals' involvement in a suicide bombing. According to press reports, the men entered Israel from Jordan at the Allenby Bridge crossing using their British passports and on 25 April attended a meeting in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip sponsored by the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group. On 30 April, they checked into the Hayarkon 48 Hostel (likely using their real names and presenting genuine passports) and, half an hour later, committed the terrorist act.

According to a report in "The Washington Post" of 10 April, an autopsy of Hanif's body showed that the explosive that killed him was a plastic explosive without metal particles, which cannot be detected by ordinary metal detectors. This is worrisome for law-enforcement officials, since explosive detectors that "sniff" out the chemical composition of explosives are not readily available at most border crossings. It is still unclear whether the two men brought the explosive with them to Israel from Britain, Jordan, or elsewhere.

According to "The New York Times" of 12 May, Sharif was the son of Pakistani immigrants to England. He was married with two children. His wife, brother, and sister, as well as three other unnamed individuals are all under arrest in London, and reportedly are being charged under antiterrorism laws for failing to reveal information about acts of terror. "The New York Times" also reported that Sharif had been spending time with a local representative of the Al-Muhajiroun, a radical Islamic group that has held rallies in Derby urging the killing of Jews and celebrating the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Al-Muhajiroun has operated openly in Great Britain and, despite its rhetoric, has not been linked to any terrorist organization. According to "The New York Times," members of the group often hand out leaflets in front of the Finsbury Park mosque in London, and most worshipers avoid them. There exists the possibility that the two men might have acted alone, but the likelihood is small of them obtaining the highly unusual plastic explosive used in the attack. Why the men entered Israel through Jordan is also unknown.

"The Washington Post" on 10 May quoted from an interview given by Shlomo Aharonishky, the inspector general for the Israeli police, to the "Jerusalem Post." "This is the sort of case that we have not dealt with before," he was quoted as saying. "The assessment of security officials is that the involvement of outsiders in terror attacks is only going to increase."

The Tel Aviv attack was followed by two suicide bombings in Chechnya and a major attack on American civilian targets in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The first Chechen attack took place in the town of Znamenskoye on 12 May and involved a truck filled with explosives that exploded in an administrative complex, killing 60 people, including 10 Russian Federal Security Service officers. In a statement posted on 19 May on, field commander Shamil Basaev claimed responsibility for the attack in Znamenskoe and the suicide bombing two days later in Gudermes Raion.

Meeting with NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson on 13 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is a connection between the 12 May terrorist explosions in Riyadh, which killed 34 people and left some 200 injured, and the attacks in Znamenskoe the same day, ITAR �TASS reported.

On the heels of this attack came an unsuccessful attempt on 14 May on the life of the head of the Moscow-backed Chechen administration, Akhmed Kadyrov, during a funeral in the village of Ilaskhan-Yurt, which is about 25 kilometers southeast of Grozny. Two women wearing explosive belts detonated them, killing 14 people.

Early on the morning of 15 May, a little-known Muslim group calling itself the Muslim United Army claimed responsibility for explosions at 18 gas stations owned by the Shell Oil Company in Karachi. The explosives were in fact firecrackers fitted with timing devices, and there were only minor injuries reported.

Late in the evening on 16 May, five suicide attacks left 41 people dead, including 13 bombers, in downtown Casablanca, Morocco. Roughly 100 people were injured in the attacks. The targets were a Spanish restaurant, a Belgian consulate, a Jewish community center and cemetery, and the deluxe Hotel Safir. According to "The New York Times" of 19 May, U.S. officials consider those bombings to be the work of Al-Qaeda.

One day after the Casablanca attacks, a member of Hamas had killed himself and two Israeli settlers in Hebron. One day later, on 18 May, a lone suicide bomber struck on a bus in Jerusalem, killing himself and six other people and wounding another 20. On 19 May, a suicide attacker detonated explosives at the entrance to a crowded mall in northern Israel, killing at least three shoppers and wounding 47 others.

These attacks, in particular the attack in Riyadh, were promptly seen by senior officials of many countries as a sign of Al-Qaeda's resurgence and resilience in the wake of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan, and the disruption of much of Al-Qaeda's activities and destruction of its bases in that country.

On 18 May, Saudi officials announced that they had arrested four suspects in the Riyadh bombing attacks and identified them as members of Al-Qaeda.

Senior U.S. government officials told "The New York Times" of 17 May that in the last two months, two Arab men suspected of having been sent by "senior leaders of Al-Qaeda" to scout targets for new attacks were secretly arrested. These same officials claimed that Al-Qaeda had opened new training outposts in East Africa and had expanded its recruitment activities.

Britain's "The Observer" noted on 18 May that the attacks in Riyadh opened a "terrifying new front" in the war. "Above all else," the paper commented, "this was the week that the War on Terror finally came home." RK

Romania, along with much of the former "socialist camp," continues to be plagued with inordinately high levels of corruption. Romania ranked 77th among 102 countries on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index in 2001. (The higher the number, the more corrupt the country is perceived to be.) This, in turn, seems to be conducive to the existence of a number of criminal enterprises in the country.

An example of such linkage is narcotics trafficking in the country. According to the U.S. State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in its 2002 "International Narcotics Control Strategy [INCS] Report," corruption uncovered within Romania's law-enforcement agency to combat drug trafficking is one such problem. The head of one of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Antidrug Operations' (DCCOA ) drug squads was accused of using an informant to divert confiscated drugs back onto the market. This led to the reorganization of that directorate in 2002.

The majority of illicit narcotics, primarily heroin, enter Romania from Afghanistan via the southern land border with Bulgaria. However, the Black Sea port of Constanta is known to be an entrance point, in addition to the country's airports. From Romania, such drugs are moved overland to Hungary and to the former Yugoslavia for further transshipment to Western Europe. Local usage of narcotics is low in Romania, and there are only 400 registered addicts; but, as the INCS report points out, this is slowly changing for the worse.

Corruption in Romania is by no means a new phenomenon. During the previous regime, it was present but largely hidden from view. At that time, bribes, or "atentie" (attention), paid to various public officials under the Causescu regime were commonplace features of life.

The World Bank's "Diagnostic Survey of Corruption in Romania" in 2001 concluded: "The survey results show that corruption is perceived by the public to be widespread. About two-thirds of the Romanian public believes that 'all' or 'most' officials are corrupt. Public officials reported lower perceived levels of corruption, although still high: 44 percent reported that all or most officials are engaged in corruption. While the perception of widespread corruption is clear, it is also clear that many people believe that corruption has achieved a state of normalcy. Half of households reported that bribery is part of everyday life, while only one in eleven reported bribes to be completely unnecessary."

The World Bank survey appears to be borne out by the fact that, as RFE/RL correspondent Eugen Tomiuc pointed out in a 7 May report, "Out of Romania's 140 senators and 344 lower chamber deputies, some 152 have admitted to conflicts of interest -- more than half of them, that is, 87 legislators, being members of the ruling ex-communist Social Democratic Party."

The World Bank study examined the economic consequences of this practice and concluded the following: "Many enterprises expressed a willingness to pay in order to reduce the burdens that excessive regulations, crime and corruption impose on them; 50 percent of enterprises expressed a willingness to pay for the elimination of corruption; 46 for the elimination of crime and 46 for the elimination of excessive regulations. The amounts that enterprises were willing to pay followed a similar pattern, from 5 percent of their revenues for the elimination of corruption to around 4 percent each for the elimination of crime and excessive regulations. These figures clearly demonstrate that corruption imposes a significant net cost on firms" RK

A team of American lawyers defending former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko arrived in Kyiv on 17 May to question a number of individuals with ties to their client during his tenure as prime minister. Lazarenko was indicted by a California court in 1999 on charges of money laundering, mail fraud, and other offenses. His trial is scheduled to begin in San Francisco in August.

On the list of those whom the defense team wants to interview, according to the "Financial Times" of 14 May, are: Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma; former Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovojtenko (who refused to cooperate with the defense team, according to a dpa report of 20 May); national security adviser Yevhen Marchuk; a former president of Naftohaz Ukraine, Ihor Bakaj; opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko; Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov; Oleksander Volkov; Boris Feldman; Viktor Pinchuk, and others. The list of 30 witnesses was compiled by the court in San Francisco, which also determined that Kuchma should be included in the list.

Interfax news agency reported on 18 May that Lazarenko's Ukrainian lawyer, Maryna Dovhopola, explained that under Ukrainian legislation witnesses may be sued for refusing to give evidence or deliberately giving false evidence. A Ukrainian-U.S. agreement on legal assistance also contains this clause, she noted.

According to an interview given to the "Ukrayinska Pravda" website ( and posted on 19 May, the lead defense attorney, Harold Rosenthal, stated that the lawyers intend to show that their client is innocent of the charges.

The "Financial Times" article stated: "More controversially, the defense hopes to prise testimony from Mr. Kuchma and other top officials that would show they knew how Mr. Lazarenko made his money and approved of it at the time. A filed pleading claims that Mr. Lazarenko presented Kuchma and his wife with 'expensive gifts' on 'numerous occasions,' including a $42,000 Franck Muller watch."

The Ukrainian media remained largely silent about the involvement of Kuchma. On 19 May, only one major television station (Novy Kanal) carried a news item from the press conference given on 18 May by Rosenthal's team. In that item, Novy Kanal only mentioned that the team intended to question Tymoshenko. There was no mention of the president or others even being on the list.

(For more on the Lazarenko case, see the four-part series of articles entitled "The Tractor Driver of the State" in "RFE/RL Organized Crime and Corruption Watch," beginning on 6 December 2001.) RK


By Taras Kuzio

Harald Muller, Chaillot Papers No. 58 (Paris: Institute for Security Studies-EU, March 2003)

Muller's study discusses the terrorist threat to the European Union both prior to and since 11 September 2001. As he points out, some factors have not changed since 9/11. These include a unipolar world dominated by the United States, poverty and instability in the developing world, regional conflicts, and violent terrorism -- elements that have existed for more than a decade. The plan to blow up a civilian aircraft over Paris came well before 9/11. At the same time, Muller highlights three important changes -- the emergence of "mega terrorism," how this threat affects the West, and the alleged common interests of Russia and the West in confronting terrorism.

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1992, the sphere of "security threats" has broadened far beyond what was commonly restricted to the military to include the environment, terrorism, migration, economic activities, organized crime, money laundering, nuclear proliferation, and gender. "Throughout the 1990s, the security debate remained convoluted, vague, tentative and unfocused" (p. 13), and the danger was in the term "security threats" losing any real meaning.

Muller contrasts "classical terrorists," such as the Irish Republican Army, and the new phenomenon of "mega terrorism." "Classical terrorists" had to "steer a fine course between their strategic need to provoke the state into unpopular moves and the need to keep these moves from overwhelming the terrorist infrastructure" (p. 22). At the EU level, "classical terrorists" were never a threat. since they did not have that bloc "in their sights" (p. 23). Their focus was on the nation state, where "they never managed to pose a serious threat to the identity, survival, institutions or territorial integrity of any of the states attacked" (p.23).

"Mega terrorism" is very different. It represents the globalization of terrorism and its movement from outside the constraints of the nation state. Its practitioners have far fewer fears regarding the number of deaths and injuries it inflicts. This is partly because "mega terrorism" is based in religious fundamentalism. Although clearly not all Islamic movements are violent, according to the author, the number of Islamic-based terrorists is arguably large. "In addition, it is the only religiously motivated terrorism that has managed to create a transnational, globally organised network" (p.26).

Islamic terrorism is critical of global inequality, Western "cultural imperialism," U.S. hegemony and U.S. bases (e.g., in Saudi Arabia), the Middle East conflict, and U.S. double standards over Israel's occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands and Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, and the Kashimir and Chechen conflicts. Another factor leading to the growth of support for violent Islamic movements is that virtually all Arab states are led by authoritarian regimes, as are the five post-Soviet, Central Asian ones. As democratic opposition parties are destroyed, those in opposition are pushed into the radical camp. "Most Muslim countries are badly governed," and "high expectations in the Arab world remain largely unfulfilled" (p. 27).

The United States is most often the target of the "mega terrorist" wrath, and Al-Qaeda sees the United States as its "overarching target" (p. 37). The United Kingdom, because of its close alliance with the United States, and France, because of its involvement in Algeria against Islamic guerrillas, are also potential targets. The enemy is "demonised," which provides justification for any level of violence, such as 9/11, as the work is allegedly undertaken in the name of God. "Islamic extremists perceive themselves as fighting a desperate, defensive war against a total assault directed against Islam and its true believers" (p. 29).

"Mega terrorists" by their very nature harbor no reservations about using weapons of mass destruction (WMD), something that differentiates them from "classical terrorists." Al-Qaeda experimented with biological and chemical weapons in Afghanistan. Pakistan, India, North Korea, and Israel all possess nuclear weapons. Some Arab states have attempted to obtain (Syria and Libya) or possessed chemical weapons (Iraq). Iran, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, are suspected of harboring a desire to possess nuclear weapons.

How much are WMD a threat because of their availability to "mega terrorist" groups? Muller is skeptical about the U.S.-U.K. attempt to "establish links between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein" (p. 72). One of the aims of the U.S.-led coalition was to find WMD in Iraq, something it has yet to do. Muller, writing before coalition military operations began against Iraq, predicted that while in power Hussein would not provide WMD to Al-Qaeda. But, if forcibly removed from power, he argues that Hussein "would remove all cautionary inhibitions" (p. 74).

Although the United States was successful in destroying Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, Muller is critical of Washington's focus on purely military means to defeat "mega terrorism" at the expense of legal, financial, intelligence, police, cultural, and diplomatic means. Muller, reflecting similar arguments within the EU, is critical of the U.S. inability to resolve the Palestinian conflict and Washington's perceived excessive support for Israel. "Although Europeans genuinely care for Israel's security, they tend to be much more critical than the United States of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians" (p. 57).

Muller's study does not introduce the question of nationalism as an additional factor fueling "mega terrorism." Nationalism might have played a role for the 17 Saudis among the 20 hijackers in the 11 September attacks, including opposition to U.S. bases in their country -- bases that have been slated for closure since the fall of the Hussein regime in Iraq. The same might be said about the role of nationalism in the Hamas movement in southern Lebanon (fighting Israel) or Pathan (Pashtun) nationalism among the Taliban.

Muller defines "European security" as relating to the territory of the EU, which he believes is "uncontroversial" (p. 19). The EU is on the path to enlargement in 2004 to include a number of postcommunist states, Cyprus, and Malta, and possibly in 2007 to include Romania and Bulgaria. If "Europe" is understood to mean the EU, as Muller would have it, then presumably the Western region of the Commonwealth of Independent States is beyond "European security," as it is part of Eurasia. This view differs from that of NATO and Ukraine, which has an established record of cooperation with NATO.

Muller accepts that Russia and China "have not always been consistent and reliable in their WMD-related export behaviour" (p. 77). Russia is supplying nonmilitary nuclear technology to Iran. In addition, the Russian and Western understandings of "terrorism" and how to combat it are very different: Compare the fates of Grozny and Baghdad at the hands of Russian and U.S. antiterrorism operations, respectively.

Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.