Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999

The United States Department of State fingers South Asia as Hub for International Terrorism. May 1, 2000.

Islamist extremists from around the world--including North America; Europe; Africa; the Middle East; and Central, South, and Southeast Asia--continued to use Afghanistan as a training ground and base of operations for their worldwide terrorist activities in 1999. The Taliban, which controlled most Afghan territory, permitted the operation of training and indoctrination facilities for non-Afghans and provided logistic support to members of various terrorist organizations and mujahidin, including those waging jihads in Chechnya, Lebanon, Kosovo, Kashmir, and elsewhere.

Throughout the year, the Taliban continued to host Usama Bin Ladin--indicted in November 1998 for the bombings of two US Embassies in East Africa--despite US and UN sanctions, a unanimously adopted United Security Council resolution, and other international pressure to deliver him to stand trial in the United States or a third country. The United States repeatedly made clear to the Taliban that they will be held responsible for any terrorist acts undertaken by Bin Ladin while he is in their territory.

In early December, Jordanian authorities arrested members of a cell linked to Bin Ladin's al-Qaida organization--some of whom had undergone explosives and weapons training in Afghanistan--who were planning terrorist operations against Western tourists visiting holy sites in Jordan over the millennium holiday.

On 25 December the Taliban permitted hijacked Indian Airlines flight 814 to land at Qandahar airport after refusing it permission to land the previous day. The hijacking ended on 31 December when the Indian Government released from prison three individuals linked to Kashmiri militant groups in return for the release of the passengers aboard the aircraft. The hijackers, who had murdered one of the Indian passengers during the course of the incident, were allowed to go free. The Taliban stated that the hijackers, who reportedly are Kashmiri militants, would leave Afghanistan even if they were unable to obtain political asylum from another country. Their whereabouts remained unknown at yearend.

Pakistan is one of only three countries that maintains formal diplomatic relations with--and one of several that supported--Afghanistan's Taliban, which permitted many known terrorists to reside and operate in its territory. The United States repeatedly has asked Islamabad to end support to elements that conduct terrorist training in Afghanistan, to interdict travel of militants to and from camps in Afghanistan, to prevent militant groups from acquiring weapons, and to block financial and logistic support to camps in Afghanistan. In addition, the United States has urged Islamabad to close certain madrasses, or "religious" schools, that actually serve as conduits for terrorism.

Credible reports continued to indicate official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militant groups that engage in terrorism, such as the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM). The hijackers of the Air India flight reportedly belong to one of these militant groups. One of the HUM leaders, Maulana Masood Azhar, was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for the hostages on the aircraft in the Air India hijacking in December and has since returned to Pakistan.

Kashmiri extremist groups continued to operate in Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting new cadre. The groups were responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in 1999 against civilian targets in India-held Kashmir and elsewhere in India. Pakistani officials from both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government and, after his removal by the military, General Pervez Musharraf's regime publicly stated that Pakistan provided diplomatic, political, and moral support for "freedom fighters" in Kashmir--including the terrorist group Harakat ul-Mujahidin--but denied providing the militants training or materiel.

On 12 November, shortly after the United Nations authorized sanctions against the Taliban, but before the sanctions were implemented, unidentified terrorists launched a coordinated rocket attack against the US Embassy, the American center, and possibly UN offices in Islamabad. The attacks caused no fatalities but injured a guard and damaged US facilities.

Sectarian and political violence remained a problem in 1999 as Sunni and Shia extremists conducted attacks against each other, primarily in Punjab Province, and as rival wings of an ethnic party feuded in Karachi. Pakistan experienced a particularly strong wave of such attacks across the country in August and September. Domestic violence dropped significantly after the military coup on 12 October.

In the wake of US diplomatic intervention to end the Kargil conflict that broke out in April between Pakistan and India, several Pakistani and Kashmiri extremist groups stridently denounced US interference and activities. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami leaders, for example, reacted to US diplomacy in the region by harshly and publicly berating US efforts to bring wanted terrorist Usama Bin Ladin, who is based in Afghanistan, to justice for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The imposition of US sanctions on 14 November against Afghanistan's Taliban for its continued support for Bin Ladin drew a similar response.