This week in terrorism history: Dec. 4-10

A member of Jahabat Fateh al-Sham with  the group's flag in Idlib province, northern Syria.
A member of Jahabat Fateh al-Sham with the group’s flag in Idlib province, northern Syria.

 

It was a relatively quiet week on the global terrorism front, so let me start this week’s look back by drawing to your attention a fascinating article posted at The Atlantic this morning profiling Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir, an Egyptian who was killed in Syria three weeks ago in an air strike carried out the United States.

Muhajir, a veteran of the Afghan jihad 1980s, is credited with developing the theological justifications for the extreme violence that would later characterize ISIS and other groups. At the time of his death he had broken with ISIS and thrown in with Jahabat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, fighting against both his one-time allies and the Assad regime in northern Syria.

As the article, penned by reporters Charlie Winter and Abdullah K. al-Saud, puts it:

While there is a striking paucity of open-source information about him, the Egyptian national, a veteran of the Afghan jihad and long-time al-Qaeda associate, had a massive impact upon the development of jihadist thought in the last four decades. Indeed, it’s hard to overstate his importance in the context of modern Islamist terrorism—neither the Islamic State nor al-Qaeda would be where they are today without him.

The profile highlights Muhajir’s role as the “theological brains” behind the ultraviolence that characterized the emergence of AQI, al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor group to the Islamic State:

Ranging from ruminations on the merits of beheading, torturing, or burning prisoners to thoughts on assassination, siege warfare, and the use of biological weapons, Muhajir’s intellectual legacy will remain a crucial component of the literary corpus of ISIS—and, indeed, whatever comes after it—as a way to render practically anything permissible, provided, that is, it can be spun as beneficial to the jihad.

The full article is well worth your time if you are interested in understanding how religiously motivated terrorist groups justify the extreme levels of violence they characteristically exhibit. Here’s the link to the article again. Now on to this week’s list.

  • Dec. 4, 2000 — Israel: Awad Selmi, senior HAMAS leader, is killed during a terrorist operation.
  • Dec. 5, 2013 — Yemen: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) kills 52 and wounds 167 in a car bombing and gun attack on a military hospital in Sanaa.
  • Dec. 6, 2000 — Sri Lanka: Landmine believed planted by the LTTE kills four bus passengers and wounds 21.
  • Dec. 7, 2009 — Pakistan: Explosions in Lahore and Peshawar kill 58 and wound more than 150. No credible claim of responsibility.
  • Dec. 8, 2009 — Iraq: Near-simultaneous vehicle bombs at government buildings kill 127. Al Qaeda is blamed.
  • Dec. 9, 1976 — Northern Ireland: The Irish Republican Army carries out a series of fire-bomb attacks on shops in Derry.
  • Dec. 10, 1992 — Ireland: The Ulster Freedom Fighters, a cover name used by the Ulster Defense Association, carry out seven incendiary bomb attacks on shops in Dublin and in other Irish towns near the border with Northern Ireland.

This week in terrorism history: Nov. 28 – Dec. 3

Fidel Castro, center, died Friday at the age of 90.
Fidel Castro, center, died Friday at the age of 90.

 

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro died over the weekend at age 90. Among the tributes that rolled in were those from one-time violent national liberation groups like the African National Congress and Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein, and leftist revolutionary movements like the FARC, which saw Castro as a fellow anti-imperialist revolutionary and champion.

Former Provisional Irish Republican Army Chief of Staff Gerry Adams, who has been Sinn Fein President since 1986 and is currently a member of the Irish parliament, will attend Castro’s funeral. Adams said of Castro:

  I have good memories of meeting with Fidel. He was very conversant with Irish history and good friend to the Irish people and an admirer of our armed struggle, especially the hunger strikers of 1981.

The United States in 1982 placed Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, in part due to the Castro government’s provision of safe haven to Basque separatists and links to revolutionary movements across Latin America, including the FARC in Colombia. Cuba was removed from the list last spring as part of the Obama administration’s move to restore diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.

President Elect Donald Trump responded to the initial news of Castro’s death with a characteristic tweet:

This was followed early this morning by another characteristically Trumpian tweet:

Now on to this week’s look back.

  • Nov. 27, 2009 — Russia: Derailment of Moscow-St. Petersburg train kills 26, injures 100. Evidence of an explosive device is found, but no claim of responsibility.
  • Nov. 28, 2002 — Kenya: Three suicide bombers drive a vehicle into the front of the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, killing 15 ans wounding 40. Several groups, including Al Qaeda make conflicting claims of responsibility.
  • Nov. 30, 1989 — Germany: Red Army Faction is suspected in the assassination of Alfred Herrhausen, head of Deutsche Bank AG.
  • Dec. 1, 2001 — Israel: Two suicide bombers detonate explosives in a mall, killing 10 and wounding 120. Hamas claims responsibility.
  • Dec. 2, 1983 — Spain: Basque group Iraultza bombs eight US facilities in Spanish Basque territory to protest American involvement in Central America.
  • Dec. 3, 2009 — Somalia: Man dressed in a burqa detonates bomb at a graduation ceremony for doctors in Mogadishu, killing three government ministers along with 16 others. Al Shabaab claims responsibility.

This week in terrorism history: Nov. 20-26

David Coleman Headly, architect of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai.
David Coleman Headly, architect of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai.

 

In this week’s look back, I want to highlight one of the incidents, the 2008 attack on multiple targets in the Indian city of Mumbai, carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba. When the shooting finally stopped after three days, more than 170 people lay dead with hundreds more wounded.

While the attack stands out for both its scale and its impact on India — it’s been called that country’s 9/11 — the operation is notable for another reason. The key planner of the attacks was an American named David Coleman Headley.

The PBS investigative journalism program Frontline broadcast a fascinating report on Headley, the Mumbai attacks, and the failure of the US government’s secret electronic surveillance program to detect and disrupt the operation. I have embedded the Frontline video here. It is long, but well worth the time to watch it.

Now on to the rest of this week’s list:

  • Nov. 20, 2003 — Turkey: A car bomb in front of the British Consulate General in Istanbul kills 30 and wounds 450. Al Qaeda claims responsibility.
  • Nov. 21, 2000 — Sri Lanka: The Tamil Tigers start what they dub “Heroes Week” with a grenade attack on an army patrol, killing two civilians and wounding two.
  • Nov. 22, 1979 — Pakistan: Islamic militants attack the US Embassy in Islamabad following rumors that the United States had taken control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
  • Nov. 23, 1996 — Comoros: A hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane crashes, killing 127. The hijackers had been intending to fly to Australia and seek asylum.
  • Nov. 24, 2000 — India: A gunman connected to the Kashmiri group Lashak-e-Taiba kills six Hindu and four Sikh bus passengers.
  • Nov. 25, 1984 — Portugal: The US Embassy in Lisbon is struck by four mortar rounds fired by members of the 25 April Movement, a leftist revolutionary group.
  • Nov. 26, 2008 — India: LeT terrorists attack multiple targets in the city of Mumbai. More than 170 are killed and 300 wounded by the time the final siege ends three days later.

This week in terrorism history: Nov. 13-19

French fire brigade members tend to victims of the terrorist attack on the Bataclan theater in Paris, Nov. 13, 2015.
French fire brigade members tend to survivors of the terrorist attack on the Bataclan theater in Paris, Nov. 13, 2015. Nearly 100 were killed.

 

It is impossible to know right now what the election of Donald Trump to the White House will mean for US terrorism policy, but one thing is already certain. His victory at the polls has been hailed by al Qaeda propagandists as a blow to Western democracy and a step on the road to America’s ruin.

The Lebanese news site Now Media rounded up some of those reactions here. ISIS-affiliated jihadis also applauded the last week’s presidential election:

Islamic State jihadis have hailed the victory of Donald Trump while claiming the billionaire “fool” will ruin America himself allowing terror groups to take control of the country.

The Republican was branded a “donkey” by militants who warned his election is “an indication of the end of the American empire”.

 “It is either them or us. We ask Allah to make their destruction caused by their own plans and their death come among themselves.”The world is going to experience a change and this change will put Islam in the leadership position as the end result.”

One ISIS jihadi said: “What we want is their country be delivered to a donkey like Trump who will destroy it.

“In the end, they are all our enemies and we will only meet them on the battlefields.

Now on to this today’s look back at the week in terrorism history.

  • Nov. 13, 2005 — France: A series of attacks in and around Paris, most prominently at the Bataclan theater, kill 129 and injure more than 400. ISIS claims responsibility.
  • Nov. 14, 1991 — United Kingdom: The Ulster Volunteer Force kills two Catholics and a Protestant in an attack near Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, as the three were returning home from work. The UVF later apologized for killing the Protestant.
  • Nov. 15, 1983 — Greece: A US Navy officer is killed in Athens by the 17 November organization.
  • Nov. 16, 1970 — United Kingdom: The Irish Republican Army kills two men in Northern Ireland, accusing them of involvement in “anti-social” behavior. This was the first time the IRA killed anyone alleged to have been involved in criminality.
  • Nov. 17, 1997 — Egypt: Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya attack at the Temple of Hatsheput in Luxor kills 71, mostly foreign tourists.
  • Nov. 18, 2000 — Philippines: Car bomb explodes in Carmen, killing one and wounding two; grenade attack wounds three more in Isulan. Moro Islamic Liberation Front is suspected of responsibility.
  • Nov. 19, 1995 — Pakistan: Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad is bombed by Egyptian Islamic Jihad.