Today in terrorism history: Nov. 6-12

British soldiers rush toward the scene of a bombing in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Nov. 8, 1987.
British soldiers rush toward the scene of a bombing in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Nov. 8, 1987.


Before Sept. 11, 2001, the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil was the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The bombing, carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, killed 168 and injured close to 700.

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno testifies before the 9-11 commission in the Hart Senate office building on Capitol Hill in Washington April 13, 2004. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  MR/JDP
Former US Attorney General Janet Reno died last night at age 78.

I mention this because last night Janet Reno, the first woman Attorney General in U.S. history, who led the investigation and case against McVeigh and Nichols, died at age 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Reno also oversaw the disastrous 51-day FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco*, Texas in 1993.

The siege ended when the FBI assaulted the compound, igniting a blaze which killed 76 members of the heavily armed religious cult. The deaths at Waco, and an earlier 1992 incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which the wife and teenage son of white supremacist survivalist Randy Weaver were killed by federal law enforcement agents, were cited as justification for the Oklahoma City attack.

A few years ago The New York Times produced a short documentary on the Ruby Ridge siege and how that incident continues to shape both how law enforcement and the armed anti-government right view each other and how to resolve armed standoffs. You can watch the video below.

And now on to this week’s look back.

  • Nov. 6, 2001 — Spain: ETA car bomb explodes during rush hour in Madrid, wounding 100.
  • Nov. 7, 1985 — Colombia: More than 100 are killed when the leftist revolutionary group M-19 seizes control of the Supreme Court building.
  • Nov. 8, 1987 — United Kingdom: Thirteen people are killed in the IRA bombing of a Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.
  • Nov. 9, 2005 — Jordan: Near simultaneous bomb attacks against Western hotels in Amman kill more than 50 and wound 110. Al Qaeda in Iraq claims responsibility.
  • Nov. 10, 2009 — India: Eight civilians killed in North Tripura. The National Liberation Front of Tripura claims responsibility.
  • Nov. 11, 2000 — Kuwait: Seven arrested in crackdown on groups planning attacks on US military facilities in Kuwait.
  • Nov. 12, 1997 — Pakistan: Four US citizens are killed in an ambush on their car in Karachi. The Pakistani driver is also killed.

*Forgive me for lazily linking to the Wikipedia entry, but I’ve got a lot to do this morning and this is a pretty good summary.

This week in terrorism history: Oct. 30 – Nov. 5

Campaign mailer from the Kansas Republican Party.


Two weeks ago, three members of a right-wing militia in Kansas were arrested and charged with plotting a terrorist attack on an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and maintained a mosque.

To understand the climate of fear and bigotry that could inspire and nurture such a plot, look no farther than the above campaign literature produced the Kansas State Republican Party and mailed throughout the state.

A story in Friday’s Witchita Eagle explains:

The Kansas Republican Party is sending out mailers in legislative races around the state depicting ISIS fighters and explosions from terrorist attacks.

A mailer going to homes in east Wichita’s House District 88 shows an ISIS fighter holding a machine gun with a message that reads: “Have you met the new neighbors?”

The other side of the mailer touts Republican Rep. Joseph Scapa’s support for funding to train Kansas law enforcement officers to “recognize and deal with foreign and domestic threats to our state, from those who support ideologies that are in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and our Kansas values.”

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said that similar mailers were being distributed in competitive districts across the state. He also argued that their party’s polling and focus groups indicated that this was a “positive issue for Republicans” to run on in next week’s election. Barker rejected any suggestion that the mailer’s imagery sent an anti-Muslim message.

Barker pushed back at the idea that voters would interpret the “new neighbors” message on the mailer as a suggestion that Muslims living in Kansas posed a terror threat.

Barker said there are several variations of the mailers. One depicts an explosion from a terrorist attack.

“It’s one of the few (issues) that was a clear, like high 80 percent positive and associated with Republicans,” Barker said. “Most other issues are muddled, or this is not the year for Republicans to be arguing education or taxes because there’s a general feeling either Republicans aren’t effective or the voters aren’t quite sure who to believe.

“This one’s a clear hit. And I’m not saying it’s going to flip every race in Kansas, but it’s going to help.”

And now on to this week’s look back at this week in terrorism history:

  • Oct. 30, 2000 — Spain: Judge and two aides are killed and more than 30 wounded in an ETA car-bomb attack in Madrid.
  • indira-gandhiOct. 31, 1984 — India:  Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in the aftermath of the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star, a military operation to seize control of the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab, from an armed Sikh group.
  • Nov. 1, 1950 — United States: Two Puerto Rican Nationalist Party members attempt to assassinate Pres. Harry Truman in Washington, D.C.
  • Nov. 2, 2000 — Colombia: ELN (National Liberation Army) releases 21 remaining hostages originally kidnapped from Cali two months earlier.
  • Nov. 3, 2010 — Sudan: Justice and Equality Movement engages in combat with paramilitaries in Nyala, Southern Darfur State, killing 37 and wounding 30 more.
  • Nov. 4, 2001 — Israel: Palestinian Islamic Jihad stages shooting attack on a Jerusalem bus; 35 are wounded, one U.S. citizen is killed.
  • Nov. 5, 2009 – United States: Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan kills 13 and wounds 29 in a shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Some afternoon reading on America’s ‘patriot’ right

Members of a "Three Percenter" militia on winter maneuvers.
Members of a “Three Percenter” militia on winter maneuvers.


You may have noticed a theme here at the blog over the last couple of weeks. I have become particularly interested of late in America’s armed, anti-government far right. You can read some of my recent thoughts on the matter here, here, and here.

In part this is because I’m currently teaching my course on terrorism, and we explore some of the ideologies that motivate such groups both here in the United States and their counterparts abroad. Some of these groups are the focus of a couple of my students’ case study research projects.

But I’ve also become interested as a consequence of the toxic rhetoric that has emanated from Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House and the way that parts of his message are being embraced by some individuals and groups that make up the armed anti-government far right.

With that in mind, here are links to and short excerpts from two articles that I’ve run across in the last couple of days. The first is an excellent, and disturbing, inside look at a border operation mounted by militia groups loosely affiliated under the Three Percent United Patriots banner.

The piece, by Shane Bauer, appears in the November/December issue of Mother Jones. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Bauer’s report:

Members of 3UP view their border operations as an opportunity to serve the nation while putting their training to the test and honing their skills for the battle to come. Like most militiamen, they believe societal collapse is imminent. There are many theories about what will make the “Shit Hit The Fan.” Some believe it will be economic collapse. It could be civil unrest provoked by Black Lives Matter. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a government attempt to disarm gun owners and impose martial law. While many in the broader “patriot” movement prepare for that day to arrive, members of 3UP see themselves as men of action, sheepdogs in a nation of blind, ignorant sheep.

For more on the Three Percenter movement go to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s profile of one of its founders here. You should also check out the SPLC’s state-by-state breakdown of active anti-government groups, including more than 200 militia groups, here. For the record, SPLC identifies 32 anti-government groups in my home state of Michigan, including seven militias.

The second article that’s worth a little bit of your time is by Zack Beauchamp at Vox. He lays out an unlikely but all-too-plausible scenario whereby armed Trump supporters engage in election day intimidation and post-election violence. Here’s a taste:

Indeed, some of Trump’s supporters — especially from the loose-knit network of far-right political groups and militias — are now openly talking about post-election bloodshed. According to a January count by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 276 such militias operating in the United States. A review of 240 militia group Facebook pages by researcher Jonathon Morgan found a spike in their online activity in recent months — with some members openly warning of the need for violence if Clinton wins.

“If she wins … it’s over, time for a revolution,” one militia member writes, according to Morgan. “Enough of being tough on the blogs, be tough in real life.”

Trump and his aides consistently and angrily deny using irresponsible language that raises the risk of civil unrest. The problem is that violence could erupt all the same because of the atmosphere of paranoia that Trump has helped create.

I have argued for a long time on this site that the greatest terrorism threat America faces comes from within, not from newly arrived immigrants nor from refugees acting as an ISIS Trojan horse.

I sincerely hope that in two weeks time, and in the days that follow, we don’t see that point driven home again, and in horrifying fashion.

This week in terrorism history: Oct. 23-29

Chechen terrorist inside the Podshipnikov Zavod theater, Moscow,  Oct. 23, 2002.
Chechen terrorist inside the Podshipnikov Zavod theater, Moscow, Oct. 23, 2002.


Before we get to this week’s milestones, a quick note. Tom Hayden, the 1960s anti-war activist who was a founder of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, and later became a progressive California lawmaker, died Sunday at the age of 76.

Tom Hayden, SDS founder
Tom Hayden, SDS founder

Hayden was born in Royal Oak, MI, not far from where I’m writing this, and as a student at the University of Michigan turned to radical politics. He was the principle author of the 1962 Port Huron Statement, a generational call to action which envisioned the emergence of a new progressive politics led by university students and faculty who would awaken the masses:

But we need not indulge in illusions: the university system cannot complete a movement of ordinary people making demands for a better life. From its schools and colleges across the nation, a militant left might awaken its allies, and by beginning the process towards peace, civil rights, and labor struggles, reinsert theory and idealism where too often reign confusion and political barter. The power of students and faculty united is not only potential; it has shown its actuality in the South, and in the reform movements of the North.

The group he went on to found, SDS, became the country’s largest student anti-war protest organization before collapsing at its 1969 convention in a leadership coup led by an even more radical cadre impatient for the change which SDS promised yet had not yet achieved. That cadre become the nucleus of the Weather Underground, which between 1970 and the fall of 1975, was responsible for nearly 50 terrorist attacks on government, police, military, and business targets across the country.

Writing in 1970, Hayden had this to say about the emergence of Weather:

Many Weathermen leaders were shaped by the events of Chicago ’68. When our legal protest was clubbed down they became outlaws. When our pitiful attempts at peaceful confrontation were overwhelmed, they adopted the tactic of offensive guerrilla violence.

Now on to this week’s entry.

  • Oct. 23, 2002 — Russia: Chechen terrorists sieze the Podshipnikov Zavod theater in Moscow, taking more than 800 hostages. All 50 Chechens, and 124 hostages, are killed during the rescue. (A link to an excellent documentary on the Moscow theater siege can be found here.)
  • Oct. 24, 2004 — Iraq: A mortar attack in Baghdad by the Islamic Army kills a US State Department officer, Ed Seitz.
  • Oct. 25, 2009 — Iraq: Two car bomb attacks in Baghdad kill more than 130 and wound another 520.
  • Oct. 26, 1995 — Malta: Fathi al-Shaqaqi, leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is killed by an unknown assassin.
  • Oct. 27, 1982 — Northern Ireland: Three Royal Ulster Constabulary officers are killed by an IRA landmine near Lurgan, County Armagh.
  • Oct. 28, 2001 — Philippines: A bomb planted by Abu Sayyaf Group kills 11 and wounds 50 in Zamboanga.
  • Oct. 29, 1972 — West Germany: Three Black September terrorists hijack a Lufthansa plane and demand the release of those who committed the 1972 Olympics massacre.