African terror death toll is worst since Lockerbie

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The Independent Online
NOT SINCE Pan Am flight No 103 exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988 killing 270 people have anti-US terrorists targeted their victims so spectacularly.

Yesterday's embassy bombings abruptly ended an 18-month period of relative quiet which may have lulled United States security services into complacency. The number of American casualties from international terrorism last year fell to one of the lowest levels in 25 years, a decline attributed by the US State Department to its law enforcement agencies in tracking those responsible.

Nine states are on the American government's list of "terrorist sponsors", although Iran remains the "most active" backer of Islamic extremist attacks despite the more conciliatory posture of the Iranian President, Mohammed Khatami, who came to power a year ago.

The last big incident was in June 1996 when Khobar Towers, a US military housing complex, in Dharhan, Saudi Arabia was blown up, killing 19 American airmen and wounding 500.

Exiled Saudi dissident, Osama Bin Laden, described as one of the world's most dangerous terrorists, is wanted for, among others, a car-bombing in the Saudi capital Riyadh the previous year which killed five Americans.

Mr Bin Laden, believed to be based in Afghanistan, is suspected of funding the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1996.

The massive explosion killed six and injured 1,000. Four people were convicted of the bombing, including the Muslim cleric Umar Abd a-Rahman, an Egyptian national, and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef who had been extradited from Pakistan.

The last time an American embassy was targeted so directly was in 1984 when a suicide bomber believed to be from Islamic Jihad blew up the US embassy in east Beirut killing 40 and wounding dozens, including the US ambassador and his visiting British colleague.

The following year the worst terrorist attack in recent Spanish history killed 18 at a restaurant near the US air base at Torrejon.

The attack was claimed by a group representing the Islamic Jihad.

Another suspected Islamic terrorist, Mir Aimal Kansi, is facing trial for the murders of two Central Intelligence Agency officials in 1993 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia

In March 1995, two US consulate employees were killed in Karachi when their shuttle bus was attacked and in February 1996 a Palestinian gunman killed one tourist and wounded 12 others at the Empire State building in New York before shooting himself.

A note he carried said the attack was punishment for "the enemies of Palestine".

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