Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. Unlike any of my other weekly summaries, this one begins on a happy note: the death of Yasser Arafat, who passed away three years ago today in a Paris hospital. Regretfully, he did not die by violence but by natural causes.
The third anniversary of his death was marked by the opening of a fabulous mausoleum in Ramallah, the West Bank. The place is an architectural jewel, small - only eleven meters square - yet it cost $1.75 million. A museum is to follow next year, costing millions more. Since the Palestinian Authority has almost no income except for foreign aid, this lavish display comes at the expense of the impoverished Palestinian masses, and that makes it a truly fitting tribute to a corrupt tyrant like Yasser Arafat.
Arafat was surely one of the most ironic figures of modern times. He was the prototypical terrorist of the 20th century, but he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize [something the Nobel Committee never awarded to Gandhi, BTW]. He was perceived as the leader of a victimized nation, but he spent most of his life creating new ways to victimize others, including the Munich Olympic massacre, the Achille Lauro ship-jacking, the Khartoum embassy seizure, and the Ma'alot school massacre, not to mention his role in creating civil wars in Jordan and Lebanon. He was the chief executive of a mendicant nation that subsists entirely on foreign charity, but he stole a large fortune in pilfered aid money. The final irony was that he died of natural causes; if there were any justice, someone would have popped a cap in his ass even while he was on his deathbed in that Paris hospital just so that he would die as he lived – violently.
2005 (France) - President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, passed away five days after lapsing into a coma.
1997 (Pakistan) – Islamic militants ambushed a U.S. oil company vehicle en route from the Sheraton Hotel and the Union Texas Petroleum office, killing four U.S. citizen passengers and their Pakistani driver. The attack was in retaliation for the conviction of Mir Amal Kasi by a U.S. jury on murder charges two days earlier. The attackers followed the unarmored employee shuttle station wagon to a point where it was stopped by congested traffic, then two assailants fired into it with automatic rifles; this was the same pattern that had been followed in a 1995 attack on a shuttle van from the U.S. Consulate in Karachi.
The Islami Inqilabi Council, or Islamic Revolutionary Council, claimed responsibility in a call to the U.S. Consulate. In a letter to Pakistani newspapers, the Aimal Khufia Action Committee also claimed responsibility.
1995 (Saudi Arabia) – A car bomb placed outside the Office of the Program Manager/Saudi Arabian National Guard (a U.S. assistance project) in Riyadh killed seven persons, five of them U.S. citizens, and wounded more than 40. Two Saudi opposition groups took responsibility for the attack: the Tigers of the Gulf and the Islamic Movement for Change.
2002 (United States) – Mir Aimal Kasi, a Pakistani who had been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of two CIA employees in 1993, was executed in a Virginia prison. Kasi had ambushed his victims when they were stopped in traffic on the highway outside CIA headquarters; the spot was familiar to Kasi since he had worked for the Excel Courier Service and sometimes delivered packages to the CIA headquarters. He fled to Pakistan after the murders, and was seized there four years later by U.S. authorities.
Mir Aimal Kasi was the son of a wealthy Pakistani construction contractor and a member of the Pashtun tribe. He earned a master's degree in English literature from Baluchistam University in Quetta. His funeral was attended by tens of thousands of mourners. It was held in a packed football stadium following a two-hour cortege procession through Quetta.
1983 (Greece) – U.S. Navy Captain George Tsantes, chief of the naval section of the Joint U.S. Military Aid Group, Greece (JUSMAGG), was assassinated by the November 17 organization. Captain Tsantes was driving from his home in Kifissia, a northern suburb of Athens, to his office in the U.S. embassy when two men on a Vespa motor scooter came alongside his car while it was stopped at a red light and a gunman killed both Tsantes and his Greek driver, Nikos Veloutsos, with a .45-cal. pistol.
Tsantes was the first American to be killed by terrorists in Athens since Dec. 23, 1975, when CIA Station Chief Richard Welch was shot when returning to his home. Ballistics tests showed that Tsantes had been shot with the same pistol used to kill Welch. Hours after the shooting a call to the Greek daily newspaper Elefterotypia claimed responsibility for the killing on behalf of the 17th November Revolutionary Organization. The Tsantes slaying was evidently timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Polytechnic rebellion that led to the creation of the 17 November Movement. In July, 2003, Greek authorities arrested Nikos Papanastasiou, 50, and charged him with complicity in the killing of Captain Tsantes and his driver, among others.
2003 (Turkey) – Two synagogues in Istanbul, the Beth Israel and Neve Shalom, were attacked with car bombs and destroyed. A total of 27 persons, most of them Turkish Muslims, were killed and over 300 others wounded. A Turkish militant group, the IBDA-C, initially responsibility, but five days later, after two more truck bombs had destroyed the British Consulate and a bank in Istanbul, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for all four attacks.
Turkish authorities charged 72 people with involvement in the bombings including one, Loa’I Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa, who had already been tried in absentia in Jordan for his part, along with Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in a failed poison gas attack in 2002.
1997 (Egypt) – An attack by the Al-Gama’at al-Islamiya in Luxor killed 77 persons. In the deadliest terrorist attack ever committed in Egypt, six gunmen entered the Hatsheput Temple in Luxor and for 30 minutes methodically shot and knifed tourists trapped inside the Temple's alcoves. Fifty-eight foreign tourists were murdered, along with several Egyptian police officers and tour guides. The gunmen then commandeered an empty tour bus and fled the scene, but Egyptian security forces intercepted them and killed all six.
1973 (Greece) – A student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic was put down by riot police, killing 34 and wounding 800. The 17 November Revolutionary Movement took its name from this incident. The uprising was a massive demonstration of popular rejection of the Greek military junta that had taken power in 1967. The uprising began on November 14 and was crushed in the early morning hours of the November 17 when a tank crashed through the gate of the Polytechnic campus.
2000 (Philippines) – A bomb attack in Carmen and a simultaneous grenade attack in Isulan killed one and wounded five persons. The Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) was suspected