07 Sep

As we draw closer and closer to the anniversary of 9/11, we as a people should give pause to think on other major terrorist events that have happened throughout the world.  Terrorism and the word terrorist is an interesting one.  Terrorism was coined in France in 1798, during the Reign of Terror, and was used to describe government intimidation.  Today, it has a much different meaning.  Most will equate it to Islamist extremists in today’s world.  However, there are those in Norway who would beg to differ.

Terrorists have come in all shapes and sizes, all political leanings, all religious affiliation.  Here are eight terrorist attacks that have shaped the modern world.

Bloody Friday in Northern Ireland

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted and exploded 22 bombs in a lightening quick attack in Belfast, on July 21, 1972. They killed 11 and seriously injured and mutilated 130 others.

Then-U.K. Prime Minister Edward Heath had recently imposed direct rule over Northern Ireland, causing backlash from the IRA. Earlier that June, the government and IRA attempted talks, but they failed.

‘The Troubles’, as they were known, lasted from 1963 to 1985, and paramilitary groups on both sides of the fight – both Protestant and Catholic, those loyal to England and secessionists who wanted their own state – had a hand in the violence, which continued for more than a decade after the official end was declared.

1972 was the bloodiest year of ‘The Troubles’, reports BBC. Some 470 people were killed – most of them civilians – and there were more than 10,600 shootings and almost 1,400 explosions. About 500 bombs were diffused. The army seized 1,200 firearms, 183,000 rounds of ammunition and 19,000 kilograms of explosives during 36,000 home searches that year.

More than 3,500 people died over the decades of fighting, almost 2,000 of whom were civilians.

Ku Klux Klan attacks between 1865-1877

Between 1865 and 1877 the Ku Klux Klan, and well-organized groups of local whites, killed more than 3,000 former slaves and their white Republican allies in the United States.

The murders came during the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War, in which defeated Southern states were readmitted into the Union. With the end of slavery, the plan was to create a new South in which African-Americans were given equal rights.

Historian Stephen Budiansky provides the number of casualties and blames them on “the campaign of terrorist violence that overthrew the only representatively elected governments the Southern states would know for 100 years to come,” in his book The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox.

The Ku Klux Klan was a white supremacist group which maintained only white, heterosexual Christians deserved civil rights.

During the Reconstructionist era classic KKK tactics emerged: intimidating black men and women, and the white people who supported them, with burning crosses on their lawns, riding on horseback in the now iconic long white robes and pointy hats, arson, rape and lynching.

The group, as well as smaller militias based on the same principles, continued to pop up in the early half of the 20th century, and those first acts of violence echo through America today.

In 2003 five members of a white supremacist group in Louisiana were convicted on conspiracy and intimidation charges after burning a cross at the home of three African-Americans.

U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon laid out the seriousness of what he believed to be a domestic terrorist organization in his final statements on the case.

“While foreign terrorists would kill our bodies and destroy our buildings…the Ku Klux Klan and what they stand for and the type of conduct these defendants engaged in to rid themselves of their black neighbours, attacks our nation’s very soul.”

Beslan school hostage crisis

The tragic events in which Chechen nationalists held hostage over 1,000 men, women and children, killing 332 of them during a bloody three-day siege in September of 2004 has been called ‘Russia’s 9-11′.

Chechens took over School No. 1 in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia, on Sept. 1, 2004, the first day of the school year.

The siege lasted 53 hours, and ended in a chaotic gunfight between Russian military, local men, and the guerrillas who had infiltrated the school. As the dust settled, the hostages’ chilling stories emerged, as well as details of the separatists’ preparations, which included planting extra weapons in the school over the summer.

The siege was the last in a week-long assault, which included a suicide bomber killing nine outside a Moscow subway station and two airliners downed by suspected Chechen suicide bombers, in which all 89 people aboard died.

The attacks were in response to recent elections in Chechnya, in which a Kremlin-backed candidate won the presidency, according to CNN.

But Chechnya and Russia’s history is long and bloody. Chechnya declared independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1994 Boris Yeltsin ordered 40,000 troops to invade preventing its separation. Vladamir Putin has increasingly associated Chechen rebels with jihadists in the Middle East, including al-Qaida. And the rift grows.

The October Crisis and the FLQ in Quebec

The October Crisis began when Quebec separatist group the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross in Montreal on Oct. 5, 1970. Another FLQ cell kidnapped (and eventually killed) Quebec’s labour minister, Pierre Laporte, on Oct. 10, 1970.

The crisis ended on Dec. 28, 1970 when Laporte’s kidnappers were arrested and charged.

The FLQ was formed in 1963 with the aim of Quebec independence. By that October the FLQ had already committed more than 200 crimes, including robberies and dozens of bombings that resulted in six deaths.

In exchange for Cross, the FLQ demanded publication of their manifesto, the release of 23 FLQ members, safe passage to Cuba and $500,000 in gold. One demand was met on Oct. 8 when Radio-Canada read the manifesto on air.

On Oct. 16, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau implemented the War Measures Act at the request of the Quebec government – the only time the act was employed during peace time. Canadians were divided on whether the move was necessary or set a dangerous precedent.

The next day the FLQ announced Laporte had been executed.

Cross was spared a similar fate. On Dec. 3, 62 days after being kidnapped, Cross was released and his kidnappers flown to Cuba. Laporte’s kidnappers were caught later that month.

Trudeau’s hardline response has become an enduring facet of his legacy and gave rise to his most famous line. When a CBC reporter questioned just how far he would go in boosting national security, Trudeau replied, “Just watch me.”

The crisis had wider implications for Canada as well. Laporte’s murder led many to abandon the FLQ, choosing to fight for sovereignty through political means. This meant increased support for the provincial separatist Parti Quebecois and later the rise of the federal Bloc Quebecois.

But the October Crisis is not the worst terrorist attack Canada has seen.

Air India flight 182 bombing

That dubious honour goes to the bombing of Air India flight 182 on June 22, 1985.

On that June day in 1985 two pieces of luggage were checked in at the Vancouver International Airport. The first exploded at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, before transfer to an Air India flight. Two baggage handlers were killed. Fifty-five minutes later, the other bag exploded mid-air as Air India Flight 182 approached Ireland. Everyone on the plane died.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the bombing ranks as “the worst mass murder in Canadian history”. There were 329 causalities, including 82 children. The decades-long investigation and prosecution of those accused was the costliest in Canadian history at about $130 million.

Charges weren’t laid until 2000, 15 years after the explosion. Sikh militants were believed to be behind the attack, but police struggled to come up with evidence. In 2003 Inderjit Singh Reyat was sentenced to five years in jail. Sikh cleric Ajaib Singh Bagri and millionaire businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik (pictured above), both from B.C., were acquitted of attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

The public outrage over the outcome of the case led to a public inquiry, headed by interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, which in turn led to a full judicial inquiry in 2006.

Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto is assassinated

Pakistan’s twice prime minister and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated on Dec. 27, 2007, after a rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

Shots were fired at Bhutto’s car and seconds later a bomb went off, killing some 20 people in all. Her death sparked riots across Pakistan.

Months earlier, Bhutto was the target of another assassination attempt en route to a rally in Karachi, celebrating her homecoming after eight years of self-imposed exile. A suicide-bomber killed 139 people, injuring some 450 more.

The Pakistan government and the CIA blame Baitulah Mehsud, a pro-Taliban tribal leader in South Waziristan, for the deadly attacks.

While Bhutto believed al-Qaida wanted her dead, she also thought, as her followers continue to think, that a group of senior politicians and intelligence agents worked in collusion with the Taliban to achieve the goal.

In February 2011 a Pakistan court issued an arrest warrant for Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president at the time of Bhutto’s death. The court accused Musharraf of being aware of, and failing to pass on, Taliban plans targeting Bhutto, because she was his political rival. Last year, a UN inquiry suggested Musharraf’s government didn’t do enough to keep Bhutto safe.

The assassination indicates the state of terrorism in Pakistan. In 2010 Musharraf admitted the government had turned a blind eye to militant groups in the past. That has paved the way for pro-Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country to “become a state within a state in recent years,”according to the BBC.

Pakistan has become a launching pad for radicals fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan, and many major attacks on the west, including 9-11 and the July 7, 2005 attacks on London.

Most recently, and perhaps most revealingly, U.S. commandos hunted al-Qaida head, and purported 9-11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden down in Pakistan, where he was hiding in plain sight.

9-11 terrorist attacks

Ten years ago 19 al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, spectacularly crashing two into the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon. The fourth, also headed toward Washington, crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania after passengers intervened.

Nearly 3,000 people died that day.

Since then, 9-11 has become shorthand for terrorism itself and how the Western world, certainly the U.S. and Canada, have changed following such surprising violence.

9-11 has transformed the lives of Americans and Canadian: From the frustratingly inconvenient (the song, dance and strip show required as part of airport security); to the disturbing (reports of security measures that amount to racial profiling); to the deadly (an American-led war in Iraq and a NATO-sanctioned one in Afghanistan. Both of which have killed thousands of soldiers and left for dead many more thousands of Iraqis and Afghans).

Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Slav nationalist terrorist group, The Black Hand, assassinated the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie, in Sarajevo.

The Archduke was heir to the Austro-Hungary Empire and the country blamed Serbia for the killing. Thanks to Europe’s network of diplomatic alliances, this one act triggered a domino effect. The continent launched into war with Austro-Hungary, Germany and Italy on one side and Britain, France and Russia on the other. Soon Japan and the Ottoman Empire joined the fracas.

In an age of imperialism, the bloodshed didn’t stop there. Western powers’ holdings in South America and Africa got involved. Soldiers from Britain’s dominions were sent to Europe, including Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. The situation spilled over to more than 20 countries.

The Great War that was supposed to end all wars by Christmas of 1914 ended up lasting four, bloody years. There are no definitive numbers on the final death toll because of spotty record keeping and documents lost during the battles. But estimates of civilian and military deaths usually hover around 65 million at the upper end.

In its special ‘The Great War: And the Shaping of the 20th Century’, PBS puts that number into interesting perspective. When taken as a percentage of the forces that fought, the casualties reach 57.5 per cent.

“The provocation effect of terrorism was born in 1914,” historian Jay Winter told PBS. “In many ways the attack on the World Trade Center was a direct echo of that provocation. The intention was to bring about a military response that would in turn rebound against the power that responds.”

Because of the ratio between that initial act of terrorism and the end result in which many millions were killed, the boundaries of Europe were redrawn, and the stage set for the Second World War, this attack lands at the top of our list.

Information gathered from

Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Life, randomness


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