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.

This week in terrorism history: Oct. 16-22

Kansas terrorism suspects, from left: Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright.
Kansas terrorism suspects, from left: Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright.


Over the weekend news broke of a thwarted terrorism plot in Kansas in which three members of a far-right militia group were charged with conspiring to destroy an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and maintained a mosque. They intended to detonate four simultaneous car bombs similar to the one which Timothy McVeigh used to destroy the US federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The attack was scheduled for Nov. 9, the day after the presidential election.

The three suspects appeared in court today. Each was charged with one count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. They face life in prison if convicted. According to the report at The Wichita Eagle:

Officials said Friday that Allen, Stein and Wright hoped to create a “bloodbath” by detonating vehicles laden with bombs around the parking lot of Garden City’s Garden Spot apartments, the day after the Nov. 8 election. They spent months considering sites for the attack before finally settling on the complex, conducted surveillance and gathered bomb-making materials.

On Saturday, The Washington Post published details of the federal investigation into the development of the plot and the suspects’ motivation and ideology:

Their plans began to solidify over the summer as they narrowed down their targets. In August, they settled on the apartment complex in Garden City, a Somali-Muslim enclave, the complaint says. They planned to use cars to set off explosions at the exits to the complex. The explosions would boom around prayer time, when most people would be gathering.

At some point, Allen began watching YouTube videos to learn how to make explosives.He also got to work on a manifesto. But federal investigators, monitoring recordings of their meetings, already knew the group’s guiding philosophies:

“The only f—— way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherf—–,” Stein said in June.

“Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the f—— coffee and decide they want this country back . . . we might be too late, if they do wake up . . . I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”

The full text of the federal complaint against the men can be read here.
Given the details of the Kansas plot, it is fitting somehow that three of the entries in this week’s look back at terrorism history involve car bomb attacks.
  •  Oct. 16, 1997 — Sri Lanka: An LTTE truck bomb at a hotel next to the Trade Center in Colombo kills 18 and wounds more than 100, including seven US citizens.
  • Oct. 17, 1995 — France: Bombing at the Paris Metro wounds 30; the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) of Algeria is suspected.
  • Oct. 18, 2003 — Indonesia: Imam Samudra is sentenced to death for his role in the Oct. 12, 2000 bombing in Bali.
  • Oct. 19, 2000 — Sri Lanka: LTTE suicide bomber wounds 23, including three American tourists, in an attack on a town hall near Colombo.
  • Oct. 20, 1981 — Belgium: An Antwerp synagogue is bombed, killing two and wounding 99.
  • Oct. 21, 2002 — Israel: A car bomb explodes next to a bus in Karkur, killing 19; Palestinian Islamic Jihad is suspected.
  • Oct. 22, 2000 — Spain: ETA car bomb kills a prison officer in the Basque town of Vitoria.

This week in terrorism history: Oct. 9-15

FBI photo of the damaged hull of the USS Cole.
FBI photo of the damaged hull of the USS Cole.


For a change there wasn’t anything terrorism-related that was big in the news last week. Unless you consider the tawdry death throes of the 2016 presidential campaign season a form of terrorism, and then yeah, there was a lot of big stuff.

But given our conventional definitions, nothing big happened. So without delay, here’s a look back at this week in terrorism history.

  • Oct. 9, 1975 — United Kingdom: A British soldier was killed in an IRA land mine attack near Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland. Also, an IRA bomb detonated outside the Green Park Underground Station in London, killing one and injuring 20.
  • Oct. 10, 2000 — Pakistan: Nine soldiers killed in attack on Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan claims responsibility.
  • Oct. 11, 1993 — William Nygaard, Norwegian publisher of Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel The Satanic Verses is shot three times by unknown gunman. Nygaard survives the attack.
  • Oct. 12, 2000 — Yemen: Al Qaeda suicide bombers detonate a small boat alongside the US Navy destroyer USS Cole while the ship is refueling in the port of Aden, killing 17 and wounding 39.
  • Oct. 13, 2005 — Russia: More than 250 armed attackers kill 50, wound 195 in an operation in the city of Nalchik. The Kabardino-Balkariyan Sector of the Caucasus Front claims responsibility.
  • Oct. 14, 1972 — United Kingdom: Loyalist paramilitaries raid the headquarters of the 10 Ulster Defense Regiment in Belfast, Northern Ireland, stealing weapons and ammunition.
  • Oct. 15, 2003 — Gaza Strip: Palestinian terrorists bomb a US Embassy motorcade killing three diplomatic security contractors.

This week in terrorism history: Oct. 2-8

Propaganda photo released by 17 November.
Propaganda photo released by 17 November.


Before we get to this week’s chronology, a few links to either update ongoing cases that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, or that are related to other relevant issues I’ve written about in the past.

First, I led off last week’s entry with news of the peace agreement reached between the Colombian government and the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, ending a 52-year-old civil war. The only remaining hurdle to clear was a public referendum to ratify the agreement. Well, the people voted, and to the surprise of virtually every observer, they voted to reject the treaty. For now both sides say they are committed to maintaining the existing cease fire, but what happens down the road is anyone’s guess at this point.

Second, there’s an interesting piece at the RAND blog by terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins reminding us just how remote the threat of terrorism is for Americans:

Pure terrorism is truly random. It targets families strolling on a promenade in Nice, shoppers at a mall, a busy street in lower Manhattan. The message is not that the victims represent a certain group or are seen as “guilty” because of despised policies or actions. This is sheer spectacle. The message: No one is safe.

Such terror attacks are truly arbitrary and extremely difficult to protect against. Protective perimeters have proliferated, but every restaurant, shopping center, busy street corner cannot be protected. Competitive 24/7 television news coverage amplifies the terror. Politicians pound podiums and pundits warn of further attacks. The end result is a perception that no one is safe, that little can be done, that worse is yet to come.

Yet such attacks are statistically rare, representing a relatively tiny addition to the total volume of violent crime in the United States. Americans are safer now than they were in the immediate shadow of 9/11 when intelligence had failed and more 9/11-scale attacks were expected.

Finally, and relevant to the discussion I am having with my students this evening and in the coming weeks about the ideological motivations that underpin terrorist actions, this piece on the mix-and-match approach to ideas that some lone wolf terrorists adopt:

This sampling of examples highlights a trend of violent lone actors whose ideologies are broadly jihadist, but not tied to any one group. Even so, in the case of Mateen,security officials and policymakers rushed to identify Mateen’s alignment with a specific group. The temptation to classify Mateen within one organization’s particular ideological prism outweighed an objective assessment of the problem: Mateen fused multiple group affiliation and ideologies to motivate his actions. As far as categorization goes, Mateen’s case suggests that group affiliation matters less than his broader commitment his idea of jihad. In this capacity, Mateen’s statements and sentiments are not outliers or rarities in lone actor extremist violence, nor are they as confusing as they seem; individuals tend to blend group affiliation and ideological motivations, which is a significant, recurring, and surprisingly understudied phenomenon. Indeed, if anything, Rahami’s case confirms that this phenomenon is not rare.

And now on to our history lesson.

  • Oct. 2, 2000 — Sri Lanka: LTTE suicide bombing kills 23 and wounds 54 in attack contesting democratic elections.
  • Oct. 3, 1996 — Greece: Bomb explodes under car of Greek NATO officer in Athens. 17 November, a leftist revolutionary organization, is blamed.
  • Oct. 4, 2000 — Peru: Shining Path leader Carlos Fernandez is captured.
  • Oct. 5, 2000 — Sri Lanka: LTTE suicide bomber kills 10 and wounds more than 35 at an election rally.
  • Oct. 6, 1990 — Northern Ireland: A Catholic man is shot to death by the Protestant Action Force at Oxford Island, Lough Neagh. The killing is believed to be in retaliation for the earlier killing of an Ulster Defense Regiment soldier at the same location.
  • Oct. 7, 2001 — Afghanistan: US-led forces begin military action in response to the 9/11 attacks.
  • Oct. 8, 2002 — Kuwait: Al Qaeda affiliates attack US Marines on exercise, killing one.