Monday, October 15, 2007

This Week in the History of Terrorism, October 14 to 20

Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. One of them was the ambush of a U.S. diplomatic convoy that was entering the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of three security contractors. Their armored Suburban was targeted with a buried mine (photo at left). It was, and still remains, the only direct terrorist attack on U.S. interests in Israel or the Palestinian territories.

The December 2004 issue of the Foreign Service Journal carried a poem by William Roebuck, one of the diplomats who had been in the convoy and survived the attack. It was entitled “On the Road to Gaza.” Here's an excerpt:

Like so many trips before, some completed and reported on,
With this or that minister or snaggle-toothed PA security officer;
Many others aborted over obviously idle security concerns.
This one proceeded two miles into sunny Gaza,
Until we in the lead car were suddenly showered with dark dust
And strange debris and heard the explosion . . .
A temple of sorts had come tumbling down,
Crashing on our assumptions of safety and normality and
Our sense of importance that we were among friends, that we were spreading good will
And processing peace . . ."

Among friends, spreading good will and processing peace? I don't share the sentiments, but I believe that the phase accurately reflects the attitude of many U.S. Foreign Service Officers. If anything good can come of this attack, it will be the crashing down of those fuzzy assumptions.

October 14

1987 (Spain)
– A small package bomb exploded near the front door of the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona, injuring eight Spanish nationals, including two Consulate employees. The Catalan Red Liberation Army (ERCA), a terrorist group with a fusion ideology based on Catalan territorial separatism and Marxist-Leninism, claimed responsibility. Unlike other Catalonian groups, ERCA has often attacked U.S. interests, including bombing the General Electric and Hewlett-Packard offices in Barcelona in May and June, respectively. It also killed a U.S. serviceman with a bomb in a bar in Barcelona.

October 15

2003 (Israel) – Palestinian militants attacked a U.S. diplomatic convoy as it entered the Gaza Strip at the Erez checkpoint, detonating a buried improvised explosive device that killed three Americans. The attack was the first to directly target U.S. interests in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA) had yet to identify the perpetrators.

The convoy was carrying a Public Diplomacy Officer to Gaza to interview an applicant for a Fulbright Scholarship. The three persons killed were Diplomatic Security high-threat protective detail contractors John Branchizio (age 36), John Linde (age 30), and Mark Parson (age 31).

October 16

1997 (Sri Lanka)
– The Tamil Tigers (LTTE), apparently acting in response to a Sri Lankan crackdown on the rural Tamil insurrection, detonated a suicide truck bomb outside the 39-story World Trade Centre in Colombo, killing eighteen people and wounding 100. The WTC housed the Colombo Stock Exchange, the Central Bank and many foreign companies, and the attack was a strike at the Sri Lankan economy, which was just beginning to attract foreign investment.

October 17

2001 (Israel) – The Israeli right-wing politician, former General, and historian Rehavam Zeevi was assassinated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Zeevi was shot in the Hyatt hotel on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, by four gunmen who intercepted him as he and his wife entered their hotel room. Zeevi was the only Israeli cabinet minister who did not have a personal protection detail.

PFLP acknowledged responsibility and stated that the action was in revenge for the assassination by Israel of Abu Ali Mustafa, PFLP Secretary-General, in August. The four PFLP members who killed Zeevi were captured five years later and put on trial in Israel in May, 2006.

October 18

2003 (Indonesia) – The Imam Samudra, convicted in the Bali bombing that killed over 100 persons, and in other terrorist attacks in Indonesia, was sentenced to death. Samudra taught at a religious school in the south of the Indonesia that was run by suspected leaders of the Jemaah Islamiah group and has been linked to al-Qaeda. According to prosecutors, Imam Samudra traveled to Afghanistan to learn bomb-making and to fight for the Taleban.

October 19

2000 Sri Lanka) – A suicide bomber attacked the town hall in Colombo just as President Chandrika Kumaratunga prepared to swear in a new Cabinet, wounding 23 persons. The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) were responsible.

October 20

1981 (Belgium) – A car bomb exploded outside the Antwerp Diamond Club opposite the Hoveniersstraat Synagogue, killing three persons. Responsibility was claimed by the Black September Organization, a PLO offshoot, although a local television station also claimed that the Belgian cell of Action Directe had also claimed responsibility. The attacker(s) were never identified.

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