The Military Column

4th August 1996

LTTE faces world anti-terror clamp-down

By Our Military Analyst

The seven richest nations of the world - the USA, Britain, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and Canada decided to enforce strong measures against terrorism at the recently concluded summit.

The impact of these measures is bound to dampen both the domestic and international activities of terrorist groups such as the LTTE.

The international community believes that terrorist groups the world over, will suffer a series of reversals with the G7 proposals becoming law. At least for a period of time until terrorist groups develop counter measures the G7 measures will curb the global rise of terrorist organisations.

Unlike the measures adopted domestically, the G7 measures are bound to affect groups with a regional or a global reach. They include groups like the Sri Lankan LTTE, the Punjabi Sikhs, the Kurdish PKK, Algerian FIS, IRA and West Asian groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Other groups that have demonstrated their ability to operate in distant theatres with great skill were the Armenians and the Palestinians. But, more recently the Basques, Japan's Aum sect and the Kashmiri's Mujahidin are developing linkages to operate on a larger geographic scale.

Further, terrorist networks are bound to suffer as a result of these counter measures. For example the Muslim Brotherhood - Jamaati Islami network provides fighters as well as weapons for the wars in Algeria, Egypt, Bosnia, Sudan, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Mindanao.

The LTTE is linked to this network through the Afghan group of Gulbaddin Hekmatiyar. The LTTE has exchanged technology and expertise with ULFA in Assam, the Peoples War group in Andhra Pradesh, the Kashmiri Mujahidin and several groups in Tamil Nadu.

It has become increasingly difficult for countries, particularly those in the Third World, to develop legislation and the institutions to fight this new form of transnational terrorism. With globalization - greater economic and political interaction, the world has become much more easier for terrorist groups to operate in distant theatres with nearly the same ease as in their home or neighbouring theatres.

The post-cold war world is witnessing enhanced travel, communication and migration, free flow of information and greater access to lethal weapons, and increased porosity of boundaries. Terrorist groups have established ideological, technological and financial linkages within and outside their regions.

Countries of the developed world have realized the long term and strategic implications of allowing terrorism to grow both in the north and the south. When the G7 leaders met in Lyon, France in late June, prior to the meeting of their security and foreign ministers last week, they agreed that fighting terrorism was their priority.

Although terrorist strikes in the Oklahoma, Paris, Manchester, London, Tokyo, Israel and Saudi Arabia dominated the discussion, the 40 measures prepared by experts to combat terrorism, organized crime, narcotic trafficking and nuclear smuggling would have a worldwide impact.

The US provided leadership to the forum, because it had suffered more than any of the other G7 nations. Further, the US had the largest and the most sophisticated intelligence apparatus to fight terrorism at a global scale.

The incidents of domestic and international terrorism that affected the US were:

(a) On February 26, 1993 a van packed with explosives parked in an underground car park in the World Trade Centre, New York exploded killing six and injuring over 1000 men, women and children. An Egyptian Islamic extremist group, that had links with the CIA over the semi covert multinational anti Soviet Afghan campaign, that had also classified as the West (the US in particular) as Satanic, was responsible for the blast.

(b) Four major attacks were carried out against US nationals overseas. On June 26, 1996, a lorry bomb exploded in Dhahran in front of a military base killing 19 US nationals and injured 368 US, Saudi and Bangladesh nationals. On November 13, 1995, a car bomb exploded in Riyadh in front of the Saudi National Guard base killing 5 US and 2 Indian nationals and injuring 60. On September 20, 1984, a car bomb struck the US embassy annexe in Beruit killing 16 and injuring 96. On October 23, 1983, a lorry bomb struck the US marine base in Beirut killing 241. (A Similar suicide strike was carried out against the French troops.)

(c) On April 19, 1995, an explosives truck blew up destroying the Oklahoma Federal building killing 168 and injuring a dozen.

(d) Bombing of a train, a series of parcel bombs, a possible bomb on the civilian aircraft, and the recent bombing in Atlanta, have galvanized the US into action and made other countries aware of the looming threat of terrorism.

The proposals, prepared since the 1995 summit in Halifax, Canada, are supported by Russia. The proposals, made public at the conclusion of the foreign and security ministers meeting in Paris, focused on:

(a) All countries to ratify existing conventions on terrorism, air piracy, hostage taking and extradition, and align their national legislation accordingly.

(b) Nation-states to consider extradition even if they have no treaty.

(c) Adapt domestic and international laws to fight terrorism.

(d) Improve intelligence-sharing, pooling information on suspects, organizations, weapons and explosives: training in bomb detection and disposal and anti-terrorism techniques.

(e) Improve surveillance of flows of money to suspect groups with powers to ban organisations and impound their assets.

(f) Better control of the public internet, with legislation to ban private encryption of content on the worldwide computer network and ban incitement to and instruction in terrorism.

(g) An international resolution to outlaw abuse of political asylum to promote or finance terrorist acts.

(h) Generalization of computer-readable identity documents.

(i) A US proposal to oblige manufacturers to chemically mark explosives so that it can be traced.

(j) A pledge not to make concessions to hostage takers.

However, for a global clamp down on extremist groups to be effective, they have to be declared as terrorist groups. Therefore, for the G7 anti-terrorist moves to be effective, Sri Lanka has to legally declare the LTTE as a terrorist group.

One of the major breakthroughs at the recently concluded summit that will be relevant to Sri Lanka, would be the proposal to ban even the political wings of terrorist groups or political organisations that have terrorist wings.

After, years of concerted informal education by security and intelligence organisations, governments of the West are now beginning to realize that the line between political action and terrorist action is thin. Terrorist groups throughout the world use their political offices, primarily using propaganda, to raise funds by reaching out to their potential supporters and sympathizers. It is these funds that are used to carry out terrorist strikes.

Terrorism is unacceptable to the international community as a means to a political goal. To address grievences of minority or subordinate ethnic and religious groups, there are domestic, regional and international mechanisms that leaders of such groups can lobby.

For optimal results in combating terrorism, governments must develop mechanisms to isolate the terrorists from appearing as champions of legitimate causes by empowering the minority or subordinate groups that could be exploited by terrorist groups.

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