Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996   [open html - 16KB]

Terrorism in 1996 continued to cause grave concern and disruption in scores of countries. Combating this menace remains a very high priority for the United States and many other nations. But finding clear "patterns" in this form of political violence is becoming more difficult. The Department of State's annual Patterns of Olobal Terrorism focuses primarily on international terrorism involving citizens or territory of two or more states. It also describes but does not provide statistics on domestic terrorism abroad, which is an even more widespread phenomenon. The number of international terrorist incidents has fallen, from a peak of 665 in 1987, to 296 in 1996, a 25-year low. Moreover, about two-thirds of these attacks were minor acts of politically motivated violence against commercial targets, which caused no deaths and few casualties. Yet while the incidence of international terrorism has dropped sharply in the last decade, the overall threat of terrorism remains very serious. The death toll from acts of international terrorism rose from 163 in 1995 to 311 in 1996, as the trend continued toward more ruthless attacks on mass civilian targets and the use of more powertul bombs. The threat of terrorist use of materials of mass destruction is an issue of growing concern, although few such attempts or attacks have actually occurred. Finally, domestic terrorism, in countries such as Algeria, India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, appears to be growing and is more serious, in gross terms, than international terrorism. It is clear, in any case, that the damage to society from terrorism is very high, and not just in terms of the dead and wounded. Terrorism, by definition, is aimed at a wider audience than its immediate victims. Terrorists proved again in 1996 that they can command a worldwide audience for their crimes and cause great disruption, fear, and economic damage.

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