The Emergence of the Terrorist International
by Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat
(with research support from Rafael Artigas and Ana Carbonell)
Center for the Study of a National Option/Directorio

"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us,
or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to
harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."

President George W. Bush
Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People
September 20, 2001

Introduction -

In the aftermath of the brutal terrorist attacks on America the United States government unveiled a new anti-terrorism policy where the distinction between terrorist groups and terrorist states was at long last eliminated. As experts on terrorism and administration officials have pointed out repeatedly, international terrorist groups simply could not operate without the logistical and diplomatic support of terrorist states.

As of now, there is no clear evidence directly linking the 42-year old Castro regime to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, there is abundant evidence linking the Cuban dictatorship to an international network of terrorist states and organizations that extends from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to the Colombian jungle occupied by the terrorist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Some have argued that Cuba's well-documented sponsorship and instigation of international terrorism is a thing of the past, to be understood in light of the Cold War context. However, a careful analysis of the policies, statements and actions of the Cuban government shows the contrary. This report seeks to piece together information from different sources indicating that to this day:

  1. The Castro dictatorship continues to actively harbor international terrorists,

  2. The Castro dictatorship continues to pursue a strategic alliance with terrorist states so as to create an 'anti-Western' international front, and

  3. The Castro dictatorship engages directly in attacks and espionage which threaten the security of the United States.

The compilation of facts contained in this report clearly indicates that the Castro regime may be part of a current-day international network of cooperation and solidarity among terrorist groups and states. This information should not be easily dismissed by any policy or opinion maker concerned about the security of the Western Hemisphere. Terrorist actions could not take place without the active encouragement of state sponsors who seek covert means to promote their blind hatred for America and liberal democracy. There is very little distance between the words of states who back terrorist actions in pursuit of their ideological interests and the deeds of the terrorist groups that actually carry them out.

The Iranian alliance -

After months of surveillance, the FBI arrested suspected Castro spy Ana Belen Montes at her office in Bolling Air Force Base on Sept. 21, 2001. Federal agents hurried to arrest Montes, the senior intelligence analyst on Cuba for the Defense Intelligence Agency, because they feared that she could pass on information about America's response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. "Government sources said Cuba has been known to share information with Libya, Iran, and others that might be sympathetic to Osama bin Laden, the Bush's administration's chief suspect in the attacks." (Washington Post Service, Sept. 28, 2001).

The Bureau's fears were not unfounded. Increasingly challenged domestically by a growing nonviolent resistance, and isolated from his fellow Latin American states for his continued human rights violations and support for terrorism, Castro has worked hard to create an 'anti-Western front' with groups and countries around the world, but particularly in the Middle East.

The statements made by Fidel Castro during his visit to Iran in May 2001are chilling when read in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Montes arrest. According to news reports, during the visit Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei "assured Castro that Iran and Cuba can defeat the US hand in hand," to which Castro agreed, adding that America was "extremely weak today," and that "we are today eye-witness to their weakness, as their close neighbors." (AFP, May 10th, 2001)

Could Castro have been referring to highly classified information regarding US defenses that his government received from Montes? "In a court affidavit, FBI agent Stephen A. McCoy said authorities determined that Montes was passing details 'about a particular Special Access Program related to the national defense of the United States.' " (Washington Post, Sept.22, 2001)

At Tehran University Castro went on to state to the thunderous applause of students and faculty that "The imperialist king will finally fall," (AFP, May 10th, 2001). Immediately afterwards the Iranian Press Service proudly proclaimed that "Iran and Cuba reached the conclusion that together they can tear down the United States." (IPS, May 10th, , 2001)

Biological warfare -

Cuba and Iran may be exchanging more than pats on the back, invectives against America and intelligence on US national security in their efforts to "tear down the United States." In October 2000 Cuban vice president Carlos Lage and the Iranian vice minister of Health inaugurated a biotechnological research and development plant outside Tehran. Experts expressed doubts about the supposed medical objectives of the installation, since Iran already produces 97% of the medicines its population consumes. (El Nuevo Herald, Oct. 11, 2000).

On September 18, 2000 in an exclusive interview with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television, Castro stated that "We are not ready for reconciliation with the United States, and I will not reconcile with the imperialist system." He further added that his government had successfully defended Cuba against "…a Western cultural invasion," echoing one of the key themes of fundamentalist Islamic groups in the region. In May 2001 Castro undertook a round of visits to Syria, Libya, and Iran.

Soviet Colonel Ken Alibek, formerly second-in-command of the USSR's bacteriological arms development program, has long insisted that the Castro regime has such weapons at its disposal. In his book Biohazard, Alibek quotes his former boss, General Yuri T. Kalinin, as having told him that Cuba had an active bacteriological arms program. Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen stated in May 1998 that: "Cuba's current scientific facilities could support an offensive biological warfare program in at least the research and development stage." (El Nuevo Herald, June 23, 1999)

The New York Times reported in September 1998 that advisers provided President Clinton with evidence that "bin Laden is looking to obtain weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons to use against US installations."

In its indictment of bin Laden the Justice Department stated that the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization under his command sought to "…put aside its differences with Shiite Muslim terrorist organizations, including Iran and its affiliated terrorist group Hezbollah, to cooperate against the perceived common enemy, the United States and its allies…"

The indictment further alleges that Al Qaeda "…also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the government of Iran, and its associated terrorist group Hezballah."

Is it that far-fetched to see that the ideological affinity between Cuba, Iran and Al Qaeda and the allure of bin Laden's money for Castro's cash-strapped regime could easily result in the worst of scenarios?

Terror International -

It is feasible to both establish the links of the bin Laden network with the Iranian government and to identify its common interests with the Castro regime. Both Castro and bin Laden work hard to build a common front to bring down the United States and to develop biological weapons of mass destruction.

In February 1998 Osama bin Laden announced the creation of an "international front" against the United States. According to a document obtained by the PBS program 'Frontline,' bin Laden "regards an anti-American alliance with Iran and China as something to be considered."

Published information indicates that an important part of this "international front" consists of a network of terrorist training camps and support bases stretching from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to the Colombian jungle territory occupied by the terrorist FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Castro's Cuba could constitute a key component of this structure.

A Web of Alliances -

Terror International consists of a political and a covert front. The public alliances between terrorist states is mirrored by the underground connections established among terrorist groups around the world whose common foe is the United States. These connections could not be established unless terrorist states served as mediators, or brokers, in these relationships.

The Castro Regime's long-term involvement with the training, organization, coordination and diplomatic and political support of subversive organizations in the Third World, but particularly in Latin America, is both well documented and now admitted to by Castro himself. (see: "Castro and Terrorism: A Chronology by Eugene Pons with a foreword by Jaime Suchliki, Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, September 2001).

During his 2001 tour through the Middle East Castro also admitted to "sending fighters" to the Middle East but added that "we never speak about this."

There are increasing indications that the Cuban government may have placed this bloody expertise at the service of the new breed of international terrorists. An assortment of events and facts clearly corroborates this.

Training - On March 4, 2000, the Associated Press reported that "A young Afghan who trained this winter at a camp in mountainous Kunar province, in northeastern Afghanistan, said he saw men from Chechnya, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Cuba and North Korea. The North Korean, he said, had brought chemical weapons, which were stored in caves and in the dozens of sunbaked mud-and-stone houses."

Organization and Coordination - It is very likely that the alliances between terrorist groups and states from around the world brokered by Cuba are activated in the "demilitarized area" in Colombia where the FARC holds sway. This arrangement would both provide the Cuban government with a margin of deniability and strengthen FARC positions in its struggle against Colombian democracy.

A rare glimpse into this convoluted world of alliances between terrorist organizations and the possible use of sponsor states to facilitate them took place on August 17, 2001, when Colombian authorities arrested three IRA men as they returned from FARC-held territory. Niall Connolly, the leader of the group, was identified by the British foreign ministry as "…the legal representative for Sinn Fein in Latin America and had lived in Cuba for the past five years." (BBC News, August 17, 2001)

Castro's close relationship with Colombian terrorists has been extensively documented. It is believed that it was in Cuba where the IRA (Irish Republican Army) established contact with both the FARC and ELN terrorist groups. These two organizations, according to the State Department's 2000 report on global terrorism, have "…maintained a permanent presence in the island." It is further believed that the IRA men were training the Colombian rebels in the development of powerful anti-personnel explosives destined for the proposed FARC 'urban offensive.'

Senator Bob Graham (D-Fl.), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence stated to the editorial board of the Miami Herald on September 29, 2001 that US intelligence had recently determined that terrorist groups "were establishing alliances far beyond their borders." He cited as an example of this the IRA - FARC alliance, whereby the FARC would use its cocaine profits to help finance the IRA in exchange for training in urban terrorism. Graham also commented on the increasing similarities between the organizational and financial structures of the FARC and Al-Qaida, stating that "the FARC is doing exactly the same thing as international terrorism: organizing itself in small cells that aren't in contact with each other and depend on a central command to carry out their attacks…"

There is additional information which indicates that the Colombian territory under FARC control has become a haven for Terror International. Argentine journalist Julio Cirino, an expert on international terrorism, has written about the existence of a logistical support base "in a small city near the Colombian border with Venezuela," where "Middle Eastern types," receive fake Colombian passports and move on to other unspecified destinations. In October 1998 Interpol arrested Egyptian extremist Mohamed Enid Abdel Aal, in Bogota, Colombia. Abdel Aal, a leader of Gama'a al-Islamiyya listed in 2001 by the State Department as one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations, told authorities under questioning that "he planned to stay in Colombia for a few days and then head to Venezuela over land." (El Nuevo Herald/September 16,2001)

On September 14, 2001, John Moore, "a former Defense Department counter-terrorism analyst, told UPI that Cubans, [emphasis added] militant Palestinians, Hizb'allah [emphasis added], and even advisors from the leftist government of Venezuela are all active in the area." Moore testified before Congress as part of hearings on security in the area. Additionally, Larry Johnson, a former CIA anti-terrorist expert described the rebel-held territories in Colombia as "a Club Med for terrorists." (United Press International, September 14, 2001)

"The FARC not only welcomed the September 11 attacks, they later reiterated that Americans are to be targeted for assassinations and kidnappings," Francis Taylor, head of Counter Terrorism for the US State Department, recently stated before Congress. "We have specific concerns about the role played by the FARC in support on international terrorism. We don't know how many terrorist organizations now operate in the demilitarized zone, but based on recent history we can be sure that it is full of terrorists." (El Nuevo Herald, October 13, 2001)

It is highly improbable than a guerrilla terrorist organization engaged in a fierce conflict with the Colombian government could have the type of international contacts it now has without the aid of a friendly state. Castro's long term relationships with both the Colombians and Middle Eastern terrorist groups of diverse ideological tendencies as well as his unremitting hostility toward the United States and its allies would serve as a natural catalyst for these links.

In a September 12, 2001 interview with the PBS Frontline program, Johnson also stated that: "We now know, for example, bin Laden was meeting with Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah [Hizb'allah] security chief. Mughniyah, until yesterday, had killed more Americans than bin Laden, had wounded more Americans than bin Laden. Mughniyah was involved with the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the takeover of TWA 847, and the murder of Navy diver Robert Stethem, the apprehension of several Americans who were held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon.

"So this is an individual who has been aggressive in his attacks against America. And we now know through testimony that came out in the trial in New York City on the bombing of the U.S. embassy, that Mughniyah was the mentor, the ideological inspiration, for Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden saw Mughniyah as one who used violence to force the United States to retreat from Lebanon. And he believed that that same model could be used against the United States to force it out of Saudi Arabia and to punish it."

Author Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, writes in his book "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America," that Hizb'allah, Hezbollah or HizbAllah was "Originally the name of the Lebanon-based, Iran-sponsored Shiite terrorist organization; the name means 'party of God.' Currently the name HizbAllah is used to signal strong sponsorship and control by Iran for any terrorist organization whether it is local, such as HizbAllah of the (Persian) Gulf and HizbAllah Palestine, or international, such as HizbAllah International."

This same organization, suspected of having murdered the greatest amount of Americans before the September 11 attacks and believed to have established contacts and bases in Colombian rebel territory, is known to have already struck in the Western Hemisphere. "In May 1999, Argentina's Supreme Court, after an official investigation, formally blamed Hizballah for the March 17, 1992 bombing of Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires and issued an arrest warrant for Hizballah terrorist leader Imad Mughniyah. Hizballah did not claim responsibility for the attack outright, but it released a surveillance tape of the embassy, implying responsibility. In May 1998, Director Louis Freeh told Argentina the FBI believes that Hizballah, working with Iranian diplomats, was also responsible for the July 18, 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that left 86 dead." ("RL31119: Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001" Long Report for Congress, authored by Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs/Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division).

The Castro-Hezbollah link

Another of the facets of the alliance between the Castro regime and Islamists may lie in military training in Cuba for Hezbollah and its affiliated terrorists. On July 26, 1996, the 37th anniversary of Castro's revolution, Saad'o Mohammed Ibrahim Intissar, a Palestinian born in a South Lebanon refugee camp, hijacked an Iberia airlines flight from Madrid to Havana. Using scissors and a bomb which later on turned out to be fake, Intissar forced the plane's pilot to land in Miami, where he surrendered to federal authorities.

Two other Palestinians, who did not board the flight with Intissar, were arrested by German authorities near Frankfurt. They confessed to participating in the same mission but had apparently decided not to proceed with it. During his federal trial, Intissar stated that he and the other two Palestinians were being sent to Cuba to receive military training for possible terrorist attacks against Israel. (The Miami Herald, April 22, 1997)

Intissar's attorney, public defender Joaquin Mendez, further stated that the organization which had sent Intissar to Cuba was the Palestinian Islamic Revolutionary Army. Both Mendez and FBI agents interceded with the presiding judge so that Intissar would not have to provide greater details on the training he was supposed to receive in Havana, out of fear that it could endanger his family.

The Palestinian Islamic Revolutionary Army (Al-Jayah-al-Thawri al-Islami Le Tahrir Falastin) is a shadowy terrorist organization which has repeatedly participated in Hezbollah-directed attacks against Israel. On September 8, 1993 it proclaimed a "jihad" against the Gaza-Jericho Plan and the Middle East peace process. (BBC, September 8, 1993) Experts believe that the Islamic Revolutionary Army is actually the name given to a Palestinian front for Hezbollah, which in turn is an extension of Iranian intelligence. The Intissar case should not be dismissed. Given the close relationship between Cuba and Iran, it is not far fetched to conceive that cooperation between the two terrorist states extends to covert training in Cuba for terrorist operatives.

Bodansky writes that on June 21-23, 1996, the Iranian government hosted a summit meeting of terrorist groups in Tehran in order to create HizbAllah International. The objective of the summit meeting was to foster an international coordination of terrorist groups to escalate Islamist terrorism in the Middle East and the United States. "After lengthy discussions and deliberations the participants at the summit issued a joint communiqué in which they agreed to set up a coordinating committee to better unify their actions and attacks." (Bodansky, p.157) Among the leaders and organizations at the meeting were Imad Mughaniyah, from the Lebanese HizbAllah's Special Operations Command, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a representative of Osama bin Laden known as Muhammad Ali Ahmad, and HAMAS. (Bodansky, p.157) Sources other than Bodansky indicate that representatives of the Palestinian Islamic Revolutionary Army were also present.

The main result of the conference was the "…unification and standardization of the training of HizbAllah supporters in more than thirty countries to establish interoperability of both individual terrorists and strike forces. [Emphasis added] This way a force from any country would be able to deploy at the last minute to any part of the world, operating and interacting effectively with the local Islamist forces." (Bodansky, p.157-58)

Did Intissar's mission in Cuba for HizbAllah form part of the elaborate terrorist strategy developed at Tehran and other terrorist summits during this period? Could his training for 'suicide missions' have been intended not for Israel, but for the United States? The answers may lie somewhere in a federal penitentiary.

Political and diplomatic support -

The Castro regime continues to provide sanctuary, as well as political and diplomatic support for individual terrorists and terrorist organizations. It has not only continued to back the vicious Basque terrorist organization ETA, known for its ghastly car bomb attacks on civilian targets, but it has also publicly attempted to scuttle diplomatic efforts to condemn it.

In a 1995 raid by French police on ETA hideouts, computer files were found which clearly indicated that Cuban intelligence aided members of the group wanted for terror attacks in Spain. According to the files, Cuba's Communist Party "considers its relations with ETA to be 'fraternal, sustained, strategic and increasingly deep.' " (The Miami Herald, Dec. 27, 1997)

Cuban covert support for terrorism in Spain has been accompanied by attempts at diplomatic protection. Castro not only refused to join the other Ibero-American heads of state in condemning ETA terrorism at the 2000 Ibero-American summit, he also "slammed Mexico for its support of a statement against terrorism at the Ibero American Summit in Panama." (The Miami Herald, Nov. 11,2000).

The Cuban dictatorship's continued relationship with bloody terror groups and the use of Cuban territory and diplomacy to protect them has long been a mainstay of Cuban foreign policy. As State Department reports indicate, Americans sought for crimes linked to 60's radical groups have long received sanctuary in the island.

Castro's direct threat to America

Above all, Castro's continued virulent rhetoric against the US and the Western world in general must not be overlooked. A regime which has for so long terrorized its own people has historically had few qualms about exporting its domestic violence elsewhere. It was not too long ago that Americans were the direct targets of Castroite terrorist attacks. On February 24, 1996 Cuban Migs shot out of the sky two unarmed US civilian aircraft in plain daylight in international air space, murdering three US citizens and one resident.

A group of Cuban spies in Florida, part of the so-called 'Wasp network,' were recently convicted of conspiring to murder US citizens, seeking to penetrate US military installations, spying on members of the US Congress and providing information on Miami International Airport. Furthermore, the FBI also revealed in court that decoded communications between the spy network and its handlers in Havana included instructions to find places along the Florida coast that could be used to land and hide weapons and explosives.

The Montes arrest further corroborates that the objectives of Castroite espionage have not just been to monitor anti-Castro groups, but to harm US national security itself. On February 9, 2001, Wired News reported that Admiral Tom Wilson, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, "told the Senate Intelligence Committee during a public hearing Wednesday that Castro's armed forces could initiate an 'information warfare or computer network attack' that could 'disrupt our military.' The panel later went into closed session to discuss classified material."

Turning a blind eye to Castro on the eve of the 'first war of the 21st century,' would be tantamount to ignoring the Nazi and Fascist alliance with Japan the day after Pearl Harbor. The enemy is 90 miles south of Key West. And he does not hide his hatred for the United States.