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Terrorism: United States Law & Practise  

US Ban on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

8 October 1997

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Remarks on Designation of Terrorist Organizations, October 8, 1997

Foreign Terrorist Organizations List, Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State, October 8, 1997

Fact sheet released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, 1997

US Patterns of Global Terrorism Report, 1997 - excerpts related to Sri Lanka & LTTE

Appendix A - Chronology of Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1997
Appendix B - Background Information on Terrorist Groups - LTTE, 1997

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Remarks on Designation of Terrorist Organizations, Washington, DC, October 8, 1997

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Today the United States is demonstrating once again its leadership and determination in the struggle against international terror.

Under a provision of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, I'm designating 30 groups as foreign terrorist organizations. These designations have three main consequences.

First, as of today, it is a crime to provide funds, weapons or other types of tangible support to any of the designated organizations.

Second, members and representatives of these organizations are hereby ineligible for visas to enter the United States, and are subject to exclusion from the United States.

And third, any funds that these organizations have in our country will be blocked.

The Anti-Terrorism Act was designed to put a stop to fundraising in the United States by and on behalf of organizations that engage in or sponsor terrorist acts. President Clinton has rightly identified terrorism as one of the most important security challenges we face in the wake of the Cold War.

As the designations made today suggest, terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. No nation is immune; certainly not the United States - where terrorists have struck from lower Manhattan to Oklahoma City.

The United States is responding to that threat with every available tool. We are seeking the help and cooperation of all our citizens, and we seek the help and cooperation of peoples from around the world. This requires a recognition that terrorism is not a self-sustaining enterprise. It needs money and supplies to succeed.

Our goal is to make the United States fully a no-support-for-terrorism zone. Our message to anyone who comes into our country intending to raise money for a terrorist organization is, you risk going to jail. And our message to anyone who is part of a terrorist organization and who wants to enter the United States is, you are not welcome here.

We are aware that some of the designations made today may be challenged in court. Due process under the law affords this opportunity. But we're also confident that the designations are fully justified, and I would note that they have the concurrence of both the Attorney General and the Secretary of Treasury.

I want to emphasize, as well, that our review of organizations under the anti-terrorism law is ongoing. Other groups may be designated at any time.

The steps we are taking today of cracking down on fundraising for terror and of banning terrorists from our shores are steps we urge other countries to take within their jurisdiction. By steadily reducing the habitat in which terrorism thrives, we can hope to make terrorists first an endangered species, and ultimately, an extinct one.

Thank you very much.


Foreign Terrorist Organizations List, Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State, October 8, 1997

Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
Aum Shinrikyo (Aum)
Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Hawatmeh Faction (DFLP)
HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA)
Hizballah (Party of God)
Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, IG)
Japanese Red Army (JRA)
Kahane Chai
Khmer Rouge
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front Dissidents (FPMR/D)
Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK, MKO)
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Palestine Islamic Jihad-Shaqaqi Faction (PIJ)
Palestine Liberation Front-Abu Abbas Faction (PLF)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17 November)
Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA)
Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)

Fact sheet released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, October 8, 1997

1997 Report Index
(Compiled every 2 years)

The Designation  Legal Consequences The Process Background

The Designation
  • The Secretary of State has designated 30 groups as foreign terrorist organizations. Her action sends a powerful signal that the United States will not tolerate support for international terrorism. 
  • The Secretary acted under the authority provided by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, with the concurrence of the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury. 
  • On October 1, the State Department notified Congress of the Secretary's intent to designate 30 foreign terrorist organizations. Congress also received the factual bases for her decisions on each of the 30 designations. 
  • A formal announcement of the designations was placed in the Federal Register on October 8, and the Department of the Treasury has notified financial institutions to block funds of the designated organization. 
  • The designations are a significant addition to our enforcement tools against international terrorists and their supporters. They supplement the Executive Order the President signed in January 1995 (and has renewed annually), which blocks funds of 12 Middle Eastern organizations that use or threaten to use violence to disrupt the Middle East Peace Process.

Legal Consequences

  • The 1996 law makes it a criminal offense to provide funds or other forms of material support or resources, such as weapons or safehouses, to designated foreign terrorist organizations.
--The law applies to anyone within the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
--Violators are subject to fines and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Aliens abroad who are members or representatives of designated foreign terrorist organizations are ineligible for visas to the U.S. and are subject to exclusion from the U.S.
  • U.S. financial institutions are required to block those funds of designated foreign terrorist organizations or their agents over which they have possession or control. They are subject to civil penalties and possible criminal prosecution if they do not conform with the law and regulations.

The Process

  • The designations are subject to judicial review, as the statute required, and extensive administrative records were created to substantiate each recommendation to the Secretary of State. A major interagency effort included the examination of thousands of pages of documents and the preparation of a complete administrative record on each group.
--The administrative records are and will remain classified. Unclassified descriptions of terrorist organizations, including those formally designated, appear in the annex of the Department's annual report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1997, available on the State Department's web site.
  • The designations expire in two years unless renewed. The law also allows groups to be added at any time following a decision by the Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury. Designations can also be revoked if the Secretary determines that there are grounds for doing so and notifies Congress. Congress can also pass legislation to revoke designations.


  • The law responded to concerns that foreign terrorist organizations were raising money in the United States. Some groups have tried to broaden their financial base because state sponsors were becoming less reliable sources of money. 
  • Some terrorist organizations have tried to portray themselves as raising money for charitable activities such as clinics or schools. These activities have helped recruit supporters and activists. 
  • Congress noted in the statement of findings in the legislation:
"--Foreign organizations that engage in terrorist activity are so tainted by their criminal conduct that any contribution to such an organization facilitates that conduct. (Section 301(a)(7))."
"--Therefore, any contribution to a foreign terrorist organization, regardless of the intended purpose, is prohibited by the statute, unless the contribution is limited to medicine or religious materials."

US Patterns of Global Terrorism Report, 1997 - excerpts related to Sri Lanka & LTTE


South Asia

In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) showed no signs of abandoning their campaign to cripple the Sri Lankan economy and target government officials. The group retains its ability to strike in the heart of Colombo, as demonstrated by an October bomb attack on the World Trade Center in the financial district that was reminiscent of the January 1996 truck bomb attack that destroyed the Central Bank. The LTTE was designated a foreign terrorist organization in October pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

Sri Lanka

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam continued its terrorist activities in 1997, attacking government troops, economic infrastructure targets, and assassinating political opponents. The LTTE's most spectacular terrorist attack in 1997 was a truck bombing directed at the newly opened Colombo World Trade Center on 15 October. The explosion injured more than 100 persons, including many foreigners, and caused significant collateral damage to nearby buildings. Eighteen persons--including LTTE suicide bombers, hotel security guards, and Sri Lankan security forces--died in the explosion and aftermath. Two of the terrorists were shot by Sri Lankan authorities as they tried to escape, and another three killed themselves to avoid capture. One of the bombers lobbed a grenade into a monastery yard as he fled the scene, killing one monk.

In two separate incidents in June in the Tricomalee area, the LTTE assassinated two legislators and nine other civilians.

Also, during the summer months, naval elements of the LTTE conducted several attacks on commercial shipping, including numerous foreign vessels. In July LTTE rebels abducted the crew of an empty passenger ferry and set fire to the vessel. The captain and a crewmember--both Indonesian--were released after three days. Also in July, the LTTE stormed a North Korean cargo ship after it delivered a shipment of food and other goods for civilians on the Jaffna Peninsula, killing one of the vessel's 38 North Korean crewmembers in the process. The Tigers freed its North Korean captives five days later and eventually returned the vessel. Sri Lankan authorities charged the LTTE with the July hijacking of a shipment of more than 32,000 mortar rounds bound for the Sri Lankan military. In September the LTTE used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a Panamanian-flagged Chinese-owned merchant ship chartered by a US chemical company to load minerals for export. As many as 20 persons, including five Chinese crewmembers, were reported killed, wounded, or missing from the attack.

In August a group calling itself the Internet Black Tigers (IBT) claimed responsibility for e-mail harassment of several Sri Lankan missions around the world. The group claimed in Internet postings to be an elite department of the LTTE specializing in "suicide e-mail bombings" with the goal of countering Sri Lankan Government propaganda disseminated electronically. The IBT stated that the attacks were only warnings.

The Sri Lankan Government strongly supports international efforts to address the problem of terrorism. (It was the first to sign the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings in January 1998.) Colombo was quick to condemn terrorist attacks in other countries and raised terrorism issues in several international venues, including the UN General Assembly and the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Edinburgh.

No confirmed cases of LTTE or other terrorist groups targeting US citizens in Sri Lanka occurred in 1997. The LTTE was among the 30 groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the United States on 8 October.

Appendix B - Background Information on Terrorist Groups - LTTE

The following list of terrorist groups is not exhaustive. It focuses on the groups that were designated foreign terrorist organizations on 8 October 1997 pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (denoted by an asterisk) but also includes other major groups that were active in 1997. Terrorist groups whose activities were limited in scope in 1997 are not included.


The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)* Other known front organizations: World Tamil Association (WTA), World Tamil Movement (WTM), the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT), the Ellalan Force


Founded in 1976, the LTTE is the most powerful Tamil group in Sri Lanka and uses overt and illegal methods to raise funds, acquire weapons, and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state. The LTTE began its armed conflict with the Sri Lankan Government in 1983 and relies on a guerrilla strategy that includes the use of terrorist tactics. The group's elite Black Tiger squad conducts suicide bombings against important targets, and all rank-and-file members carry a cyanide capsule to kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be caught. The LTTE is very insular and highly organized with its own intelligence service, naval element (the Sea Tigers), and women's political and military wings.


The LTTE has integrated a battlefield insurgent strategy with a terrorist program that targets key government and military personnel, the economy, and public infrastructure. Political assassinations include the suicide bomber attacks against Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, which is the group's only known act outside Sri Lanka. The LTTE has detonated two massive truck bombs directed against the Sri Lankan economy, one at the Central Bank in January 1996 and another at the Colombo World Trade Center in October 1997. The LTTE also has attacked several ships in Sri Lankan waters, including foreign commercial vessels and infrastructure targets such as commuter trains, buses, oil tanks, and power stations. The LTTE prefers to attack vulnerable government facilities then withdraw before reinforcements arrive, or to time its attacks to take advantage of security lapses on holidays, at night, or in the early morning.


Approximately 10,000 armed combatants in Sri Lanka; about 3,000 to 6,000 form a trained cadre of fighters. The LTTE also has a significant overseas support structure for fundraising, weapons procurement, and propaganda activities.

Location/Area of Operation

The Tigers control most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka but have conducted operations throughout the island. Headquartered in the Wanni region, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has established an extensive network of checkpoints and informants to keep track of any outsiders who enter the group's area of control.

External Aid

The LTTE's overt organizations support Tamil separatism by lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations. The LTTE also uses its international contacts to procure weapons, communications, and bombmaking equipment. The LTTE exploits large Tamil communities in North America, Europe, and Asia to obtain funds and supplies for its fighters in Sri Lanka. Information obtained since the mid-1980s indicates that some Tamil communities in Europe are also involved in narcotics smuggling.


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