The State Department said yesterday there have been about 100 international terrorist incidents since the start of the Persian Gulf War, a "significantly higher" number than occurred in a comparable period last year.
State Department spokesman Margaret Tutwiler said preliminary reports show that five people have been killed in these attacks and about 50 were wounded.
"The vast majority" of these incidents involved property damage and were carried out by local terrorist groups, she said. Only one, a bungled attempt to bomb a U.S. Information Service library in Manila, was demonstrably connected to the Iraqi government.
Tutwiler did not release the comparable figures for last year, but officials said later that there have been between 450 and 500 international terrorist incidents in each of the last two years -- or roughly 40 a month.
The most active terrorist groups in the 3 1/2 weeks since the war started include Dev Sol, or Revolutionary Left, in Turkey; the November 17th organization in Greece; and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in Peru.
Tutwiler said U.S. officials have no evidence, "right now, that would link all of these groups as communicating with each other" or any indication of "a master plan" directed by some group or individual.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has exhorted Arabs and Muslims around the world to attack U.S. and allied targets. Terrorist experts believe that many of the incidents since Jan. 17 are expressions of "solidarity" with Baghdad, but not carried out at Baghdad's orders.
Other incidents, such as the Irish Republican Army's mortar attack on British Prime Minister John Major's residence last Thursday, had no apparent link to the conflict. The IRA shelling was in the planning stages even before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait last Aug. 2.
The high point of international terrorist activity in the past decade was reached in 1987 and 1988 when more than 800 incidents were reported each year.
U.S. counter-terrorist officials attributed a drop-off in 1989 to factors such as the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, fratricide within Palestinian terrorist organizations and better cooperation among Western nations. Officials were forecasting an upsurge in 1991 even before the conflict in the gulf.