Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999 - United Kingdom

The United Kingdom continued its aggressive efforts against domestic and international terrorism in 1999. In December the Blair Government introduced new national antiterrorist legislation meant to replace laws that had been developed to combat terrorism in Northern Ireland. The bill, which is expected to become law by midsummer 2000, would extend most provisions of earlier laws to all forms of international and domestic terrorism. The police would have authority to arrest, detain, confiscate evidence, and seize cash suspected of being used to fund terrorist activities and designated terrorist organizations. The legislation includes provisions for proscribing membership in terrorist groups.

The United Kingdom continued its close cooperation with the United States to bring terrorists to justice. In 1999 the British Government detained numerous individuals suspected of conducting anti-U.S. violence and whom the United States sought to extradite. At yearend, the United Kingdom was holding three of the 15 individuals indicted in the Southern District of New York on charges connected with the bombings in 1998 of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam.

In April the Libyan Government handed over the two Libyans charged with the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, after a joint US-UK initiative enabled a Scottish court to sit in the Netherlands to try the accused. Scottish authorities intend to charge the two Libyans with murder, breach of the U.K. aviation security act, and conspiracy. The trial was set to begin in May 2000.

In the immediate aftermath of the arrest in February of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya, PKK members and supporters staged violent demonstrations in London, and militants occupied the Greek Embassy for two days. British officials subsequently arrested 79 individuals and suspended the broadcast license for Med-TV, a Kurdish satellite television station tied to the PKK. Following subsequent broadcasts that were deemed inflammatory, authorities revoked Med-TV's license. Since February, PKK followers were peaceful, focusing instead on rebuilding strained relations with the British Government and lobbying for Ankara to spare Ocalan's life.

Washington's ties to London and Dublin played a key role in facilitating historic political developments in the Northern Ireland peace process that resulted in a significant decline in terrorist activity. Following a year of intense negotiations and a review of the entire peace process by former US Senator George Mitchell, Britain devolved power to Ulster, and Ireland gave up its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland; the Catholic and Protestant parties agreed to govern Ulster together in a joint Executive, which held its inaugural meeting on 13 December. Much of the contention between the parties was, and remains, about how to address the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, including the issue of decommissioning paramilitary weapons.

Republican and Loyalist paramilitary splinter groups, including the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA, the Red Hand Defenders, and the Orange Volunteers, continued terrorist activities during the year. These included punishment attacks on civilians as well as actions against police, military, and security personnel. Among the most heinous attacks was the car-bombing murder on 15 March of Rosemary Nelson, a prominent lawyer and human rights campaigner. Although it is widely assumed that hardline loyalist paramilitaries were responsible, no charges were filed in the case. The British Government said that a scaling back or normalization of the security presence in Northern Ireland will be linked to a reduction of the security threat there.


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