Here's my summary of significant past events during this week:
2003 (Iraq) – The United Nations headquarters building in Baghdad was destroyed by a large truck bomb, killing the UN’s chief envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 22 others. The building was unusually busy and filled with staffers at the time (4:40 PM) because a news conference had just begun. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility. The United Nations has just increased security measures around the building in the wake of several earlier attacks, including the bombing of the Jordanian embassy 12 days before. Following the bombing, the UN withdrew all but 50 foreign staffers from Iraq. No UN staff returned to Iraq until February, 2004.
Many UN officials were astonished at an attack on what they saw as a humanitarian agency that is separate from politics and diplomacy. The Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, the late Abu Al Zarqawi, explained his motive in an audio tape: "We destroyed the U.N. building, the protectors of Jews, the friends of the oppressors and aggressors. The U.N. has recognized the Americans as the masters of Iraq. Before that, they gave Palestine as a gift to the Jews so they can rape the land and humiliate our people. Do not forget Bosnia, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Chechnya."
2003 (Israel) – Twenty-three people were killed and over 130 wounded when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated his bomb on a crowded bus in Jerusalem's Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood. Many of the passengers were returning from prayers at the Western Wall during the week before Rosh Hashanah. HAMAS claimed responsibility for the attack.
As a result of this attack, among others, the Israeli cabinet decided on September 1, 2003, to wage an all-out war against HAMAS and to freeze diplomatic processes with the Palestinian Authority.
2001 (Russia) – A bomb attack in a market in Astrakhan killed seven persons and wounded more than 50. Chechen extremists are suspected.
1978 (United Kingdom) – Two persons were killed and nine others wounded during an attack in central London a bus transporting Israeli national airline crews from the airport to the Europa Hotel in Mayfair. When the bus pulled up at the hotel and the El Al staff got out, two men standing nearby drew sub-machine guns and hand grenades from shoulder bags and opened fire. One attacker died at the scene, apparently killed by one of his own grenades, and the other attacker was captured by police. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the attack, and Israel subsequently launched retaliatory air strikes on Palestinian targets.
Police escorts for El Al crews were increased after the attack, however, Israeli authorities protested at the continued refusal of the UK to permit El Al security guards to carry firearms and insisted that Britain must share some blame for the incident. Government spokesman Meir Amit said: "The British police are generally known for their efficiency but recently they have been standing helplessly by."
1998 (Afghanistan and Sudan) – U.S. cruise missiles struck Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, and a presumed target in Sudan, in retaliation for the U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam on August 7th. The Sudanese target was the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant, which was initially suspected of producing chemical weapons. However, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research wrote a report in 1999 questioning the attack, and U.S. officials later acknowledged that there was no proof the plant had been manufacturing or storing chemical weapons, or had been linked to Osama bin Laden, who was a resident of Khartoum in the 1980s. The attack on the Al-Shifa plant was executed with three ship-launched cruise missiles, and was precise enough to level the plant’s four buildings with only minimal damage to surrounding areas, killing only one person and wounding ten.
1999 (Pakistan) – Two Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) members were sentenced to death for the murder of four U.S. citizens.
1995 (Israel) – A HAMAS suicide bomber killed five and wounded 100 on a Jerusalem bus. Later that day Israel retaliated by killing the HAMAS leader Ismail Abu Shanab, firing helicopter missiles at his car in Gaza City. Ismail Abu Shanab (1955 – 1995) was the #3 official of HAMAS. He was educated as a construction engineer at Colorado State University, where he received a Masters degree. Over 100,000 people attended his funeral.
1922 (Ireland) – Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary leader who served as Minister for Finance in the Irish Republic, as Director of Intelligence for the IRA, as a delegate during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations that ended the Irish uprising against Great Britain, and as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Irish National Army, was assassinated by anti-treaty IRA dissidents. Collins was traveling to his native County Cork in order met with several anti-treaty leaders when his convoy was ambushed. The attack lasted 45 minutes and Collins was the only fatality, possibly hit by a ricocheting bullet. Collins had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in the safety of his armored car.
1962 (France) – President Charles De Gaulle was targeted for assassination by the Secret Army Organization (OAS), a group of ex-Algerian settlers and dissident military officers. The OAS ambushed De Gaulle’s convoy as it passed through the Paris suburb of Petit-Clarmart, hitting his unarmored sedan with fourteen rounds of small arms fire, but missing him and failing to disable the car. After the attack, police counted a further twenty rounds that struck a nearby café, and 187 rounds that struck the pavement.
The chief conspirator to be arrested for the attack was a French Air Force Major, Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry, who strongly opposed the secession of Algiers from France, which De Gaulle had supported. At his trial, Bastien-Thiry claimed that killing de Gaulle would have been justified by the "genocide" of the European population of newly-independent Algeria, and compared himself with von Stauffenberg (who had failed to kill Hitler in 1944). He was sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad on March 11, 1963.
1991 (Peru) – The USIS Bi-National Center in Lima was attacked with a small bomb, causing no injuries.
2001 (Colombia) – The ELN placed a carbomb outside a police station in Mantilla killing one and wounding 25.
1990 (Lebanon) – Irish hostage Brian Keenan was released in Beirut by his Islamic kidnappers after more than four years in captivity. Keenan was an English teacher at the American University of Beirut when he was abducted in April 1986, by Hezbollah. His release was credited to negotiation by Iran on behalf of Ireland with the kidnappers. Keenan later wrote two books about his experiences as a hostage.
1975 (France) – Ismail Erez, the Turkish Ambassador to France, and his driver/body guard Turkish police officer Talip Yener, were assassinated while crossing the Bir Hakeim Bridge on the Seine River in Paris. The Justice Commandos for the Armenian Genocide (JCAG) claimed responsibility of the attack. The attack was carried out by two men using automatic weapons at a traffic choke point near the Turkish Embassy. The attackers were never identified or arrested.