Here's my take on significant past events for this week.
2001 (Afghanistan) – Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance opposition to the Taliban, was assassinated. The attack came at Massoud's headquarters in the Panjshir Valley, when two Arabs posing as journalists set off a bomb hidden in a video camera (which turned out to have been stolen from a French videojournalist). The attack is believed to have been coordinated by Al Qaeda to disrupt possible Northern Alliance actions against the Taliban after the soon-to-be-launched 9/11 attacks. Ahmed Shah Massoud (1953 – 2001) held the Panjshir Valley and 30% of Afghanistan’s population against the Taleban for years. It was the Panjshiris of the Northern Alliance who eventually occupied Kabul when the Taleban regime collapsed.
2004 (Indonesia) – A suicide carbomb exploded outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, killing ten persons and wounding at least 160. The militant Islamist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) was responsible, and five JI members have since been convicted of preparing or carrying out the attack. The blast came exactly one month before Australia's general election.
1971 (Uruguay) – The British Ambassador, Geoffrey Jackson, was freed eight months after being kidnapped by the Tupamaros, a leftist movement that had carried out a campaign of urban terrorism against the Uruguayan regime. Jackson was captured by the Tupamaros as he drove to work, and was held hostage for the release of 106 Tupamaro prisoners. No prisoners were released in exchange for Jackson, however, some skeptial observers note that about half of the 106 prisoners escaped shortly before the Tupamoros decided that Jackson’s detention no longer served a purpose, so there might have been an under-the-table deal. Jackson wrote one of the best of modern-day hostage narratives, published in Britain as People’s Prison, and in the U.S. as Surviving the Long Night.
2001 (Colombia) – Colombian FARC leader German Briceno was sentenced in absentia to 40 years for the abduction and murder of three U.S. citizens. The Americans were returning from an U'wa Indian reservation where they had been working with the U'wa in a land dispute. On March 4, 2001, the three were found shot to death in a Venezuelan field near the Colombian border.
1973 (United Kingdom) – Two bombs exploded at train stations in central London injuring 13 people. The attacks were part of an IRA bomb campaign in England intended as retaliation for the Bloody Sunday incident in Ireland.
2001 (United States) – Four U.S. airliners were hijacked and three were crashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. The fourth, probably intended for another target in Washington D.C., was seized by passengers and crashed prematurely. Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were responsible.
The attack, essentially a series of suicide attacks predominantly targeting civilians, killed 2,973 persons in addition to the 19 attackers. It was the most successful terrorist action ever against United States interests and one of the most spectacular in history, and had global ramifications that are still unfolding. The principal architect of the operation, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was captured by the U.S. in Pakistan and is currently in detention at Guantanamo Bay awaiting a military tribunal.
2000 (Libya) – Libya agreed to cooperate with German authorities in the investigation of the 1985 bomb attack on Berlin’s LaBelle Disco, a place frequented by U.S. soldiers, which killed a Turkish woman and two U.S. servicemen and injured 230 people. Libya’s responsibility for the bombing was discovered through intercepted telex messages from Libya's East Berlin People’s Bureau (embassy), and the U.S. retaliated with air strikes against seven Libyan military installations in Tripoli and Benghazi.
In 2001, a Libyan diplomat, Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, two Palestinians, and a German woman (the ex-wife of one of the Palestinians) were convicted in Berlin's Superior Court of murder and given sentences of 12 to 14 years in prison. In 2004, Libya paid $35 million compensation to the non-U.S. victims.
1993 (Israel) – Israeli and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) sign a peace agreement, the “Declaration of Principles,” which led to Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank territory. Yasser Arafat was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority in 1996. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli extremist opposed to the settlement.
2003 (Colombia) – The ELN (National Liberation Front), a Marxist terrorist group, kidnapped four foreign visitors (Israeli, British, German and Spanish citizens). Kidnapping for ransom is a common ELN tactic.
1986 (South Korea) – A bomb exploded in a crowded terminal at Seoul’s Kimpo Airport, killing five persons and wounding 29. The attack occurred on the eve of the Asian Games and authorities blamed the attack on a North Korean attempt to disrupt the Games, but no supporting evidence has come to light.
2003 (Russia) – A truck bomb exploded outside a government security services building in Moscow, killing three and injuring 17.
1999 (France) – Several GIA members (Algerian Islamist militants) were sentenced to ten years for a series of bombings in Paris in 1995.
1978 (United Kingdom) - Astrid Proll, one of the most-wanted members of the West German Baader-Meinhof gang and its successor organization, the Red Army Faction, was detained in London. Proll was working as a mechanics instructor in a West Hampstead garage under a false name when she was arrested. Proll fought extradition to West Germany until June 1979, but in 1980 she was sentenced in Germany to 5.5 years for bank robbery. German authorities gave Proll credit for the time she had spent in British and German prisons before her conviction (equal to 2/3 of her sentence) and she was immediately released.