The Training of Terrorist Organizations


by Major David E. Smith USMC



The demise of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw

Pact retarded the support of some terrorist organizations, but did

little to eliminate terrorism from the world. The loose net of

international terrorists that was spawned during the l96O's and

l97O's had already been replaced by groups of cooperating Islamic

Fundamentalists, regional alliances, and a small number of

independent movements. Additionally, local collusion between

criminal organizations and terrorist groups began to occur more


Palestinian organizations such as the Palestine Liberation

Organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

established their own training facilities and programs based largely

on the training they had received behind the Iron Curtain. As the

various factions in the Palestinian movement split, groups initiated

additional recruitment as well as training programs for their new


Hussein Jorde Abdallah (his code name) described his training

conducted by the Abu Nidal Group. It is interesting to compare his

account of the instruction he received from Nidal's organization with

that provided to Palestinian students in the Soviet Union. After

signing on with the faction he was required to write his biography in

painstaking detail. In l987 he was flown to Libya with other

recruits and assigned to a desert camp. The students were building

permanent facilities while he underwent training and he was billeted

in a tent. The daily routine was strenuous. Recruits were awakened

at dawn, required to jog for an hour prior to breakfast, and then

spent a five and one half hour shift on construction duty in the camp.

The recruits were given a light lunch and a mid day rest period

before beginning their three hour afternoon work shift. In the

evening they were required to attend political lectures and films.

Discipline was strict. Students were docked meals if they were late

and harangued if they took unauthorized breaks. The camp had a

prison and interrogation block that was used to provide severe

punishment for serious infractions of the rules. There was an

atmosphere of suspicion, and the organization was paranoid about

penetration by a hostile intelligence service. Abdallah reported

being required to periodically rewrite his biography so it could be

checked for suspicious discrepancies.

Residents of the training facility were not allowed to possess

radios and were unable to receive newspapers. The information they

obtained from the outside world was closely controlled. Incoming

mail was usually kept in individual personnel files and was not

delivered to addressees. Personal identification was surrendered

upon arrival at the camp.

Abdallah received specialized training in a separate part of the

compound that was used for students assigned to the "Intelligence

Directorate's Special Missions Committee." While there, he was

segregated from the other trainees and his instruction was tailored to

the requirements of special missions. He learned how to assume a

false identity, how to avoid attracting attention, how to conduct site

reconnaissance, surveillance techniques, counter surveillance

techniques, writing with invisible ink, and the encryption of

messages while assigned there. He received detailed training in the

maintenance and operation of pistols and light machine guns. In

addition, Abdallah learned map reading skills in order to allow him

to retrieve weapons cached in foreign countries.28

Libyan support for terrorism cropped up during the l97O's.

During l976 there was reliable reporting of a series of Libyan camps

under the protection of Colonel Qaddaffi. By l98O there were

approximately l5O Cuban instructors in Libya. Soviet and East

German instructors abounded as well. In addition to providing

facilities and supporting instructors, Qaddaffi spent prodigious

amounts of his nation's oil revenues to financially aid movements he

was sympathetic to. He supported Soviet instructors training

Egyptians at al-Beida (See Map Five). Sudanese and Chadian

students had Soviet and Cuban instructors and were based at Maaten

Biskara. Tunisian students were instructed by Syrians and

Palestinians and were located at Bab Aziza. Qaddaffi did not

discriminate when it came to offering sanctuary for terrorist groups.

Europeans, primarily Irish, German, Basque, Breton s, Corsican s,

Italians, Greeks and Turks were centered around camps at Sirte,

Sebka, and Az Zaouiah. Cubans and East Germans also ran an

advance site at Tokra for graduate work in sabotage. Qaddaffi' s

apparatus was coordinated from Tripoli by the Libyan Secret Service.

Upon graduation, students were issued false papers, pocket money,

and weapons. They were also well cared for in Libya if they became

fugitives from the authorities.29