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Terrorism Still Rising, U.S. Expert Says

Times Staff Writer

Driven by an increase in Afghan-sponsored terrorist attacks in Pakistan and a spurt in Latin American terror, the global count of terrorist incidents is expected to set a record again in 1988, the State Department’s top terrorism expert said Tuesday.

Terror attacks are up by one-third over last year, when there were a record 832 terrorism incidents, according to L. Paul Bremer III, chief of the State Department’s counterterrorism office.

“About half of the incidents each year occur traditionally in the Middle East. The next largest region is usually Europe, although there’s been a disturbing trend in the last three or four years for Latin American terrorism to increase, particularly in Colombia and more recently Peru,” he said.

Peru is battling an insurgency led by the Marxist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla movement that has been blamed for a growing number of terrorist attacks. In Colombia, Bremer said, “we see a marriage where terrorists and narcotics traffickers work together” to attack economic targets and to intimidate government officials.

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The State Department official spoke with reporters at a breakfast session in Washington on Tuesday.

He contended that despite the increase in the number of acts of terrorism, the United States is making progress in its anti-terrorism efforts.

He also noted that the international effects of the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the Reagan Administration tried to swap weapons to Iran in exchange for freedom for American hostages in Beirut, have started to wear off.

Bremer said Afghan security forces have been carrying out a three-year campaign of terror in northwestern Pakistan, bombing marketplaces and villages in an effort to deter Pakistani support for the Afghan moujahedeen rebels battling the Soviet-backed Afghan regime.

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Although the number of Americans killed by terrorists is down--so far this year only three U.S. citizens have been killed by terrorists--U.S. officials are increasingly concerned about terrorist use of high-technology weapons and the possibility that nuclear, biological or chemical weapons might fall into terrorist hands.

Bremer said the Irish Republican Army has used sophisticated Czech Semtex plastic explosives, sometimes attached to fuses that allow them to be placed long before detonation.

American citizens and American business and diplomatic facilities are the target of 20% to 25% of international terrorist attacks, he said. That number has remained constant over the past several years, while American deaths have fallen.

In 1985, 38 American citizens were killed by terrorists, according to the State Department’s count. In 1986, the figure fell to 12. Last year, seven Americans died in terror attacks.

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Libya continues to sponsor terrorist groups, Bremer charged, as do North Korea, South Yemen, Cuba and Syria.


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