Monday, December 10, 2007

This Week in the History of Terrorism, December 9 to 15

Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. One of those events was the death of the Brazilian revolutionary Carlos Marighella in 1969. Marighella was an ideological and tactical innovator among modern left-wing revolutionary movements, if not an entirely original thinker. He had visited China in the early 1950s, where he evidently absorbed the lessons of People's War taught by Chairman Mao, and applied them when he returned to Brazil and, in 1962, formed a China-line communist party faction.

The driving force in Brazilian politics at the time was the military coup - which the military called a revolution - that had taken control of the nation in 1964. Marighella formed an underground revolutionary group called the Alianca Libertadora Nacional, or Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN), in 1968, borrowing the group's name from a revolutionary organization that had existed briefly in Brazil in the 1930s to fight the dictator of the time, Getulio Vargas.

The ALN had a peak strength of only 200 members, and its main focus was in Brazil's two biggest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. [See a brief history of the group at the Terrorism Knowledge Base here.] Since Brazil was as urban-proletariat a nation as Mao's China was rural-peasant, Marighella's focus on the cities was an intelligent adaptation of Mao's dictum about the guerrillas being like fish hiding in the sea of the people. In this, Marighella showed much more sense than his fellow Latino lefty revolutionary Che Guevara, who had died in 1967 while foolishly trying to instigate revolution among the decidedly uncooperative peasants of Bolivia.

The following year, 1969, Marighella published his most famous work, the Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla, which promoted his concept of cities as the ideal focus for guerrilla war. The manual become an instant classic, filled with revo-romance, and packed with handy hints for underground organizers. Samizdat copies quickly spread, and the Mini-Manual had a strong influence on groups like Italy's Red Brigades, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and Germany's Bader-Meinhof / Red Brigades.

Today, the Mini-Manual is more a period-piece of 1960s radical literature than a serious revolutionary treatise. The capitalists at will sell you a copy [here] for just 6 Yankee dollars, but if you would like to read it without supporting corporate oppressors, the good commies at will let you read it [here] free of charge.

December 9

1999 (United States)
– The United Nations adopted the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing Terrorism.

December 10

2004 (Brazil)
– A tombstone was laid in Salvador de Bahia to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the death of the Marxist writer and revolutionary Carlos Marighella. Marighella's primary contribution to revolutionary literature was the Mini-Manual ofthe Urban Guerrilla, a book which greatly influenced modern left-wing guerilla and terrorist movements. In contrast to Che Guevara’s focus on building revolutionary activity in rural villages, Marighela's theories promoted cities as the focus for revolution.

December 11

1964 (United States)
– An anti-Castro Cuban exile fired a recoilless rifle at the UN General Assembly building during a speech by Che Guevara. The attacker, Guillermo Nova, fired from the Long Island side of the East River waterfront at the time when Guevara was scheduled to speak, but the shell landed harmlessly in the East River about 200 yards short of the UN Secretariat building, since the rifle had been angled incorrectly.

Anti-Castro Cuban refugee Guillermo Novo has been suspected of involvement in several acts terrorism, along with fellow refugees Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada. Novo was found guilty of conspiracy to assassinate Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean Foreign Minister, in 1976, but he obtained a retrial in 1981 and was acquitted on a technicality.

December 12

1997 (Egypt)
– Security Forces killed Abd al-Hafiz, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader responsible for the Luxor attack.

1983 (Kuwait) – The U.S. and French embassies are partially destroyed by truck bombs, killing six persons and injuring 80. The attacks were only two in a series whose other targets included the control tower at the airport, the country's main oil refinery, and a residential area for employees of the American corporation Raytheon. The bombers were thought to be members of Al Dawa, or "The Call," an Iranian-backed group and one of the principal Shiite groups operating against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

The Kuwaiti authorities convicted 17 people for participating in the attacks. Over the following years, the release of the "Kuwait 17" was one of the most consistent demands of the kidnappers of Western hostages in Lebanon. Ironically, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Iraqis unwittingly released the Kuwait 17. One of them, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, is today a Member of Parliament in Iraq and part of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s ruling coalition.

1969 (Italy) – A neo-Fascist group carried out a series of bombings in Milan and Rome, killing 16 persons and wounding 58. Two bombs were planted in Milan, one inside the National Agricultural Bank in Piazza Fontana, and the second near the La Scala Opera House. The bombs in Rome were planted at another bank and at a memorial. The bombings marked the launch of the “strategy of tension” declared by the right-wing Ordine Nuovo group, which lasted until 1974. Police arrested over 4,000 persons in the aftermath of the bombings, but only three were eventually convicted; one more fell to his death from the window of a police station.

December 13

2001 (India)
– A group of Kashmiri militants used a fake vehicle sticker to get through perimeter security at the parliament building in New Delhi, and launched an attack with small arms and a suicide bomb belt that killed 12 and injured 22 persons. None of the members of parliament in the building at the time were harmed. An hour-long standoff and gun battle ensued between the attackers and police, carried live on Indian television, before the last of the gunmen were killed.

Three Kashmiris suspected of helping to plan the attack were convicted and sentenced to death in 2002, but the High Court overturned the conviction of one of them, Sar Geelani, a college professor. The execution of the remaining two has been delayed pending appeals.

December 14

1987 (Lebanon) – HAMAS, the Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded by Shaykh Ahmed Yassin. Born in 1938 in what was then Palestine under the British mandate, Sheikh Yassin suffered a childhood accident that left him a quadriplegic. He devoted his early life to Islamic scholarship and studied at al-Azhar University in Cairo, the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood. In retaliation for the many acts of terrorism committed by HAMAS again Israelis, Shaykh Yassin was assassinated by Israeli forces in March, 2004, targeted with a helicopter-fired missile as he left a Mosque.

December 15

Another of those rare days that, so far, are free of significant terrorist activity.

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