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Entering the age of Terror

Top law enforcement officials around the globe predict an increase in terrorist bombings,
hijackings and assassinations in the months and years ahead.
What can be done to stem the epidemic of terrorism?


Washington, D.C., was a city under siege. A small band of Hanafi Moslem terrorists, bent on revenge against members of the rival Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven Hanafis in 1973, held some 130 hostages at gunpoint at three separate locations in the city in early March of this year. The gunmen threatened to behead their hostages unless the convicted murderers were taken from prison and brought to them for "justice." Heavily armed policemen ringed the three buildings in a tense standoff.

Finally, after lengthy negotiations with Washington police and Moslem diplomats, the gunmen released the hostages and surrendered to police. The two-day siege came to a sudden and unexpected end. Tragedy, in this case at least, was averted.


"Age of Terror"

Terrorist activity has become a common feature on the international scene in recent years, and law enforcement officials do not expect it to diminish in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, many feel it threatens to spread totally out of control.

Dr. Yonah Alexander, professor of international studies at the State University of New York and a frequent lecturer on terrorism, warns: "Terrorism is going to grow rather than lessen. Today, we are entering an Age of Terror."

Since 1965, there have been some 1,000 incidents of international terrorism (operations across national borders or by foreign agents within a country), resulting in the deaths of nearly 1,000 people and double that number wounded. When the figures for strictly domestic terrorism (such as the Hanafi incident) are added in, the picture becomes even grimmer. Though the death toll from terrorist acts is still relatively small compared to other forms of crime, terrorism nevertheless has an enormous emotional and political impact which is much greater than mere numbers suggest.

Brian Jenkins, terrorism expert for The Rand Corporation, observes that terrorism "is dramatic violence; it's almost choreographed violence, theatrical violence carried out for its psychological effect on the people watching. It is designed to create fear, which makes people exaggerate the terrorists and the strength of their cause."

Terrorist organizations for the most part are relatively powerless politically and militarily. The generation of chaos and fear by means of disruptive acts is the only way they see to publicize their causes and achieve their ends, which otherwise would probably be unattainable in the face of overwhelming opposition or indifference.

Terrorists, moreover, are becoming increasingly convinced that terrorism pays. Figures compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other organizations reveal that terrorists have close to a 50 percent chance of having some or all of their demands met, whether they be ransom money, the release of "political prisoners," or other objectives.

In addition, there is an attractive 80 percent chance of their escaping capture or death.


Worldwide Dilemma

A growing number of terrorist incidents around the world in the past few years has dramatically thrust the problem to the forefront of official and public concern. Among the incidents:

• The massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich, West Germany, by eight "Black September" terrorists in September 1972.

• The assault on a passenger terminal at Israel's Lod International Airport by three machine-gun-toting "Japanese Red Army" terrorists in May 1972. Twenty-eight tourists died, 78 were wounded.

• The massacre at Rome airport in December 1973 by Palestinian commandos who blew up a Pan Am jetliner and hijacked a Lufthansa plane to Athens and Kuwait; 33 tourists were killed.

• The abduction of the oil ministers of 11 nations by six pro-Palestinian guerrillas who invaded a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna in December 1975.

• The hijacking of a Dutch intercity train by 13 youthful Moluccan terrorists in December 1975 — a 16-day ordeal which left four hostages dead.

• The hijacking of an Air France jetliner bound from Tel Aviv to Paris by pro-Palestinian guerrillas in late June 1976. The plane was flown to Uganda, where the 150 non-Jewish passengers were released and the remaining 100 Jewish passengers were rescued a few days later in a daring raid on Entebbe airport by Israeli commandos.

• The three-day intercontinental hijacking of a TWA New York to Chicago jetliner by five exiled Croation nationalists in September 1976. The hijackers demanded that an eight-page communiqué on Croatian demands for independence from Yugoslavia be printed in five major newspapers.


America, Get Ready

Though certain countries — notably the United States and Great Britain — have, for the most part, escaped the brunt of international terrorism, experts feel those days are rapidly nearing an end.

Take the United States, for example. "Terrorism is about to become the biggest single problem facing America," warns a top U.S. law enforcement official.

The FBI has estimated that there may be as many as 15,000 people both homegrown terrorists and resident aliens — involved in over 20 groups in the United States that preach violence as a means of achieving their political goals. Best known among these groups are the Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and the New World Liberation Front.

J. Bowyer Bell of Columbia University's Institute of War and Peace Studies expects their ranks to grow: "Revolutionaries from abroad, attracted by soft targets [in the U.S.] may strike at what they see as the center of the imperialist-capitalist-racist conspiracy."

American police officials are preparing for the worst.


Terrorist Rogues' Gallery

There are between 50 and 100 groups in the world at present which employ terrorist tactics, including the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians when it becomes "necessary." Those involved in terrorist activities differ widely in their motivations and objectives. Some are revolutionaries out to overthrow a prevailing political system. Some are anarchists seeking to provoke a total breakdown of society and government. Some are separatists, minorities within nations seeking to break away and form their own autonomous countries.

In addition, there are individuals who are not affiliated with actual terrorist groups, but who resort to terrorist acts to protest a specific grievance or to seek revenge for a supposed wrong, often nonpolitical in nature. Sometimes their acts are of a highly personal nature, relating to a family or job problem.

Finally, there are the free-lance mercenaries who offer their services to political terrorist groups although they themselves are not politically motivated. Their primary interest is money.

Major terrorist groups operating throughout the world today include:

• The Japanese Red Army, an ultra-radical, Japan-based group formed about 1970 and operating in the Far East, Middle East and Europe. It is allied with various Palestinian groups.

• The Baader-Meinhof Gang, a West German-based anarchist organization.

• The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella for the diverse guerrilla groups operating against Israel, dominated by Yasir Arafat's Al Fatah. Once known as the most energetic of international terrorist organizations, the PLO has been bogged down in the Lebanese civil war since early 1975.

• The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist terrorist group operating primarily in the Middle East and Europe. A split-off from the PLO, the PFLP — led by Dr. George Habash — is possibly the most extreme group within the terrorist community.

• Black September, formed in 1971, an offshoot of Yasir Arafat's Al Fatah.

• The Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), responsible for most of the bombings in Britain and Northern Ireland.

• The Mohammed Boudia Commando (also known as the Arm of the Arab Revolution and the Carlos Group), an anti-Zionist, radical leftist group, an offshoot of the PFLP. The elusive "Carlos," identified as Venezuelan-born Illich Ramirez Sanchez, is the world's most-wanted terrorist, a member of numerous groups and allegedly involved in the OPEC kidnappings and the Air France hijacking to Uganda.

• There are many other groups of note, including the Basque ETA, the Italian Red Brigade, the Puerto Rican nationalist FALN, the Turkish Peoples Liberation Army (TALA), the Spanish organization FRAP, and the South American Junta for Revolutionary Coordination led by Uruguayan and Argentine Tupamaros.


Global Brotherhood

Intelligence sources say that many of these diverse groups have now begun coordinating their operations — sharing weapons, money, training facilities and manpower — to increase their effectiveness. In some cases, cooperation is based on a specific operation, with the groups involved sometimes acting with widely differing motives. In other cases, cooperation is ongoing. The 1975 guerrilla raid on the Vienna OPEC conference, for example, was reportedly the combined work of the PFLP, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and a Latin American group.

The glue holding together the many seemingly diverse terrorist groups is their common ideological struggle against the "Evil Three": imperialism, Zionism, and capitalism.

Moreover, terrorists in many cases now have the active or tacit support of a number of like-minded governments, including those of Libya, Iraq, Somalia and South Yemen, which serve as havens for escaped or released terrorists and often provide financial and other support for them. Under erratic dictator Col. Muammar Khadafi, the chief pirate state colluding with terrorism is Libya.

Intelligence specialists note that much of the weaponry used by terrorists has passed into their hands through these sympathetic countries. In most cases, the arms originated in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Though the Soviet Union officially opposes terrorism, many analysts have suggested that the Kremlin might actually act, to one degree or another, as a common central command for the seemingly multifarious international terrorist groups. Increasing evidence points to direct involvement by the KGB (the Soviet intelligence organization) in the support of terrorist operations in the West.

Political columnist Otto von Habsburg writes: "One common denominator is that most leaders of these organizations have spent some time in the Soviet Union . . . The numbers who train in Russia are so great and their connections with the KGB so close that leadership by remote control from the Soviet Union must be presumed."

Whatever the case, there is no doubt that the world's terrorist groups, now beginning to coordinate their efforts, are becoming more and more efficient and professional in their operations, posing a significantly greater threat than ever before. "The trend toward greater international contact and cooperation among terrorist groups that has already markedly enhanced the operational capabilities of some of the organizations involved seems likely to gain further momentum," predicts a CIA study released last year.