Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The US Government: A History Of Terrorism

The history of terrorism is a history of well-known and historically significant individuals, entities, and incidents associated, whether rightly or wrongly, with terrorism. Scholars agree that terrorism is a disputed term, and very few of those labelled terrorists describe themselves as such. It is common for opponents in a violent conflict to describe the other side as terrorists.[1]Those called terrorists can often be referred to as militants, paramilitaries, guerillas, resistance movements or freedom fighters. However, they are united in the range of tactics they commonly employ which involves non systemical covert or semi covert warfare, driven by an ideological basis often political religious or socially based. They often seek to use propaganda of the deed to cause a psychological impact alongside the actions themselves to drive the aspired change.


  • 1 Definition
  • 2 Early Terrorism
  • 3 19th century
    • 3.1 The United States
    • 3.2 Europe
    • 3.3 The Ottoman Empire
  • 4 Early 20th century
    • 4.1 Europe
    • 4.2 Middle East
    • 4.3 Elsewhere
  • 5 World War II
    • 5.1 The resistance movement in Europe
  • 6 Mid-20th century
    • 6.1 Middle East
    • 6.2 Europe
    • 6.3 The Americas
    • 6.4 Asia
    • 6.5 Africa
  • 7 Late 20th century
    • 7.1 The Americas
    • 7.2 Middle East
    • 7.3 Asia
    • 7.4 Europe
  • 8 21st century
    • 8.1 Europe
    • 8.2 Middle East
    • 8.3 Asia
  • 9 Table of non-state groups accused of terrorism
  • 10 References


Though many have been proposed, there is no consensus definition of the term "terrorism."[2][3] This in part derives from the fact that the term is politically and emotionally charged, “a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one's enemies and opponents.”[4] Listed below are some of the historically important understandings of terror and terrorism, and enacted but non-universal definitions of the term:

  • 1795. "Government intimidation during the Reign of Terror in France." The general sense of "systematic use of terror as a policy" was first recorded in English in 1798.[5]
  • 1916. Gustave LeBon: “Terrorization has always been employed by revolutionaries no less than by kings, as a means of impressing their enemies, and as an example to those who were doubtful about submitting to them . . ." [6]
  • 1937. League of Nations convention language: "All criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public."[7]
  • 1987. A definition proposed by Iran at an international Islamic conference on terrorism: “Terrorism is an act carried out to achieve an inhuman and corrupt (mufsid) objective, and involving [a] threat to security of any kind, and violation of rights acknowledged by religion and mankind.” [8]
  • 1988. A proposed academic consensus definition: "Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators."[9]
  • 1989. United States: premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.[10]
  • 1992. A definition proposed by Alex P. Schmid to the United Nations Crime Branch: "Act of Terrorism = Peacetime Equivalent of War Crime."[11]
  • 2002. European Union: ". . . given their nature or context, [acts which] may seriously damage a country or an international organisation where committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population."[12]
  • 2003. India: Referencing Schmid's 1992 proposal, the Supreme Court of India described terrorist acts as the "peacetime equivalents of war crimes."[13]
  • 2008. Carsten Bockstette, a German military officer serving at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, proposed the following definition: “political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols)."[14]

[edit]Early Terrorism

Artistic rendering of Hassan-i Sabbah.

Scholars dispute whether the roots of terrorism date back to the 1st century and the Sicarii Zealots, to the 11th century and the Al-Hashshashin, to the 19th century and Narodnaya Volya, or to other eras.[15][16] The Sicarii and Hashshashin are described below, while the Narodnaya Volya is discussed in the 19th Century sub-section. Other pre-Reign of Terror historical events sometimes associated with terrorism are the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to destroy the EnglishParliament in 1605,[17] and the Boston Tea Party, an attack on British property by the Sons of Liberty in 1773, three years prior to the American Revolution.

In the 1st century CE, the Jewish Zealots in Judaea Province rebelled, killing prominent collaborators with Roman rule.[15][18][19] In 6 CE, according to contemporary historian Josephus,Judas of Galilee formed a small and more extreme offshoot of the Zealots, the Sicarii ("dagger men").[20] Their efforts also directed against Jewish "collaborators," including temple priests, Sadducees, Herodians, and other wealthy elites.[21] According to Josephus, the Sicarii would hide short daggers under their cloaks, mingle with crowds at large festivals, murder their victims, and then disappear into the panicked crowds. Their most successful assassination was of the high priest Jonathan.[20]

In the late 11th century CE, the Hashshashin (a.k.a. the Assassins) arose, an offshoot of theIsmā'īlī sect of Shia Muslims.[22] Led by Hassan-i Sabbah and opposed to Fatimid rule, the Hashshashin militia seized Alamut and other fortress strongholds across Persia.[23] Hashshashin forces were too small to challenge enemies militarily, so they assassinated city governors and military commanders in order to create alliances with militarily powerful neighbors. For example, they killed Janah al-Dawla, ruler of Homs, to please Ridwan of Aleppo, and assassinated Mawdud, Seljuk emir of Mosul, as a favor to the regent of Damascus.[24] The Hashshashin also carried out assassinations as retribution.[25] Under some definitions of terrorism, suchassassinations do not qualify as terrorism, since killing a political leader does not intimidate political enemies or inspire revolt.[15][20][26]

[edit]19th century

McKinley shortly before his assassination.

Terrorism was associated with the Reign of Terror in France until the mid-19th century,[27] when the term began to be associated with non-governmental groups.[28] Anarchism, often in league with risingnationalism, was the most prominent ideology linked with terrorism.[29] Attacks by various anarchist groups led to the assassination of a Russian Tsar and a U.S. President.[30]

The 19th century saw the development of powerful, stable, and affordable explosives, and the gap closed between the firepower of the state and dissidents.[31][32] Dynamite, in particular, inspired American and French anarchists and was central to their strategic thinking.[33]

In mid-19th century Russia, many grew impatient with the slow pace of Tsarist reforms, and anarchistssuch as Mikhail Bakunin maintained that progress was impossible without violence.[34] Founded in 1878 and inspired by Bakunin and others, Narodnaya Volya used dynamite-packed bombs to kill Russian state officials, in an effort to incite state retribution and mobilize the populace against the government.[35]Inspired by Narodnaya Volya, several nationalist groups in the ailing Ottoman Empire began using violence against public figures in the 1890s. These included the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO).[36]

[edit]The United States

A cartoon threatening that the KKK willlynch carpetbaggers, in the Independent Monitor, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1868.

In the 1850s, John Brown (1800–1859) was an abolitionist who advocated and practiced armed opposition to slavery. Brown led several attacks between 1856 and 1859, the most famous in 1859 against the armory at Harpers Ferry. Local forces soon recaptured the fort and Brown was tried and executed for treason.[37] A biographer of Brown has written that his purpose was "to force the nation into a new political pattern by creating terror."[38]

After the Civil War, on December 24, 1865, six Confederate veterans created the Ku Klux Klan(KKK).[39] The KKK used violence, lynching, murder and acts of intimidation such as cross burning to oppress in particular African Americans, and created a sensation with its masked forays' dramatic nature.[40][41] The group's politics are generally perceived as white supremacy,anti-Semitism, racism, anti-Catholicism, and nativism.[40] A KKK founder boasted that it was a nationwide organization of 550,000 men and that it could muster 40,000 Klansmen within five days' notice, but as a secret or "invisible" group with no membership rosters, it was difficult to judge the Klan's actual size. The KKK has at times been politically powerful, and at various times controlled the governments of Tennessee, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, in addition to several legislatures in the South.[citation needed]


In 1867 the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a revolutionary Irish nationalist group,[42] carried out attacks in England.[43] Writer Richard English has referred to such attacks as the first acts of "republican terrorism," which would became a recurrent feature of British and Irish history. The group is considered a precursor to the Irish Republican Army.[44]

Ignaty Gryniewietsky.

Europeans invented "Propaganda of the deed" (or "propaganda by the deed," from the Frenchpropagande par le fait) theory, a concept that advocates physical violence or other provocative public acts against political enemies in order to inspire mass rebellion or revolution. An early proponent was the Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisacane (1818–1857), who wrote in his "Political Testament" (1857) that "ideas spring from deeds and not the other way around." Anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), in his "Letters to a Frenchman on the Present Crisis" (1870) stated that "we must spread our principles, not with words but with deeds, for this is the most popular, the most potent, and the most irresistible form of propaganda."[45]The phrase itself was popularized by the French anarchist Paul Brousse (1844–1912), who in 1877 cited as examples the 1871 Paris Commune and a workers' demonstration in Berne provocatively using the socialist red flag.[46] By the 1880s, the slogan had begun to be used to refer to bombings, regicides andtyrannicides. Reflecting this new understanding of the term, Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta in 1895 described "propaganda by the deed" (which he opposed the use of) as violent communal insurrections meant to ignite an imminent revolution.[47]

Founded in Russia in 1878, Narodnaya Volya (Народная Воля in Russian; People's Will in English) was a revolutionary anarchist group inspired by Sergei Nechayev and "propaganda by the deed" theorist Pisacane.[15][35] The group developed ideas—such as targeted killing of the 'leaders of oppression'—that were to become the hallmark of subsequent violence by small non-state groups, and they were convinced that the developing technologies of the age—such as the invention of dynamite, which they were the first anarchist group to make widespread use of[48]—enabled them to strike directly and with discrimination.[32] Attempting to spark a popular revolt against Russia's Tsars, the group killed prominent political figures by gun and bomb, and on March 13, 1881, assassinated Russia's Tsar Alexander II.[15] The assassination, by a bomb that also killed the Tsar's attacker,Ignacy Hryniewiecki, failed to spark the expected revolution, and an ensuing crackdown brought the group to an end.[49]

Individual Europeans also engaged in politically motivated violence. For example, in 1893, Auguste Vaillant, a French anarchist, threw a bomb in the French Chamber of Deputies in which one person was injured.[50] In reaction to Vaillant's bombing and other bombings and assassination attempts, the French government passed a set of laws restricting freedom of the press that were pejoratively known as the lois scélérates ("villainous laws"). From 1894 to 1896, President of France Marie Francois Carnot, Prime Minister of Spain Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, and Austria-Hungary Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria were killed by anarchists.

[edit]The Ottoman Empire

Several nationalist groups used violence against an Ottoman Empire in apparent decline. One was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (in Armenian Dashnaktsuthium, or "The Federation"), a revolutionary movement founded in Tiflis (Russian Transcaucasia) in 1890 by Christopher Mikaelian. Many members had been part of Narodnaya Volya or the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party.[51] The group published newsletters, smuggled arms, and hijacked buildings as it sought to bring in European intervention that would force the Ottoman Empire to surrender control of its Armenian territories.[52] On August 24, 1896, 17-year-old Babken Suni led twenty-six members in capturing the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Constantinople. The group unsuccessfully demanded the creation of an Armenian state, but backed down on a threat to blow up the bank. An ensuing security crackdown destroyed the group.[53]

Also inspired by Narodnaya Volya, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was a revolutionary movement founded in 1893 by Hristo Tatarchev in the Ottoman-controlled Macedonian territories.[54][55] Through assassinations and by provoking uprisings, the group sought to coerce the Ottoman government into creating a Macedonian nation.[56] On July 20, 1903, the group incited the Ilinden uprising in the Ottoman villayet of Monastir. The IMRO declared the town's independence and sent demands to the European Powers that all of Macedonia be freed.[57] The demands were ignored and Turkish troops crushed the 27,000 rebels in the town two months later.[58]

[edit]Early 20th century

Michael Collins, IRA leader

Revolutionary nationalism continued to motivate political violence in the 20th century, much of it directed against the British Empire[citation needed]. The Irish Republican Army campaigned against the British in the 1910s and inspired the Zionist groups Hagannah, Irgun and Lehi to fight the British throughout the 1930s in the Palestine mandate.[59][60] Like the IRA and the Zionist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood used bombings and assassinations to try to free Egypt from British control.[61]


Political assassinations continued into the 20th century, its first victim Umberto I of Italy, killed in July 1900. Political violence became especially widespread in Imperial Russia, and several ministers were killed in the opening years of the century. The highest ranking was prime minister Pyotr Stolypin, killed in 1911 by a leftist radical.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife,Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, were shot and killed in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, byGavrilo Princip, one of a group of six assassins. The assassinations produced widespread shock across Europe, setting in motion a series of events which led to World War I.

In an action called the Easter Rising or Easter Rebellion, on April 24, 1916, members of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army seized the Dublin General Post Office and several other buildings, proclaiming an independent Irish Republic.[62] The rebellion failed militarily but was a success for physical force Irish republicanism, leaders of the uprising becoming Irish heroes after their eventual execution by the British government.[63] Shortly after the rebellion, Michael Collins and others founded the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which from 1916 to 1923 carried out numerous attacks against symbols of British power. For example, it attacked over 300 police stations simultaneously just before Easter 1920,[64] and, in November 1920, publicly killed a dozen police officers and burned down the Liverpool docks and warehouses, an action that came to be known as Bloody Sunday.[65] After years of warfare, London agreed to the 1921 Anglo-Irish treaty creating a free Irish state encompassing 26 of the island's 32 counties.[66] IRA tactics were an inspiration to other groups, including the Palestine Mandate'sZionists,[67] and to British special operations during World War II.[68][69]

Bedouins seized French planes during the 1920s.[70]

[edit]Middle East

Following the 1929 Hebron massacre of sixty-seven Jewish settlers in the British Mandate of Palestine, the Zionist settlers militia Haganahtransformed itself into a paramilitary force. In 1931, however, a more militant Irgun broke away from Haganah, objecting to Haganah's policy of restraint toward Arabs fighting Jewish settlers.[71] Founded by Avraham Tehomi,[72][73] Irgun sought to end British rule by assassinating police, capturing British government buildings and arms, and sabotaging British railways.[74] Its tactic of attacking Arab communities, including the bombing a crowded Arab market, is considered among the first examples of terrorism directed against civilians.[75] Irgun's best known attack was the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, parts of which housed the headquarters of the British civil and military administrations. Ninety-one people were killed and forty-six injured in what was the most deadly attack during the Mandate era.[76]After the creation of Israel in 1948, Menachem Begin (Irgun leader from 1943 to 1948) transformed the group into the political party which later became part of Likud.[77]

The King David Hotel after the 1946 bombing

Operating in the British Mandate of Palestine in the 1930s, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam organized and established the Black Hand, an anti-Zionist militia. He recruited and arranged military training for peasants, and by 1935 had enlisted between 200 and 800 men. Al-Qassam obtained a fatwa from ShaykhBadr al-Din al-Taji al-Hasani, the Mufti of Damascus, authorizing armed resistance against the British and Jews of Palestine. Black Hand cells were equipped with bombs and firearms, which they used to kill Zionist settlers.[78][79] Although al-Qassam's revolt was unsuccessful in his lifetime, many organizations gained inspiration from his revolutionary example.[78] He became a popular hero and an inspiration to subsequent Arab militants, who in the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, called themselves Qassamiyun, followers of al-Qassam.

Lehi (Lohameni Herut Yisrael, a.k.a. "Freedom Fighters for Israel", a.k.a. Stern Gang) was a revisionist Zionist group that splintered off from Irgun in 1940.[80] Abraham Stern formed Lehi from disaffected Irgun members after Irgun agreed to a truce with Britain in 1940.[81] Lehi assassinated prominent politicians as a strategy. For example, on November 6, 1944, Lord Moyne, the British Minister of State for the Middle East, was assassinated.[82] The act was controversial among Zionist militant groups, Hagannah sympathizing with the British and launching a massive man-hunt against members of Lehi and Irgun. After Israel's 1948 founding, Lehi was formally dissolved and its members integrated into the Israeli Defense Forces.[83]


The first in-flight skyjacking took place in 1931, when a plane was commandeered by antiregime forces during a coup in Peru.[70]

[edit]World War II

[edit]The resistance movement in Europe

Some of the tactics of the guerrilla, partisan, and resistance movements organised and supplied by the Allies during World War II, according to historian M. R. D. Foot, can be considered terrorist.[84][85] Colin Gubbins, a key leader within the British Special Operations Executive(SOE), made sure the organization drew much of its inspiration from the IRA.[68][69] On the eve of D-Day, the SOE organised with the French resistance the complete destruction of the rail[86] and communication infrastructure of western France[87] perhaps the largest coordinated attack of its kind in history[citation needed]. Allied supreme commander Dwight Eisenhower later wrote that "the disruption of enemy rail communications, the harassing of German road moves and the continual and increasing strain placed on German security services throughout occupied Europe by the organised forces of Resistance, played a very considerable part in our complete and final victory".[88]

[edit]Mid-20th century

After World War II, largely successful anti-colonial campaigns were launched against the collapsing European empires, as many World War II resistance groups became militantly anti-colonial. The Viet Minh, for example, which had fought against the Japanese, now fought the returning French colonists. In the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood used bombings and assassinations against British rule in Egypt.[61]Also during the 1950s, the National Liberation Front (FLN) in French-controlled Algeria and the EOKA in British-controlled Cyprus wagedguerrilla and open war against colonial powers.[89]

Aftermath of the 1964 Brinks Hotel bombing in Vietnam.

In the 1960s, inspired by Mao's Chinese revolution of 1949 and Castro's Cuban revolution of 1959, national independence movements in formerly colonized countries often fused nationalist andsocialist impulses in the 1960s. This was the case with Spain's ETA, the Front de libération du Québec, and the Palestine Liberation Organization[clarification needed].[90]

In the late 1960s and 1970s violent leftist groups were on the rise, sympathizing with Third Worldguerrilla movements and seeking to spark anti-capitalist revolt. Such groups included the PKK in Turkey, Armenia's ASALA,[90] the Japanese Red Army, the German Red Army Faction, the Italian Red Brigades, and, in the U.S., the Weather Underground.[91] Nationalist groups such as theProvisional IRA and the Tamil tigers also began operations at this time.

Throughout the Cold War, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union made extensive use of violent nationalist organizations to carry on a war by proxy. For example, Soviet and Chinese military advisers provided training and support to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War,[92] while the U.S. funded groups such as the Contras in Nicaragua.[93] Ironically, many violent Islamic militants of the late 20th and early 21st century had been funded in the 1980s by the US and the UK because they were fighting the USSR in Afghanistan.[94][95]

[edit]Middle East

Founded in 1928 as a nationalist social-welfare and political movement in British-controlled Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1940s began to attack British soldiers and police stations.[96] Founded and led by Hassan al-Banna, it also assassinated politicians seen as collaborating with British rule,[97] most prominently Egyptian Prime Minister Nuqrashi in 1948.[98] British rule was overthrown in a 1952 military coup, and shortly thereafter the Muslim Brotherhood went underground in the face of a massive crackdown.[99] Though sometimes banned or otherwise oppressed, the group continues to exist in present-day Egypt.

The Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) was a nationalist group founded in French-controlled Algeria in 1954.[100] The group was a large-scale resistance movement against French occupation, with alleged terrorism only part of its operations. The FLN leadership was inspired by the Viet Minh rebels who had made French troops withdraw from Vietnam.[101] The FLN was one of the first anti-colonial groups to use large scale compliance violence. The FLN would establish control over a rural village and coerce its peasants to execute any French loyalists among them.[89] On the night of October 31, 1954, in a coordinated wave of seventy bombings and shootings known as the Toussaint attacks, the FLN attacked French military installations and the homes of Algerian loyalists.[102] In the following year, the group gained significant support for an uprising against loyalists in Philipville. This uprising — and the heavy-handed response by the French — convinced many Algerians to support the FLN and the independence movement.[citation needed] The FLN eventually secured Algerian independence from France in 1962, and transformed itself into Algeria's ruling party.[103]

Plaque commemorating the eleven Israeli athletes killed during the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.

Fatah was organized as a Palestinian nationalist group in 1954, and exists today as a political party in Palestine. In 1967 it joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella organization for secular Palestinian nationalist groups formed in 1964. The PLO began its own armed operations in 1965.[104] The PLO's membership is made up of separate and possibly contending paramilitary and political factions, the largest of which are Fatah, PFLP, andDFLP.[105][106] Factions of the PLO have advocated or carried out acts of terrorism.[107] Abu Iyadorganized the Fatah splinter group Black September in 1970; the group is best known for seizing eleven Israeli athletes as hostages at the September 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. All the athletes and five Black September operatives died during a gun battle with the West German police, in what was later known as the Munich massacre.[108] The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was founded in 1967 by George Habash,[109] and on September 6, 1970, the group hijacked three international passenger planes, landing two of them in Jordan and blowing up the third.[110] Fatah leader and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat publicly renounced terrorism in December 1988 on behalf of the PLO, but Israel has stated it has proof that Arafat continued to sponsor terrorism until his death in 2004.[111][112]

In the 1974 Ma'alot massacre 22 Israeli high school students, aged 14–16, from Safed were killed by three members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.[113] Before reaching the school, the trio shot and killed two Arab women, a Jewish man, his pregnant wife, and their 4 year old son, and wounded several others.[114]

The People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) or Mujahedin-e Khalq, is a socialist islamic group that has fought Iran's government since theKhomeini revolution. The group was originally founded to oppose capitalism and what it perceived as western exploitation of Iran under the Shah.[citation needed] The group would go on to play an important role in the Shah's overthrow but was unable to capitalize on this in the following power vacuum. The group is suspected of having a membership of between 10,000 and 30,000. The group renounced violence in 2001 but remains a proscribed terror organization in Iran and the U.S. The EU, however, has removed the group from its terror list. The PMOI is accused of supporting other groups such as the Jundallah.[citation needed]

The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) was founded in 1975 in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War byHagop Tarakchian and Hagop Hagopian with the help of sympathetic Palestinians. At the time, Turkey was in political turmoil, and Hagopian believed that the time was right to avenge the Armenians who died during the Armenian Genocide and to force the Turkish government to cede the territory of Wilsonian Armenia to establish a nation state also incorporating the Armenian SSR. In its Esenboga airport attack, on 7 August 1982, two ASALA rebels opened fire on civilians in a waiting room at the Esenboga International Airport in Ankara. Nine people died and 82 were injured. By 1986, the ASALA had virtually ceased all attacks.[115]

The "Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan" (Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK) was established in Turkey in 1978 as a Kurdish nationalist party. Founder Abdullah Ocalan was inspired by the Maoist theory of people's war, and like Algeria's FLN he advocated the use of compliance terror.[citation needed] The group seeks to create an independent Kurdish state consisting of parts of south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Iraq, north-eastern Syria and north-western Iran. In 1984, the PKK transformed itself into a paramilitary organisation and launched conventional attacks as well as bombings against Turkish governmental installations. In 1999, Turkish authorities captured Öcalan. He was tried in Turkey and sentenced to life imprisonment. The PKK has since gone through a series of name changes.[116]


Founded in 1959 and still active, the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (or ETA (Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom", pronounced [ˈeta])) is an armed Basque nationalist separatist organization.[117] Formed in response to General Francisco Franco's suppression of the Basque language and culture, ETA evolved from an advocacy group for traditional Basque culture into an armed Marxist group demanding Basque independence.[118] Many ETA victims are government officials, the group's first known victim a police chief killed in 1968. In 1973 ETA operatives killed Franco's apparent successor, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, by planting an underground bomb under his habitual parking spot outside a Madrid church.[119] In 1995, an ETA car bomb nearly killed Jose Maria Aznar, then the leader of the conservative Popular Party, and the same year investigators disrupted a plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos.[120] Efforts by Spanish governments to negotiate with the ETA have failed, and in 2003 the Spanish Supreme Court banned the Batasuna political party, which was determined to be the political arm of ETA.[121]

The Provisional Irish Republican Army was an Irish nationalist movement founded in December 1969 when several militants includingSeán Mac Stíofáin broke off from the Official IRA and formed a new organization.[122] Led by Mac Stíofáin in the early 1970s and by a group around Gerry Adams since the late 1970s, the Provisional IRA sought to create an all-island Irish state. Between 1969 and 1997, during a period known as the Troubles, the group conducted an armed campaign, including bombings, gun attacks, assassinations and even a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street.[123] On July 21, 1972, in an attack later known as Bloody Friday, the group set off twenty-two bombs, killing nine and injuring 130. On July 28, 2005, the Provisional IRA Army Council announced an end to its armed campaign.[124][125] The IRA is believed to have been a major exporter of arms to and provided military training to groups such as the FARC in Colombia[126] and the PLO.[127] In the case of the latter there has been a long held solidarity movement, which is evident by the many murals around Belfast.[128]

Ulrike Meinhof

The Red Army Faction (RAF) was a New Leftist group founded in 1968 by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof in West Germany. Inspired by Che Guevara, Maoist socialism, and the Vietcong, the group sought to raise awareness of the Vietnamese and Palestinian independence movements through kidnappings, taking embassies hostage, bank robberies, assassinations, bombings, and attacks on U.S. air bases. The group is best known for 1977's "German Autumn". The buildup leading to German Autumn began on April 7, when the RAF shot Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback. On July 30, it shot Jurgen Ponto, then head of the Dresdner Bank, in a failed kidnapping attempt; on September 5, the group kidnapped Hanns Martin Schleyer (a former SS officer and an important West German industrialist), executing him on October 19.[129] The hijacking of theLufthansa jetliner "Landshut" by the PFLP, a Palestinian group, is also considered to be part of German Autumn.[citation needed]

The Red Brigades were a New Leftist group founded by Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini in 1970 that sought to create a revolutionary state. The group carried out a series of bombings and kidnappings until Curcio and Franceschini were arrested in the mid-1970s. Their successor as leader, Mario Moretti, led the group toward more militarized and violent actions, including the kidnapping of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro on March 16, 1978. Moro was killed 56 days later. This led to an all-out assault on the group by Italian law enforcement and security forces and condemnation from Italian left-wing radicals and even imprisoned ex-leaders of the Brigades. The group lost most of its social support and public opinion turned strongly against it. In 1984, the group split, the majority faction becoming the Communist Combatant Party (Red Brigades-PCC) and the minority faction reconstituting itself as the Union of Combatant Communists (Red Brigades-UCC). Members of these groups carried out a handful of assassinations before almost all were arrested in 1989.[130]

[edit]The Americas

The Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) was a Marxist nationalist group that sought to create an independent, socialist Quebec.[131]Georges Schoeters founded the group in 1963 and was inspired by Che Guevara and Algeria's FLN.[132] The group was accused of bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations of politicians, soldiers, and civilians.[133] On October 5, 1970, the FLQ kidnapped James Richard Cross, the British Trade Commissioner, and on October 10, the Minister of Labor and Vice-Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte. Laporte was killed a week later. After these events support for violence in order to attain Quebec independence declined, and support increased for the Parti Québécois, which took power in Quebec in 1976.[134]

In Colombia several paramilitary and guerrilla groups formed during the 1960s and afterwards. In 1983, President Fernando Belaúnde Terry ofPeru described armed attacks on his nation's anti-narcotics police as "narcoterrorism", i.e., which refers to "violence waged by drug producers to extract political concessions from the government."[135] Pablo Escobar's ruthless violence in his dealings with the Colombian and Peruvian governments has been probably one of the best known and best documented examples of narcoterrorism.[citation needed]Paramilitary groups associated with narcoterrorism include the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), and the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). While the ELN and FARC were originally leftist revolutionary groups and the AUC was originally a right-wing paramilitary, all have conducted numerous attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the U.S. and some European governments consider them terrorist organizations.[136][137]

The Jewish Defense League' (JDL) was founded in 1969 by Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City, with its declared purpose the protection of Jews from harassment and antisemitism.[138] Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics state that, from 1980 to 1985, 15 attacks the FBI classified as acts of terrorism were attempted in the U.S. by members of the JDL.[139] The National Consortium for the Study of Terror and Responses to Terrorism states that, during the JDL's first two decades of activity, it was an "active terrorist organization.".[138][140] Kahane later founded the far-right Israeli political party Kach, which was banned from elections in Israel on the ground of racism.[141] The JDL's present-day website condemns all forms of terrorism.[142]

The Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN, "Armed Forces of National Liberation") is a nationalist group founded in Puerto Ricoin 1974. Over the decade that followed the group used bombings and targeted killings of civilians and police in pursuit of an independent Puerto Rico. The FALN in 1975 took responsibility for four nearly simultaneous bombings in New York City.[143] The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has classified the FALN as a terrorist organization.[144]

The Weather Underground (a.k.a. the Weathermen) began as a militant faction of the leftist Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organization, and in 1969 took over the organization. Weathermen leaders, inspired by China's Maoists, the Black Panthers, and the 1968 student revolts in France, sought to raise awareness of its revolutionary anti-capitalist and anti-Vietnam War platform by destroying symbols of government power. From 1969 to 1974 the Weathermen bombed corporate offices, police stations, and Washington government sites such as the Pentagon. After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, most of the group disbanded.[145]


The Japanese Red Army was founded by Fusako Shigenobu in Japan in 1971 and attempted to overthrow the Japanese government and start a world revolution. Allied with the Palestinian group PFLP, the group committed assassinations, hijacked a commercial Japanese aircraft, and sabotaged a Shell oil refinery in Singapore. On May 30, 1972, Kōzō Okamoto and other group members launched a machine gun and grenade attack at Israel's Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others. Two of the three attackers then killed themselves with grenades.[146]

Founded in 1976, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, (also called "LTTE" or Tamil Tigers) was a militant Tamil nationalist political and paramilitary organization based in northern Sri Lanka.[147] From its founding by Velupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a secessionist resistance campaign that sought to create an independent Tamil state in the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka.[148] The conflict originated in measures the majority Sinhalese took that were perceived as attempts to marginalize the Tamil minority.[149] The resistance campaign evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War, one of the longest-running armed conflicts in Asia.[150] The group carried out many bombings, including an April 21, 1987, car bomb attack at a Colombo bus terminal that killed 110 people.[151] In 2009 the Sri Lankan military launched a major military offensive against the secessionist movement and claimed that it had effectively destroyed the LTTE.


Founded in 1961, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was the military wing of the African National Congress; it waged a guerrilla campaign against the South African apartheid regime and was responsible for many bombings.[152] MK launched its first guerrilla attacks against government installations on 16 December 1961. South Africa subsequently banned the group after classifying it as a terrorist organization. MK's first leader was Nelson Mandela, who was tried and imprisoned for the group's acts.[153] With the end of apartheid in South Africa, Umkhonto we Sizwe was incorporated into the South African armed forces.

[edit]Late 20th century

In the 1980s and 1990s, Islamic militancy in pursuit of religious and political goals increased,[citation needed] many militants drawing inspiration from Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.[154] In the 1990s, well-known violent acts that targeted civilians were the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack by Aum Shinrikyo and the bombing of Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building.

[edit]The Americas

The Contras were a counter-revolutionary militia formed in 1979 to oppose Nicaragua's Sandinista government. The Catholic Institute for International Relations asserted the following about contra operating procedures in 1987: "The record of the contras in the field . . . is one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping."[155] Americas Watch - subsequently folded into Human Rights Watch - accused the Contras of targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination; kidnapping civilians, torturing civilians; executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat; raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian houses; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns.[156] The contras disbanded after the election of Violetta Chamorro in 1990.[157]

In 1985, Air India Flight 182 flying out of Canada was blown up by a bomb while in Irish airspace, killing 329 people, including 280 Canadian citizens, mostly of Indian birth or descent, and 22 Indians.[158] The incident was the deadliest act of air terrorism before 9/11, and the first bombing of a 747 Jumbo Jet which would set a pattern for future air terrorism plots. The crash occurred within an hour of the fatal Narita Airport Bombing which also originated from Canada without the passenger for the bag that exploded on the ground. Evidence from the explosions, witnesses and wiretaps of militants pointed to an attempt to actually blow up two airliners simultaneously by members of theBabbar Khalsa Khalistan movement militant group based in Canada to punish India for attacking the Golden Temple.

The April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing was directed at the U.S. government, according to the prosecutor at the murder trial ofTimothy McVeigh, who was convicted of carrying out the crime.[159] The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City claimed 168 lives and left over 800 injured.[160] McVeigh, who was convicted of first degree murder and executed, said his motivation was revenge for U.S. government actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge.[161]

[edit]Middle East

Explosion at U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, 1983

Hezbollah ("Party of God") is an Islamist movement and political party founded in Lebanon shortly after that country's 1982 civil war. Inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution, the group originally sought an Islamic revolution in Lebanon and has long fought for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. Led by Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah since 1992, the group has kidnapped Israeli soldiers and carried out missile attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli military and civilian targets.[162] Between 1982 and 1986, there were 36 suicide attacks in Lebanon directed against American, French and Israelis forces by 41 individuals with predominantly leftist political beliefs and of both major religions,[163] killing 659. The 1983 Beirut barracks bombing (by the Islamic Jihad Organization), which killed more than 200 U.S. marines at their barracks in Beirut, was particularly deadly.[164] Hezbollah denied involvement in any of the attacks.[165][166][167]

Egyptian Islamic Jihad (a.k.a. Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyya) is a militant Egyptian Islamist movement dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt. The group formed in 1980 as an umbrella organization for militant student groups formed after the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence. It is led byOmar Abdel-Rahman, who has been accused of participation in the World Trade Center 1993 bombings. In 1981, the group assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. On November 17, 1997, in what became known as the Luxor massacre, it attacked tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir el-Bahri); six men dressed as police machine-gunned 58 Japanese and European vacationers and four Egyptians.[168]

Nose section of Pan Am Flight 103

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, a Pan American World Airways flight from London'sHeathrow International Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, was destroyed mid flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. On January 31, 2001, Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahiwas convicted by a panel of three Scottish judges of bombing the flight, and was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment. In 2002 Libya offered financial compensation to victims' families in exchange for lifting of UN and U.S. sanctions. In 2007 Megrahi was granted leave to appeal against his conviction, and in August 2009 was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish executive due to his terminal cancer.[169]

The first Palestinian suicide attack took place in 1989 when a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad ignited a bomb onboard Tel Aviv bus, killing 16 people.[170] In the early 1990s another group, Hamas, also became well known for suicide bombings. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Mohammad Taha of the Palestinian wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood had created Hamas in 1987, at the beginning of the First Intifada, an uprising against Israeli rule in the Palestinian Territories that featured little deadly violence.[171] Hamas's militia, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, began its own suicide bombings against Israel in 1993, eventually accounting for about 40% of them.[172] The Brigades ceased suicide attacks in 2005 and renounced them in April 2006.[173] They have also been responsible for Israel-targeted rocket attacks, IED attacks, and shootings, but reduced most of those operations by 2006.[174] After winning legislative elections, Hamas since June 2007 has governed the Gaza portion of the Palestinian Territories.[175]

Flag of Kach and Kahane Chai.

February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Israeli physician, perpetrated the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, Goldstein shot and killed between 30 and 54 Muslim worshippers inside the Ibrahimi Mosque (within the Cave of the Patriarchs), and wounded another 125 to 150.[176] Goldstein, who was lynched and killed in the mosque,[176] was a supporter of Kach, an Israeli political party founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane that advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian Territories.[177] In the aftermath of the Goldstein attack and Kach statements praising it, Kach was outlawed in Israel.[177] Today, Kach and a breakaway group, Kahane Chai, are considered terrorist organisations by Israel,[178] Canada,[179]the European Union,[180] and the United States.[181]


Aum Shinrikyo, now known as Aleph, was a Japanese religious group founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984 as a yogic meditation group. Later, in 1990, Asahara and 24 other members campaigned for election to the House of Representatives under the banner of Shinri-tō (Supreme Truth Party). None were voted in, and the group began to militarize. Between 1990 and 1995, the group attempted several apparently unsuccessful violent attacks using the methods of biological warfare, using botulin toxin and anthrax spores.[182] On June 28, 1994, Aum Shinrikyo members released sarin gas from several sites in the Kaichi Heights neighborhood of Matsumoto, Japan, killing eight and injuring 200 in what became known as the Matsumoto incident.[182] Seven months later, on March 20, 1995, Aum Shinrikyo members released sarin gas in a coordinated attack on five trains in the Tokyo subway system, killing 12 commuters and damaging the health of about 5,000 others[183] in what became known as the subway sarin incident (地下鉄サリン事件, chikatetsu sarin jiken). In May 1995, Asahara and other senior leaders were arrested and the group's membership rapidly decreased.


Hostage crisis victim photos, on the walls of the former School Number One

Chechnyan separatists, led by Shamil Basayev, carried out several attacks on Russian targets between 1994 and 2006.[184] In the June 1995 Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis, Basayev-led separatists took over 1,000 civilians hostage in a hospital in the southern Russian city ofBudyonnovsk. When Russian special forces attempted to free the hostages, 105 civilians and 25 Russian troops were killed.[185]

[edit]21st century

Major events after the September 11, 2001 Attacks include the Moscow Theatre Siege, the 2003 Istanbul bombings, the Madrid train bombings, the Beslan school hostage crisis, the 2005 London bombings, the October 2005 New Delhi bombings, the 2008 Mumbai Hotel Siege, and the 2011 Norway attacks.


The Moscow theatre hostage crisis was the seizure of a crowded Moscow theatre on 23 October 2002 by some 40 to 50 armed Chechenswho claimed allegiance to the Islamist militant separatist movement in Chechnya. They took 850 hostages and demanded the withdrawal ofRussian forces from Chechnya and an end to the Second Chechen War. The siege was officially led by Movsar Barayev. After a two-and-a-half day siege, Russian Spetsnaz forces pumped an unknown chemical agent (thought to be fentanyl, 3-methylfentanyl), into the building'sventilation system and raided it.[186] Officially, 39 of the attackers were killed by Russian forces, along with at least 129 and possibly many more of the hostages (including nine foreigners). All but a few of the hostages who died were killed by the gas pumped into the theatre,[187][187][188] and many condemned use of the gas as heavy handed.[189] Roughly, 170 people died in all.

On September 1, 2004, in what became known as the Beslan school hostage crisis, 32 Chechnyan separatists took 1,300 children and adults hostage at Beslan's School Number One. When Russian authorities did not comply with the rebel demands that Russian forces withdraw from Chechnya, 20 adult male hostages were shot. After two days of stalled negotiations, Russian special forces stormed the building. In the ensuing melee, over 300 hostages died, along with 19 Russian servicemen and all but perhaps one of the rebels. Basayev is believed to have participated in organizing the attack.[190][clarification needed]

[edit]Middle East

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