(Spring 1991) What do a Canadian diplomat, two British ornithologists, a Peruvian peasant, a Japanese policeman, a few dozen Congolese plane passengers and a two-year-old boy have in common? They were terrorist targets, recent victims among the hundreds killed or maimed in the past decade.
Canadian James Thomas died in Santiago, Chile, in a blast from a baseball bat loaded with plastic explosives. A Canadian busisnessman and two U.S. citizens were seriously injured. The four had been involved in a friendly baseball game with players from the University of Chile.
British ornithologists Michael Entwistle and Timothy Andrews were last seen alive on their way to see the exotic birds in Peru's Cave of the Owl's. Instead, they ran into Shining Path guerrillas. Shining Path is noted for its indiscriminate murders. In one week of violence, Shining Path killed eight people, among them a peasant beheaded on the outskirts of Lima for refusing to participate in Shining Path activities, a rural school principal, a student and the two-year-old son of a political party worker.
Shining Path and its somewhat less murderous rival, the pro-Cuban Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, may have the highest body count among world terrorists. The two groups have claimed 20,000 lives in a decade of terrorist violence.
Most people conect terrorism with Latin America and the Middle East, but no region in the world is immune. The Japanese Revolutionary Workers' Council claimed "a great historic victory" when one of three simultaneous bomb attacks took the life of a young Tokyo policeman. They also claimed responsibility for a fire that damaged a Shinto shrine.
In Africa, authorities in Zaire recently arrested a Congolese man suspected of masterminding the 1969 bombing of a French UTA airliner over Niger. The explosion claimed 171 lives, most of them Congolese.
Ask a terrorist why he or she engages in a life of violence and the usual answer is that they are engaged in a nobel war of liberation. Whether the terrorist is a thug in the Provisional Irish Republican Army or a poor Palestinian suicide bomber, the answer is the same. Never mind the mountain of innocent bodies of those they supposedly want to liberate.
The leftist ideologies espoused by most, if not all, terrorist groups have grown understandably confused with the decline of Marxism-Leninism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It's hard to champion and outmoded ideology. Maybe that is why seven former members of the German Red Army Faction, apprehended as a result of German reunification, have been so cooperative. German Federal prosecutor Alexander von Stahl said the seven have cleared up a string of terrorist incidents that occurred between 1977 and 1981.
Some terrorists don't care about ideology. A former close associate of Abu Nidal described the man as a psychopath. Abu Nidal has masterminded some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in Europe, including the massacres at the Rome and Vienna airports. He just as coldly ordered 400 members of his own terrorist organization killed during an internal feud and murdered his brother-in-law and his five-year-old nephew in a land dispute.
Colombian members of the pro-Cuban National Liberation Army have taken a new approach. Besides a thriving business in kidnapping for ransom, they have pioneered eco-terrorism. Attacks on Colombia's main oil pipeline have caused an estimated $700 million in losses and untold ecological damage. International terrorist links are a growing phenomenon. Dutch police have uncovered disturbing evidence that the German Red Army Faction, the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Spanish ETA terrorists have forged an international terrorist union. Turkish authorities are preparing for attacks by Abu Nidal and other Palestinian extremist groups in support of Saddam Hussein. Greek security forces have recently expelled three Iraqi and one Libyan diplomat connected with Iraqi terrorist groups.
Italian authorities recently indicted two Japanese Red Army members for a bombing attack in Naples. Tupac Amaru guerrillas bombed a Lima synagogue in a sympathy action for Palestinian terrorists. Terrorist supporters have made this murderous international cooperation possible. Libya supplied 120 tons of weapons and explosives to the Provisional Irish Republican Army during 1986 and 1987, including a ton of semtex plastic explosive.
With no end to terrorist activities in sight, world governments and security experts are joining forces to track terrorists. European authorities in particular, are cooperating to get ready for 1992's open borders. There is also increased pressure on terrorist nations to cease their assistance to terrorist groups. Finally, there is recognition of the economic and social inequities that breed terrorism. Deprived of their base of support and new recruits, terrorists can be unmasked for the murderers and extortionists they truely are.