Sunday, December 16, 2007

This Week in the History of Terrorism, December 16 to 22

Here's my summary of significant past events for this week. And what a week it was! A department store was bombed, an embassy reception was invaded and hundreds of diplomatic party-goers taken hostage, a U.S. Army General was kidnapped, multiple suicide bombers attacked a Sri Lankan Presidential campaign event, a Philippine terrorist leader and a Spanish Prime Minister were killed, Pan Am Flight 103 was downed by a bomb smuggled aboard in a suitcase, Carlos "the Jackal" kidnapped eleven oil ministers at an OPEC meeting, HAMAS bombed an Israeli restaurant, and the "Shoe Bomber" tried to bring down a transatlantic airliner with his explosive foot gear.

With all that going on, I feel unworthy to pick out a single item to highlight.

December 16

A quiet day. The calm before the storm.

December 17

1996 (Peru)
– MRTA rebels seized the residence of the Japanese ambassador during a reception in honor of Emperor Akihito's 63rd birthday, taking 700 dignitaries hostage and beginning a highly publicized stand-off that lasted 126 days. Among the hostages were foreign diplomats, including the Ambassador from Canada [the U.S. Ambassador had departed the reception just minutes before the attack], a Supreme Court Justice, Congressmen and Ministers, and high officials of Peru's military and security forces, including Máximo Rivera, the chief of Peru's anti-terrorist police (DINCOTE) and former chief Carlos Domínguez. The 24 Japanese hostages included Peruvian President Fujimori's own mother and younger brother. Over the next few weeks, the MRTA released all the women and all but 72 of the male hostages. The remaining hostages were freed on April 22nd, 1997, in a raid by Peruvian Armed Forces during which one hostage, two commandos, and all 14 of the MRTA militants died.

MRTA (the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement or Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru) was a communist guerrilla movement active in Peru from 1984 to 1997. It took its name in homage to an 18th-century rebel leader who was himself named after his ancestor Tupac Amaru, the last indigenous leader of the Inca people. At the height of its strength, MRTA had about one hundred active members.

1981 (Italy) - James Lee Dozier, a U.S. Army Brigadier General serving as deputy Chief of Staff at NATO's Southern European land forces headquarters at Verona, Itay, was kidnapped by the leftist Italian Red Brigades. The attackers entered his residence using a ruse, taking Dozier and leaving his wife bound in their apartment. The Red Brigades held Dozier for 42 days until, on January 28, 1982, an Italian Police anti-terrorist team successfully rescued him from an apartment in Padua and arrested his kidnappers. The captured kidnappers subsequently informed on other members of the group and, in early 1983, 53 members of the group were brought to trial for the murder of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro and 16 others.

The Red Brigade was created in the 1970s following the failure of a New Left government, and during the 70s and 80s it sought to highlight its cause by kidnapping and murdering prominent Italian politicians and other senior figures, including former Aldo Moro in 1978. Dozier was the first foreigner to be kidnapped by the group.

1983 (United Kingdom) - The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) detonated a bomb in a car parked outside Harrods Department Store, London, killing six people. Six people were killed, three passers-by and three Metropolitan Police officers. The bomb contained between 25 and 30 pounds of explosives, and it was detonated by a timing device.

December 18

1999 (Sri Lanka) – Tamil Tigers (LTTE) launched simultaneous suicide bomber attacks at a Presidential re-election rally, where 23 persons were killed and 100 (including the President) wounded, and at an opposition party rally where 11 persons were killed.

December 19

1998 (Philippines)
– The leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Abdurajak Abubaker Janjalani, was killed in a gunfight with police on Basilan Island.

December 20

1973 (Spain) - Luis Carrero Blanco, a Spanish Navy Admiral and statesman who briefly served as Prime Minister and was thought to be the likely successor to Francisco Franco, was assassinated by the Basque ETA. His death may have facilitated Spain's later transition to democracy, since Franco died without an ideologically similar successor. The ETA assassinated Blanco six months after he was named Prime Minister, ambushing him in Madrid as he returned from mass, according to his customary daily schedule. It was a well-prepared operation, employing about 200 pounds of explosives placed in a tunnel they had excavated under the street, and detonated underneath Blanco's armored limo.

One of the ETA member who had assassinated Carrero Blanco was himself assassinated by a car bomb in the south of France on December 21, 1978, by a Spanish far right group organized from elements of the military and security services.

December 21

1986 (United Kingdom) – Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground. Libyan agents were responsible. In the investigation subsequent to the crash, forensic experts determined that 340 to 450 grams (12 to 16 ounces) of plastic explosive had been detonated in the forward cargo hold, triggering a sequence of events that led to the rapid destruction of the aircraft. Although many non-U.S. citizens were among the victims, the attack was widely regarded as an assault on U.S. interests, and with 189 of the victims being Americans, it stood as the deadliest attack on American civilians until September 11th, 2001.

Indictments for murder were issued in November of 1991 against a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and the LAA station manager in Malta, where a rigged suitcase had been placed into the inter-airline baggage system. After United Nations sanctions were placed against Libya, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi handed over the accused to Scottish police on April 5, 1999. On January 31, 2001, the intelligence officer was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison; the station manager acquited.

1975 (Austria) – “Carlos the Jackal” kidnapped 11 OPEC ministers in Vienna. Three hostages were killed.

December 22

2000 (Israel / West Bank) – A suicide bomber at a restaurant in Mehola killed one person and wounded three. HAMAS was responsible.

2001 (Over the Atlantic Ocean) - American Airlines Flight 63 was en route from Paris to Miami when a passenger, Richard Colvin Reid, an Islamic fundamentalist from Great Britain, attempted but failed to ignite an explosive charge of over 100 grams that were hidden inside his shoes. Reid was subsequently convicted on charges of terrorism and is currently serving a life sentence in the United States. According to press reports, an al-Qaeda operative, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who was captured and interrogated in Oman in 2003, has stated that Reid was also a member of al-Qaeda and had been sent on the bombing mission by Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, a leader member of the organization.

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