Tuesday, October 2, 2007

This Week in the History of Terrorism, September 23 to 29

Here's my summary of significant past events for this week.

September 23

(United Arab Emirates) – An Omani Gulf Aircraft was bombed, killing 111 persons.

September 24

2002 (India) – Islamic militants scaled a perimeter fence at the Hindu Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and threw hand grenades into the crowd of about 600 worshippers, killing 31 and wounding almost 100. Lashkar-i-Tayyiba is suspected, although letters found on the attackers stated they belonged to Tehrik-a-Khasas (“Movement for Revenge”). The attack may have been in retaliation for the Gujarat riots that took place in Gujarat state, India, in February 2002, during which at least 793 Muslims and 253 Hindus died.

September 25

2002 (Pakistan) – Islamic militants killed six persons and wounded four others at the offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ), a Christian charity organization in Karachi. The attackers escaped and were not identified, but the incident was one of a series on Christian institutions in Pakistan during 2001 and 2002 that left at least 30 people dead. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group claimed responsibility for an October 2001 massacre in a Christian church in revenge for Muslim deaths in Afghanistan, and the group Harakat ul-Mujahideen Al-Almi – which was responsible for suicide car bombings at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and on a French embassy shuttle bus – was discovered by police in possession of building plans for Christian places of worship. The IPJ has operated in Karachi for 30 years, working with local human rights groups to obtain employment rights for municipal and textile workers.

September 26

2004 (Syria) – An explosion killed HAMAS leader Izz-al-Din Shaykh Khalil in Damascus while he was driving his car. Khalil was a senior member of the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist group HAMAS, and the third in a series of leaders to be targeted for killing, after the spiritual leader Shaikh Ahmed Yassin in late March, and the leader of the military wing leader, Abdul Aziz Al-Rantisi, a few weeks later. These targeted killings came after Israeli officials announced that there would be retaliation against HAMAS for two bus bombings that killed 16 civilians in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on August 31, 2004. Khalil received a cell phone call seconds after he departed home and his car exploded immediately after he answered, leading to speculation the bomb was command-detonated.

2001 (France) – French police arrested seven suspected members of an Al-Qaeda network headed by Djamel Beghal for plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Beghal once lived in London and attended the Finsbury Park mosque, along with “shoebomber” Richard Reid, the “13th hijacker” Zacarrias Moussaoui, and other Al-Qaeda members. Beghal was arrested at Dubai airport while en route from Pakistan to Paris, and he confessed to UAE authorities that he was conspiring to attack the U.S. embassy. After he was extradited to France, Beghal retracted part of his statement, claiming that it had been made under torture. Beghal and six others were eventually convicted of "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise", a charge commonly used in terrorism cases in France, and sentenced to ten years, the maximum allowed for that charge.

September 27

1987 (Greece)
– A U.S. military commissary in Athens was bombed by the November 17 movement, killing one person. The attack was one of many on U.S. interests in Greece by N17.

September 28

1973 (United States) – A bomb exploded in the Latin America section of the corporate headquarters of International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) to protest the company’s purported involvement in the 1970 military coup d’etat against the Marxist government of Salvador Allende in Chile. ITT had owned a 70% interest in the Chilean telephone company (Chitelco) prior to the coup, and it funded El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper friendly to the Allende opposition.

The bombing was carried out by the radical-left Weather Underground Organization (formerly known as the Weathermen), which conducted more than 20 bomb attacks on corporate and government targets between 1970 and 1975. Bill Ayers, now a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, was a WUO leader in the 1970s. He stated in a 9/11/2001 New York Times interview that he doesn't regret setting bombs against non-human targets, adding “I believe we didn't do enough." U.S. government documents declassified in 2000 suggest that ITT did indeed fund Chilean opposition elements.

2000 (Israel) – The Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, with a Likud Pary delegation, visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the compound of the Alaqsa Mosque on a Friday shortly after the evening prayer, triggering wide-spread riots that escalated into a conflict that was termed the “Alaqsa Intifada.” The violence quickly escalated into a wave of attacks on Jews through Israel and the West Bank, and Israel launched a series of retaliatory air strikes against the Palestinian Authority.

The most notorious incident of the Alaqsa Intifada occurred on October 12, when two Israeli Army reservists were arrested by Palestinian Authority police in Ramallah. A Palestinian mob stormed the police station, beat the soldiers to death and mutilated bodies their bodies, all in view of the public and the foreign news media and filmed by an Italian TV crew. Afterwards, one of the killers stood in the police station window waving his bloody hands to the crowd. The BBC noted "the brutal death of these men - in full glare of TV - will have a lasting impact on the Israeli population and abroad”

2000 (Philippines) – A leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group was killed and two members wounded during a military raid to free hostages held by the group.

September 29

2003 (Colombia) – A bomb set by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) exploded in a crowded restaurant / bar district of Florencia, killing ten and wounding 54. The explosion took place at 4:00 a.m. in the Zona Rosa district, and the bomb was hidden inside a motorcycle parked outside a crowded disco. The bomb was timed to go off outside the disco at closing time, causing heavy casualties.

1998 (Sri Lanka) – An Antonov-24 aircraft operated by the Sri Lankan national airline, Lionair, went down in the Indian Ocean en route from Jeffna to Colombo, killing 55 passengers. The flight may have been shot down by the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), but the facts of the incident are in dispute. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center lists this incident as a terrorist act, however, the Sri Lankan Civil Aviation Department has stated that the crash was due to flammable items carried in the aircraft and that there is no evidence to prove that the plane was shot down.

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