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State-sponsored terrorism is a term loosely used to describe terrorism sponsored by nation-states. As with terrorism, the precise definition, and the identification of particular examples, are subjects of heated political dispute. In general state-sponsored terrorism is associated with para-militaries. It is also frequently used in conjunction with state terrorism, which is terrorism committed by nation-states.

By country


Indiamarker's counter-intelligence unit, the Research & Analysis Wing has been accused of supporting insurgent groups by Pakistanmarker. It has also been accused of training and arming the Sri Lankanmarker Tamil group, LTTE, during the 1970s before it withdrew its support when the LTTE increased its activities in the 1980s.


The governments of the United Statesmarker, the United Kingdommarker, Israelmarker, and Yemenmarker have accused the Ahmadinejad administration of sponsoring terrorism either in their, or against their, respective countries. Britain and the United States have also accused Iran of backing Shia militias in Iraqmarker, which have at times attacked Coalition troops, Iraqi Sunni militias and civilians, and Anglo-American-supported Iraqi government forces.

United States President George W. Bush has called Iran the "world's primary state sponsor of terror." Iran sponsors Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the al-Mahdi army, groups that Iran doesn't view as terrorist.


After the military overthrow of King Idris in 1969 the Libyan Arab Republicmarker (later the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyamarker), to the bewilderment of some the new government supported (with weapon supplies, training camps located within Libya and monetary finances) an array of armed paramilitary groups both left and right wing. Leftist and socialist groups included the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty, the Umkhonto We Sizwe, the Polisario Front, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, while others were on the Far Right such as the Moro National Liberation Front. The government of Libya even had brief contacts with the Neo-Nazi British National Front, which attempted to enlist financial aid from Libya during the 1980s. These contacts were ended after the fascist nature of the NF was discovered during Nick Griffin's visit to Libya in 1986.

In 2006 Libya was removed from the United Statesmarker list of terrorist supporting nations after it had ended all of its support for armed groups and the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Out of the armed groups Libya used to support the Provisional IRA, Umkhonto we Sizwe and the Moro National Liberation Front have completely abandoned terrorist tactics or political violence.


Pakistanmarker has been accused by Indiamarker, Afghanistanmarker, the United States, the United Kingdommarker, and Chinamarker of involvement in terrorism in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Polandmarker has also alleged that terrorists have "friends in Pakistani government structures". In July 2009, current President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari admitted that the Pakistani government had "created and nurtured" terrorist groups to achieve its short-term foreign policy goals.

The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) has stated that it was training more than 3,000 militants from various nationalities.The Council on Foreign Relations has stated that both Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) include personnel who sympathize with and help Islamic terrorists.According to some sources ISI has provided covert but well-documented support to terrorist groups active in Kashmirmarker, including the al-Qaeda affiliate Jaish-e-Mohammed".Pakistan has denied any involvement in terrorist activities in Kashmirmarker, arguing that it only provides political and moral support to the secessionist groups who wish to escape Indian rule.Many Kashmiri militant groups also maintain their headquarters in Pakistan-administered Kashmirmarker, which is cited as further proof by the Indian government.Many of the terrorist organisations are banned by the UN, but continue to operate under different names.The UNO has publicly increased pressure on Pakistan on its inability to control its Afghanistan border and not restricting the activities of Taliban leaders who have been designated by the UN as terrorists.Experts believe that the ISI has also been involved in training and supplying Chechnyanmarker militants.

Many consider that Pakistan has been playing both sides in the US "War on Terror".Ahmed Rashid, a noted Pakistani journalist, has accused Pakistan's ISI of providing help to the Taliban.Author Ted Galen Carpenter echoed that statement, stating that Pakistan "...assisted rebel forces in Kashmir even though those groups have committed terrorist acts against civilians"Author Gordon Thomas stated that whilst aiding in the capture of al-Qaeda members, Pakistan "still sponsored terrorist groups in the disputed state of Kashmir, funding, training and arming them in their war on attrition against India." Journalist Stephen Schwartz notes that several militant and criminal groups are "backed by senior officers in the Pakistani army, the country's ISI intelligence establishment and other armed bodies of the state." According to one author, Daniel Byman, "Pakistan is probably today's most active sponsor of terrorism."

The Inter-Services Intelligence has often been accused of playing a role in major terrorist attacks across the world including the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, terrorism in Kashmir, Mumbai Train Bombings, London Bombings, Indian Parliament Attack, Varnasi bombings, Hyderabad bombingsmarker and Mumbai terror attacks. The ISI is also accused of supporting Taliban forces and recruiting and training mujahideen to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Based on communication intercepts US intelligence agencies concluded Pakistan's ISI was behind the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008, a charge that the governments of India and Afghanistan had laid previously. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has constantly reiterated allegations that militants operating training camps in Pakistan have used it as a launch platform to attack targets in Afghanistan, urged western military allies to target extremist hideouts in neighbouring Pakistan.When the United States, during the Clinton administration, targeted al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan with cruise missiles, Slate reported that two officers of the ISI were killed.

Pakistan is accused of sheltering and training the Taliban in operations "which include soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban's virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on several occasions apparently directly providing combat support," as reported by Human Rights Watch.

Soviet Union

After the 1953 death of Stalin and subsequent destalinization, according to defector Ion Mihai Pacepa, the KGB continued its policy of supporting a number of terrorist organizations. KGB General Aleksandr Sakharovsky said that "In today’s world, when nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon." He also claimed that "Airplane hijacking is my own invention".In 1969 alone 82 planes were hijacked worldwide by the KGB-financed PLO.

Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa also described operation "SIG" (“Zionist Governments”) that was devised in 1972, to turn the whole Islamic world against Israelmarker and the United Statesmarker. According to him, KGB chairman Yury Andropov explained him that "a billion adversaries could inflict far greater damage on America than could a few millions. We needed to instill a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews throughout the Islamic world, and to turn this weapon of the emotions into a terrorist bloodbath against Israel and its main supporter, the United States." Andropov also told him that "the Islamic world was a waiting petri dish in which we could nurture a virulent strain of America-hatred, grown from the bacterium of Marxist-Leninist thought."

According to Pacepa, the following organizations were assisted, at one period or another, by the KGB: PLO, National Liberation Army of Bolivia (created in 1964 with help from Ernesto Che Guevara); the National Liberation Army of Colombia (created in 1965 with help from Fidel Castro), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969, and the Secret Army for Liberation of Armenia in 1975.

The PFLP was also claimed to have received support from the Soviet Union.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdommarker (UK) has been accused of supporting Loyalist paramilitary groups, both within the UK and also in cross-border operations into the Republic of Irelandmarker, namely the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA). These groups support the territory of Northern Irelandmarker remaining part of the UK. The UK is accused of providing intelligence material, training, firearms, explosives and lists of people that the security forces wanted to have killed. The UK security services have been accused of involvement in the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings by the UVF on 17 May,1974 which killed 33 and wounded nearly 300 civilians.

On the 17 April 2003, Sir John Stevens published his third inquiry into collusion between the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) with Loyalist paramilitaries. It stated that there had been collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane by Loyalists.

A former RUC officer, John Weir, has admitted to colluding with Loyalist terrorists in the 1970s in activities that led to the death of ten Catholics and that his superiors had knowledge of 76 more killings carried out by the UVF in the same time period. He also alleges that members of the SASmarker killed Loyalists who may have planned to expose the collusion.

The UK has also been accused by Iran of supporting Arab separatist terrorism in the southern city of Ahwazmarker in 2006.

United States

The United Statesmarker was accused of being a state sponsor of terrorism by Cubamarker and Nicaraguamarker during the Cold War and arguably met the official US definition of "sponsoring terrorism" against Soviet-occupied Afghanistanmarker in the 1980s when U.S. governments covertly sponsored Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas against the Sovietmarker-backed Afghan government.

See also


  1. RAW: India's External Intelligence Agency - Council on Foreign Relations
  3. Blair: Iran sponsors terrorism CNN
  4. Sharon calls Syria and Iran sponsors of terrorism Pravda
  5. Fighting breaks out in Yemen with Shi'ite group tied to Iran World Tribune
  6. International Terrorism: Threats and Responses: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary By United States Congress House Committee on the Judiciary, ISBN 0-16-052230-7, 1996, pp482
  7. Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism April 30, 2001 U.S. State Department
  8. Daily Times Story
  9. China turns table on Pakistan, accuses it of training terrorists The Times of India, 19 Apr, 2007
  10. Pakistan's link to Afghan terrorism
  11. Pakistan is complicit in killing by Taliban, a Polish official says, New York Times, February 10, 2009
  12. Pakistani president Asif Zardari admits creating terrorist groups - by Telegraph UK
  13. Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan
  14. 'Pak feared exposure of militant camps' - Rediff October 16, 2005
  15. Terrorism Havens: Pakistan - Council on Foreign Relations
  16. The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations, Council on Foreign Relations, 2009-05-28
  17. Kashmiri militants chafe at warmer India-Pakistan ties, The Christian Science Monitor, 2003-05-28
  18. Pakistan should crack down on Taliban, UN official says
  19. BBC Story
  20. Who Is Osama Bin Laden? by Michel Chossudovsky Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa hosted on Centre for Research on Globalisation
  21. Pakistan said to play both sides on terror war October 02, 2006, Christian Science Monitor
  22. Dangerous game of state-sponsored terror that threatens nuclear conflict May 25, 2002, Guardian Unlimited
  23. Die Zeit - Kosmoblog » Mustread: Rashid über Afghanistan
  24. Terrorist Sponsors: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China by Ted Galen Carpenter November 16, 2001 Cato Institute
  25. Deadly Connections: States That Sponsor Terrorism By Daniel Byman, ISBN 0-521-83973-4, 2005, Cambridge University Press, pp 155
  26. Michael Meacher: The Pakistan connection | World news | The Guardian
  27. Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG)
  28. Terrorism Havens: Pakistan - Council on Foreign Relations
  29. Indian minister ties ISI to Kashmir
  30. Kashmir Militant Extremists - Council on Foreign Relations
  31. BBC NEWS | South Asia | Pakistan 'role in Mumbai attacks'
  32. The Pakistani Connection: The London Bombers and "Al Qaeda's Webmaster"
  33. Terrorist Attack on the Parliament of India - December 13, 2001
  34. ISI now outsources terror to Bangladesh
  35. Hyderabad blasts: The ISI hand
  36. ISI may be behind Hyderabad blasts: Jana Reddy
  37. U.S. official: Indian attack has Pakistani ties
  38. Rice tells Pakistan to act ‘or US will’
  39. BBC NEWS | South Asia | Pakistan's shadowy secret service
  40. Nato's top brass accuse Pakistan over Taliban aid - Telegraph
  41. At Border, Signs of Pakistani Role in Taliban Surge - New York Times
  42. A NATION CHALLENGED: THE SUSPECTS; Death of Reporter Puts Focus On Pakistan Intelligence Unit - New York Times
  43. Pakistanis Aided Attack in Kabul, U.S. Officials say
  44. Karzai wants action by allied forces in Pakistan August 11, 2008 Dawn, Pakistan
  45. Pakistan Is the Problem And Barack Obama seems to be the only candidate willing to face it Slate
  46. Crisis of Impunity - Pakistan's Support Of The Taliban
  47. Russian Footprints - by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, August 24, 2006
  48. From Russia With Terror,, interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, March 1, 2004
  49. Courtois, Stephane; Werth, Nicolas; Panne, Jean-Louis; Paczkowski, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis & Kramer, Mark (1999). The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-07608-7. Chapter 18
  50. Text of Sir John Steven's Inquiry into collusion between the UK and Loyalist Terrorists
  51. Dublin and Monaghan Bombings-Relatives for Justice

Further reading

xDreyfus, Robert. The Devil's Game: How the United States unleashed Fundamentalist Islam. Pluto Press, 2005.
  • Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth & K. Lee Lerner, eds. Terrorism: Essential primary sources. Thomson Gale, 2006. ISBN 9781414406213 Library of Congress. Jefferson or Adams Bldg General or Area Studies Reading Rms LC Control Number: 2005024002.
  • Tarpley, Webster G. 9/11 Synthetic Terror, Made in USA -Progressive Press. ISBN 0-93085-231-1
  • Chomsky, Noam. The Culture of Terrorism ISBN 0-89608-334-9
  • Chomsky, Noam. 9/11 ISBN 1-58322-489-0
  • George, Alexander. Western State Terrorism, Polity Press. ISBN 0-7456-0931-7

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