Features

Appetite for evil

Islam & Terrorism | The history of terrorism against Americans and U.S. allies looks a little like its effects: a smoking pile of rubble. By contrast, the history of nations and their wars-with known political leaders, generals, soldiers, and ambassadors-is downright tidy. World Wars settle issues (temporarily, anyway) and redraw maps; terrorism, concentrated so often on civilians, usually just terrorizes. The human toll of attacks has recently increased as terrorists have moved from making specific demands about prisoner release to general statements of their desire for vast governmental changes. The following is more a journey down nightmare lane than a neat history lesson with a beginning and an end, but one theme does emerge: man's capacity for evil seems limitless, and not limited to Islam's extremists.

Issue: "Islam and teroris," Oct. 27, 2001

7/28/1968
A Marxist group called the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) begins the first in a series of hijackings of Israeli El Al airliners. For this mission, the group exchanges 48 Israeli hostages for 16 Arab prisoners in Israeli jails. 2/21/1970
PFLP terrorists blow up a Swissair 330 in midair shortly after leaving Geneva, killing 47. 6/10/1970
Agents of the Palestine Liberation Organization murder U.S. Embassy attaché Army Major Robert P. Perry at home in Amman, Jordan. 9/6/1970
PFLP terrorists seize four airliners at the beginning of what would become known as "Black September." The hijackers demand the release of Palestinian prisoners in Germany, Switzerland, and Israel. They fly two planes to Dawson's Field in the Jordanian desert and blow up one in Cairo after releasing passengers and crew. On the fourth plane, the terrorists are overpowered and the plane returns to London. British authorities take Leila Khaled, who commanded the terrorist operation, into custody. The PFLP then demands Ms. Khaled's release and hijacks another plane bound for Beirut, landing a third plane at Dawson's Field. PFLP releases 255 hostages (retaining 56) and blow up the three planes. At the end of Black September, Great Britain releases Ms. Khaled and six other Palestinian guerrillas in exchange for the remaining hostages. 3/1/1971
A U.S. Senate office building sustains heavy damage from a bomb planted by the radical Weather Underground. 5/11/1972
The Red Army Faction (also known in its early years as the Baader-Meinhof Gang) carries out six separate bombing attacks aimed at U.S. Army personnel and a West German Supreme Court Justice. One bomb kills an Army officer and injures 12 other servicemen. A short time later, both Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof are captured and imprisoned. 9/5/1972
At the Olympics in Munich, Germany, eight Black September terrorists take nine Israeli athletes hostage and kill two others. They demand the release of 200 Palestinians in Israeli jails, as well as freedom for terrorists of the Japanese Red Army and the Red Army Faction. A Black September grenade kills the athletes during an unsuccessful rescue attempt. Five terrorists die in a shootout and three are captured. 10/29/1972
Black September hijackers seize a Lufthansa flight from Beirut to Ankara, and gain the freedom of the three remaining Munich assailants. 3/1/1973
Black September terrorists take 10 hostages at the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. The terrorists murder the U.S. ambassador and charge d'affaires, as well as a Belgian diplomat. They later surrender to authorities. 2/5/1974
Leftist radicals of the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnap newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. In April, she totes a gun in a San Francisco bank robbery. In May, police kill six SLA members in a shootout. The FBI arrests Ms. Hearst in September 1975. She claims she only pretended to support the SLA to survive, but she must serve time in prison until President Carter pardons her in 1979. 4/13/1974
The New People's Army, the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, kills three U.S. Navy personnel near Subic Bay Naval Base. 1/24/1975
At New York City's historic Fraunces Tavern, where in 1783 George Washington said farewell to his troops, a bomb by a doorway explodes during the lunch hour, killing four people and wounding 60. The Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN claims responsibility. 1/28/1975
Weather Underground detonates a bomb at the U.S. State Department building. 8/4/1975
Five terrorists from the Japanese Red Army shoot their way into the American consulate on the ninth floor of a downtown office building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They wound four people and take 53 men, women, and children hostage, including American consul Robert Stebbins. Japanese officials bow to the attackers' demand for the release of five Japanese Red Army prisoners; after difficult negotiations, Libya agrees to accept the terrorists. After it ends, Mr. Stebbins declares of his captors: "I hope they might someday be people with whom I can sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk about politics." 6/27/1976
The days of coffee talk come to an end after four terrorists-two from the Palestinian terrorist group PFLP and two from the Red Army Faction-hijack an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, capturing 240. After refueling in Libya, they fly to Entebbe, Uganda, where dictator Idi Amin welcomes them and allows them to land. The terrorists demand the release of 54 colleagues who are jailed in six countries around the world and a $5 million ransom for the PFLP. They release all passengers with non-Israeli passports, reducing the number of hostages to 103. On July 1, Israeli commandos raid the terminal building, killing all four terrorists and rescuing all but two hostages who die in the crossfire. The raid at Entebbe becomes a rallying point for the fight against terrorism. 3/9/1977
A dozen Hanafi Muslim terrorists armed with long knives, pistols, and sawed-off shotguns seize 134 hostages in three buildings only blocks from the White House. One man is killed and 12 are wounded in the takeover of the Islamic Center, the international headquarters of B'nai Brith, and the District building, Washington's city hall. They surrender two days later after negotiations with ambassadors of Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan. 5/17/1977
The anti-American group GRAPO (translated as the October 1 Anti-Fascist Resistance Group) bombs the U.S. Cultural Center in Madrid on the day Vice President Walter Mondale arrives for an official visit. 3/16/1978
Red Brigades terrorists kidnap Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and kill five of his bodyguards. They execute Moro and leave his bullet-riddled body in a car in downtown Rome. 2/14/1979
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan dies in a hail of gunfire from Afghan troops as others plot to rescue him from four kidnappers in a Kabul hotel room. Just as U.S. officials believed they had persuaded Afghan Interior Ministry officials not to storm the room, a gunshot was heard, spurring the spray of bullets. 6/20/1979
Serb nationalists hijack an American Airlines flight from New York to Chicago, seeking the release of a priest involved in a bombing of a Yugoslavian consular official's home in Chicago four years earlier. The hijackers fail and are taken into custody. 6/25/1979
NATO Allied Supreme Commander (and future Secretary of State) Alexander Haig barely escapes death when a bomb explodes just a few feet behind his chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz in Belgium. The Red Army Faction claims responsibility for the attack. 8/27/1979
The Irish Republican Army blows up the boat of Lord Mountbatten, killing the cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. 11/4/1979
In response to the Shah of Iran's admission to the United States for medical treatment and American refusals to extradite him, about 500 Iranians take over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. They hold 52 Americans as hostages. President Jimmy Carter applies economic pressure on Iran by halting Iranian oil imports and freezing Iranian assets in the United States. On April 24,1980, the Carter administration attempts a rescue mission that fails when three of the mission's eight helicopters are damaged in a sandstorm. After Ronald Reagan's election in November, successful negotiations begin and Iran releases the hostages shortly after President Reagan is inaugurated on January 20, 1981. 12/2/1979
Puerto Rican terrorists kill two U.S. Navy sailors on a bus in Puerto Rico. 7/22/1980
Daoud Salahuddin (formerly David Belfield), an American Khomeini supporter, kills Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a press aide for Iran during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi and a strong critic of Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution, at his home in Bethesda, Md. 10/5/1980
Armenian terrorists claim responsibility for two bombings of Turkish interests in the United States, injuring one person near the Turkish consulate in Los Angeles. 3/7/1981
Colombian kidnappers kill American Chester Allen Bitterman, 28, after holding him for six weeks. Bitterman had worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators, and his assailants demand that Wycliffe close its Latin American branch. Wycliffe doesn't comply. 5/9/1981
The Irish Republican Army detonates a bomb at a North Sea oil factory during a visit by Queen Elizabeth. The bomb misses the queen's party. 5/13/1981
Turkish-born terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca shoots Pope John Paul II as he greets a crowd of thousands in St. Peter's Square. The pope survives and later visits with Mr. Agca for 20 minutes in a Rome prison to forgive him. 8/31/1981
The Red Army Faction detonates a bomb inside a Volkswagen in a parking lot at the U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, West Germany. The explosion injures two West Germans and 18 Americans and knocks down bystanders a hundred yards away. The blast is part of a series of incidents in response to German leftist Sigurd Debus's death by hunger strike at a Hamburg jail. 9/15/1981
The Red Army Faction attempts to kill the commanding general of U.S. forces in Europe, Army Gen. Frederick Kruesen. RAF terrorists fire two RPG-7 grenades at the general's car as he and his wife ride along a highway near Heidelberg. The Kruesens suffer minor injuries. 10/6/1981
Terrorists jump off a parade vehicle during an Egyptian parade, firing weapons and throwing grenades at the reviewing stand. They kill Egyptian President Anwar Sadat along with eight others and injure 20, including four American diplomats. 12/17/1981
The Red Brigades kidnap U.S. Army Brigadier General James Lee Dozier from his home in Verona, Italy. After 42 days, 10 Italian counter-terrorist agents free Dozier in a raid on a Red Brigades hideout. 1/18/1982
In Paris, Lebanese Marxists murder American military attaché Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Ray near his apartment. 6/1/1982
Terrorist bombs rip through four U.S. military installations in West Germany, including the U.S. Army headquarters in Frankfurt, as President Reagan prepares to tour Europe. The West German terrorist group Revolutionary Cells claims credit. 7/19/1982
David Dodge, the acting president of American University of Beirut, is kidnapped and held in Lebanon and then Iran. He is released a year later, and the Reagan administration gives credit to Syrian leader Hafez Assad, who told the Iranians that Mr. Dodge, as AUB president, had contributed to the culture of the Middle East. 8/21/1982
A bomb planted by Lebanese Marxists beneath the car of an American embassy employee in France explodes as technicians attempt to disarm it, killing one technician and injuring two. 4/18/1983
A man drives a van carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives into the front portion of the seven-story U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 (including 17 Americans) and injuring 120. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility. 9/16/1983
Puerto Rican terrorists strike the West Hartford, Conn., terminal of Wells Fargo Company, escaping with $7.2 million, one of the largest bank robberies in American history. 10/23/1983
In the early morning at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, a truck loaded with compressed gas-enhanced explosives crashes through chain-link fences and barbed-wire entanglements. While guards open fire, the truck smashes through the doors of the four-story barracks and explodes, killing 241 U.S. servicemen as they sleep. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility. At almost the same time, a nearly identical suicide bombing attack kills 56 soldiers at the eight-story French military barracks in Beirut. 11/6/1983
A bomb explodes around 11 p.m. near the Senate chamber in the U.S. Capitol, blowing out the windows of the Republican cloakroom and throwing large chunks of plaster through the air. A group called the Armed Resistance Unit claims responsibility, saying it is protesting the invasion of Grenada and American involvement in Lebanon. 12/12/1983
Suicide terrorists ram a truckload of explosives into the American and French embassies in Kuwait. Five people, but no Americans, are killed at the U.S. embassy, since the driver hits a small administrative annex rather than the crowded chancellery building. The explosion at the French embassy blows a 30-foot hole in the wall around the compound, but kills no one. Analysts later blame the attacks on the banned Al-Dawa party, a radical Shiite group with ties to Iran. 12/31/1983
Puerto Rican terrorists carry out four simultaneous bombings of government targets in New York City, including city police headquarters, FBI offices, and a federal courthouse. One city detective loses a leg, one loses the fingers on his right hand, and another loses an eye. Some of the wounded later protest when President Clinton pardons FALN activists in 1999, claiming the pardons are intended to curry favor with Puerto Ricans to help Hillary Clinton's Senate race in New York. 1/18/1984
Malcolm H. Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut, is slain by two gunmen as he steps off an elevator near his office. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility. 6/14/1985
Lebanese gunmen hijack TWA flight 847 bound from Athens to Rome with 104 Americans and 49 other passengers and force it to fly to Beirut, where they pick up more gunmen, and then to Algiers. The hijackers release passengers until the number is down to 39. They demand the release of 766 Lebanese prisoners being held in Israel. On the second day of the standoff, the plane returns to Beirut, and the hijackers kill U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem and throw his body out on the runway. Israel releases 31 Lebanese prisoners, but insists the release is not related to the standoff. After 17 days in captivity, the hostages are transported to Damascus, Syria, and released. 8/8/1985
The Red Army Faction detonates a car bomb at the U.S. Air Force base at Rhein-Main, West Germany, killing two and injuring 17. The night before, the assailants killed an off-duty U.S. serviceman, and they use his military identification to enter the base. 10/7/1985
Four heavily armed Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Liberation Front hijack the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, carrying more than 400 passengers and crew, off Egypt. The terrorists demand that Israel release 50 Palestinian prisoners. They murder 69-year-old disabled American tourist Leon Klinghoffer and throw his body overboard with his wheelchair. After two days of tension, the hijackers surrender in exchange for a promise of safe passage. But when an Egyptian jet tries to fly them to freedom, U.S. Navy F-14 fighters intercept it and force it to land in Sicily, where Italian authorities take the terrorists into custody. 11/25/1985
As customers shop at a U.S. military post exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, a bomb hidden in a silver BMW parked about 250 yards away from the PX explodes, injuring 35 people, most of them Americans. 4/2/1986
A bomb explodes aboard a TWA jet in Greece, killing four people, but the plane lands safely. The timing device in the bomb was activated when a passenger sat on the seat it was placed under. 4/5/1986
An explosion rips through La Belle Disco in West Berlin, killing two American soldiers (and one other person) and injuring almost 230, including dozens of off-duty U.S. servicemen. President Reagan orders air strikes against Libya 10 days later as a "swift and effective retribution" for its role in the disco bombing. 4/24/1987
A remote-control bomb injures 16 U.S. servicemen in Greece in an attack by the group Revolutionary Organization 17 November, a Marxist-Leninist group known for lengthy ideological statements. The same group injures another 10 servicemen in Greece in another bus attack on Aug. 10. 10/26/1987
The communist New People's Army kills four Americans within 15 minutes near Clark Air Base. 12/26/1987
One U.S. serviceman is killed and nine others are injured when Catalan separatist groups in Spain launch hand grenades into a USO bar in Barcelona. 4/14/1988
Japanese suicide bomber Junzo Okudaira drives a car bomb into a USO club in Naples, Italy, killing a U.S. Navy enlisted woman and four others. A Japanese Red Army front group claims responsibility. Two days earlier, JRA member Yu Kikumura was arrested at a New Jersey Turnpike rest area with three powerful bombs and other explosives. Both attacks were planned in retaliation on the second anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Libya. 6/28/1988
A car bomb detonated by Revolutionary Organization 17 November kills Captain William Nordeen, a defense attaché at the U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece. 8/8/1988
A group calling itself the "Simon Bolivar Commandos" explodes a bomb as a motorcade carrying Secretary of State George Shultz passes on a highway outside the Bolivian capital city of La Paz. There are no injuries. 12/21/1988
Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board (including 189 Americans) and 11 villagers on the ground. Crashing parts of the jet destroy 21 homes. In 1991 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency charges two Libyan terrorists with the crime. On January 31, 2001, a former Libyan Arab Airlines official and suspected Libyan spy, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, is convicted of mass murder for his role in the bombing. The other defendant, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, is found not guilty and receives a hero's welcome upon his return to Libya. 2/28/1989
Two Berkeley, Calif., bookstores are firebombed during the night to protest the sale of Iranian author Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Iranian authorities had issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie to be killed for disparaging Islam. 3/10/1989
A bomb explodes in a van driven by the wife of U. S. Navy Captain Will C. Rogers. She is unhurt. The attack is believed to be in retaliation for the July 1988 downing of an Iranian civil airliner by the USS Vincennes, commanded by Capt. Rogers. 3/17/1990
Narco-terrorists firebomb Drug Enforcement Agency offices in Fort Myers, Fla. Two months later the FBI rounds up Colombians employed by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Florida as they attempt to buy 24 stolen Stinger anti-aircraft missiles for an estimated $6 million dollars. Stinger missiles are capable of destroying the largest airliners. 9/26/1990
Gunmen kill the captain of President Corazon Aquino's guard, as well as two American employees of Ford Aerospace, in attacks that coincide with Vice President Dan Quayle's visit to the Philippines. 12/25/1991
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolves. The fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern communist bloc leads to the dissolution of remaining "Red" terrorist groups, especially with the opening of Soviet and East German archives. 1/25/1993
Mir Amal Kansi, a Pakistani living in the United States since 1991, shoots two CIA employees, Lansing Bennet and Frank Darling, and wounds three others near the gate of the CIA's 258-acre headquarters in Langley, Va. 2/26/1993
A minibus containing 1,100 pounds of explosives blows up in the garage beneath the World Trade Center complex. The blast kills six people, injures 1,000, and causes $300 million worth of damage. The towers are cleaned, repaired, and reopened in less than a month. Courts later convict six Middle Eastern men, including mastermind Ramzi Yousef. They claim to be retaliating against U.S. support for the Israeli government. 3/8/1995
A gunman kills two employees of the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan-CIA communications technician Gary Durell and consulate secretary Jackie Van Landingham. No one claims responsibility, but analysts suggest it could be meant to cripple warming relations between the U.S. and Benazir Bhutto's government in Pakistan. 3/20/1995
Members of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo cult release sarin nerve gas in Tokyo's subway system. The attack kills twelve and renders thousands sick. 9/13/1995
A masked assailant fires a rocket-propelled grenade across a busy street during rush hour at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, destroying a copier and causing minor damage in a 6th-floor office in protest against American air strikes in Bosnia. 4/19/1995
A truck bomb explodes outside the Alfred R. Murrah Federal Office Building, collapsing walls and floors and killing 168 persons, including 19 children and one person who died in the rescue effort. Over 220 buildings sustain damage. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are later convicted in a plot to avenge the fiery end of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas, exactly two years earlier. The government executes McVeigh in 2001. 6/25/1996
Terrorists drive a tanker truck loaded with at least 5,000 pounds of plastic explosives into the parking lot of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a housing facility for U.S. and allied forces enforcing a no-fly zone over the southern portion of Iraq. Nineteen Americans are killed and almost 500 wounded as the explosion drills a crater 35 feet deep and rips the front off an apartment building. The Justice Department announces indictments of 13 members of Hezbollah on June 12, 2001. 11/12/1997
In Karachi, Pakistan, two gunmen murder four American auditors for Union Texas Petroleum Company just 36 hours after a jury in Fairfax, Va., found Pakistani Mir Amil Kansi guilty of the two CIA headquarters murders. Kansi was captured a few months before, on June 17, in Pakistan. 8/7/1998
More than 300 people are killed and more than 5,000 injured in simultaneous car bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The explosion rips apart the back of the Kenyan embassy, which was located at an intersection and had no security fence in front, although it had an eight-foot-high steel fence on the other three sides. The Tanzanian blast occurred within the embassy walls, meaning the car had passed through a security check. Authorities suspect Osama bin Laden's network is responsible. 8/20/1998
In response to the embassy bombings, President Clinton authorizes cruise-missile attacks on terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan three days after his sworn testimony in the Monica Lewinsky investigation. Administration officials also freeze the assets of Saleh Idris, who owns the Sudanese factory that is bombed, claiming he has terrorist ties. In May 1998, facing legal action, the administration unfreezes the assets. 12/14/1999
Authorities arrest Algerian Ahmed Ressam as he tries to enter the United States from Canada at Port Angeles, Wash. They find more than 100 pounds of explosives in his car, foiling a plot to detonate a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in the days before millennium celebrations on 1/1/2000. Three Algerians-Mr. Ressam, Abdel Ghani Meskini, and Mokhtar Haouari-are convicted in New York. Mr. Ressam testifies that he was trained at a camp in Afghanistan that American officials say is run by Osama bin Laden. 10/12/2000
In the port of Aden, Yemen, a pair of suicide bombers in a small boat pull alongside the U.S.S. Cole, an advanced Arleigh Burke-class destroyer carrying Aegis anti-missile weaponry. After taking a mooring line to a buoy to defuse suspicion, the bombers stand at attention as their small boat blows up, blasting a 40-foot-by-40-foot hole in the ship's hull, killing 17 American military personnel and injuring 39. U.S. officials suspect al-Qaeda, the network of Osama bin Laden, who speaks of the ship as having sailed "to its doom" along a course of "false arrogance, self-conceit, and strength." 9/11/2001
Hijackers take over two large jetliners, both en route from Boston to Los Angeles, and fly them into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, collapsing both towers and killing more than 5,000 people in the buildings and on the ground. Minutes later another hijacked jet smashes into the west side of the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane crashes in a field near Shanksville, Pa. Bin Laden's network is implicated. President George W. Bush, in a speech to Congress, says his administration will make no distinction between terrorists like bin Laden and the states that support them. Four weeks later, the bombing of Afghanistan begins.

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