Sunday, October 21, 2007

This Week in the History of Terrorism, October 21 to 27

Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. They include two of the most notorious attacks in modern times: the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, and the seizure by Chechens of a packed theater in Moscow. But the incident that I think the most about was the unsuccessful 1986 attempt by a Jordanian resident of Great Britain to plant a bomb on an Israeli airliner using his pregnant girlfriend as a unwitting bomb-carrier.

That minor incident, in which no one died, illustrates much about the ruthlessness of terrorists and the vulnerability of civil infrastructure. More importantly, it illustrates the hopelessness of Western liberal expectations that Arab Islamist extremists who just happen to live in Western liberal societies will absorb Western liberal values and become just like us only swarthier. But the truth is that people don't change their core civilizational values easily, if at all. The attacker in that case was being manipulated by the Syrian government, but his willingness to kill a few hundred airline passengers bound for Israel was something that arose from his inner being.

Nizar Nawwaf aI-Mansur al-Hindawi became eligible for parole in 2001, but successive British Home Secretaries have barred the Parole Board from considering his case. A Home Secretary statement in 2003 noted that reports on Hindawi's behavior in prison did not demonstrate that he had "victim empathy, insight into the causes of his offense, or strategies to prevent further offending." Imagine that: the man who sent his clueless pregnant girlfriend off with a bomb in her suitcase lacks "victim empathy!" I suspect it would be more accurate to say that Hidawi only selectively lacks empathy, that is, he reserves his empathy for his coreligionists and withholds it from Jews and infidels.

October 21

2002 (Israel) – Fourteen people were killed and some 50 wounded when a car bomb containing about 100 kilograms of explosives was detonated alongside a bus at the Karkur junction. The bus had pulled over at a bus stop when the suicide bomber drove up from behind and exploded. The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for the blast, saying that it was carried out by Ashraf al-Asama, age 18, and Mohammed al-Hasnin, age 19, both from Jenin.

October 22

1974 (United Kingdom)
- A 5-pound bomb exploded inside Brooks Club, London, injuring three employees. Prime Minister Edward Heath was dining nearby, but was probably not the target since he had decided to dine at the club only a few minutes earlier. The bombing was one in a series of attacks on British clubs with military or establishment connections. The Provisional IRA was suspected. PM Heath had been the direct target of an IRA bomb attack earlier in 1974, and he was the target of a third bomb, at his home, before the year was over.

October 23

2002 (Russia)
- Chechen terrorists seized the Palace of Culture theater in Moscow during a crowded performance, taking 850 persons hostage and demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. After a siege of two and a half days, Russian Anny troops raided the building after inserting an aerosol anesthetic, evidently an opium-based compound, into the theater to overcome the hostage-takers. All of the 42 terrorists were killed, but 128 hostages died as well, almost all of them from the effects of the gas used to end the siege.

1983 (Lebanon) - Simultaneous truck bombs exploded at the US. Marine Battalion Landing Team barracks at Beirut airport and at a French Foreign Legion barracks four kilometer away, killing 246 Marines and 56 French troops.

The bomb used at the U.S. Marine target was the largest improvised explosive device charge on record, approximately equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT. It was loaded in a Mercedes-Benz delivery truck that drove up an access road toward the 1stBattalion, 8thMarines, headquarters, crashed through a fence around a parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and drove into the lobby of the Marine headquarters building. The building collapsed, crushing most of those inside. About 20 seconds later, an identical attack occurred against the barracks of the French Third Company of the Sixth Parachute Infantry Regiment, where another suicide bomber drove his truck down a ramp into that building's underground parking garage and detonated his bomb, leveling the headquarters.

The two suicide bombers were later identified as Abu Mazen, age 26, and Abu Sijaan, age 24, both members of the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, a group of Lebanese Shia Muslims and part of an extremist faction of the Amal militia that was then based in Syrian-occupied eastern Lebanon.

2001 (Ireland) -The Provisional IRA began decommissioning their weapons in accordance with the Northern Ireland peace process. In a statement the PIRA said: "In order to save the peace process we have implemented the scheme agreed with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] in August 2001." General John de Chastelain, head of the IICD, confirmed that a quantity of arms and explosives had been put "completely beyond use."

October 24

1986 (United Kingdom)
-Nizar Nawwaf aI-Mansur al-Hindawi, a Jordanian with ties to Syria, was convicted of conspiracy to place a bomb aboard an Israeli EI Al flight from London to Tel Aviv in April, 1986. He was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment, the longest sentence ever given in British history. After the verdict was announced the British government broke diplomatic relations with Syria, the U.S. and Canada recalled their ambassadors from Damascus, and the EU imposed minor sanctions.

Hindawi was a resident of the UK in 1985 when he was recruited into the plot by officials of the Syrian Air Force intelligence organization. They provided him with explosives concealed in a suitcase, and Hindawi persuaded his pregnant British fiancee, Anne Mary Murphy, to unwittingly take the rigged suitcase with her to Tel Aviv, where she believed she was to meet her future in-laws. The bomb, which consisted of 3 pounds of Semtex plastic explosives and a detonator concealed in a pocket calculator, reportedly made it through two X-ray machines undetected and was only found by a hand search.

October 26

1995 (Malta)
-The founder and leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Dr. Fathi al-Shaqaqi, was assassinated outside the Diplomat Hotel in Sliema, Malta. He had stopped in Malta on his way to Libya to visit Muammar al-Qaddafi, who had promised to finance the PIJ. Israel is suspected of sponsoring the attack in retaliation for a wave of PIJ suicide bombings in Israel during 1995.

The assassination was carried out professionally. As al-Shaqaqi was returning to his hotel, a gunman shot him five times with a silenced handgun that had been equipped with a device to catch ejected brass, then escaped on a waiting motorcycle driven by a second man. Since al-Shaqaqi was traveling under a false Lebanese passport, Maltese police didn't identify the victim until three days later.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement often carries out attacks against Israeli targets on the anniversary of al-Shaqaqi's death. The PIJ, although composed of Sunni Muslims, follows the lead of the Iranian Shiite Revolution, and has a unique ideology that bridges the Sunni-Shiite divide. The PIJ claims the unity of the Islamic world is not a precondition for the liberation of Palestine; rather, the liberation of Palestine is the key to the unification of the Arab and Islamic world.

October 27

1998 (Paraguay)
-Subhi Mahmoud Fayad, a Lebanese citizen and a major fund-raiser for Hizballah, was arrested by Paraguayan authorities after loitering on the street in front of the U.5. embassy in Asuncion. He is suspected of being a link between the Iranian embassy in Brasilia and Hizballah affiliates in the tri-border area near Ciudad del Este.

1982 (Northern Ireland) -Three Royal Ulster Constabulary officers who were patrolling near Belfast were killed by a roadside bomb that exploded under their armored car. The bomb was command-detonated via wire from a nearby hill. The explosive charge was large enough to throw the patrol car into a field and make a crater 60 feet wide and 25 feet deep. The IRA was presumed to be responsible. The attack coincided with the funeral of a Roman Catholic who was murdered in revenge for the abduction of a part-time Ulster Defense Regiment (Protestant, Loyalist) volunteer.

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