Major Terrorist Incidents
This page contains an overview of twenty of the more significant terrorist acts since 1967. A more extensive list is available at the MILNET Web site.
Palestinian terrorists attack five airliners, including TWA, El Al and Pan Am flights, hijacking two to Jordan and destroying one in Cairo, Egypt. The timing and scope of this incident shocked the world and resulted in the PLO's expulsion from Jordan. PLO militants then settled in Lebanon, destabilizing that nation leading to its civil war.
Japanese Red Army terrorists commit a massacre at Lod Airport in Israel killing 27 and wounding 76.
One of the most high profile terrorist attacks ever committed occurred at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Members of Black September, at the time a faction of the PLO, take a group of Israeli athletes hostage. In the ensuing botched rescue attempt, all nine hostages, five terrorists and one German police officer are killed (Wardlaw, 104). This incident, more than any other, places the Palestinian situation on the world's agenda.
Members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang take over the West German Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. This incident is significant mainly because it resulted in the arrests of Baader-Meinhof's founders—Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof (Reich, 55), both of whom later died in a German prison under questionable circumstances.
Freelance terrorist Carlos "The Jackal" and his compatriots attack a meeting of OPEC ministers in Vienna, Austria and take hostages for ransom. The sheer audacity, and success, of this operation shocked the world.
Palestinian terrorists hijack an Air France flight bound for Jerusalem containing mainly Israeli passengers. The aircraft lands at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where the terrorists and their captives are given refuge. Israeli commandos then stage a spectacular rescue, freeing nearly all hostages with minimal loss of life. The Entebbe Raid is considered the model for successful counterterrorist operations.
Red Brigades terrorists kidnap former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. The terrorists demand release of Red Brigades members from Italian prisons in exchange for Moro. When their demands are not met, they murder him. The ability of terrorists to kidnap then murder such a high profile individual led to panic in Western Europe's security organizations.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is assassinated by members of the fundamentalist Muslim group Al-Jihad. Sadat's unwillingness to turn Egypt into an Islamic republic and his signing of a peace treaty with Israel (the Camp David Accords) are cited as reasons for his murder.
A massive explosion at the U.S. Embassy complex in Beirut, Lebanon is the first Muslim reprisal against U.S. support of Christian forces in Lebanon's civil war. The death toll is 63.
A Hizballah suicide bomber drives an explosives-laden truck into the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon killing 241 Marines. The bombing results in public outrage in the United States. Soon after, U.S. military forces are pulled out of Lebanon; a victory for the terrorists.
Arab terrorists hijack TWA flight 847 leading to a highly publicized TV vigil. The terrorists kill one American before the situation is resolved.
A faction of the Palestine Liberation Front led by Abu Abbas hijacks the Italian ocean liner Achille Lauro and kills one American hostage.
Simultaneous terrorist attacks occur at airports in Rome and Vienna. Dozens of civilians are massacred. These incidents result in much heightened security at airports around the world.
A bomb explodes in a West Berlin Disco frequented by American servicemen. Two people are killed and more than 200 injured. Investigators connect Libya and its leader, Muammar Kaddafi, to the attack. President Reagan cites this fact as impetus for the 1986 U.S. bombing raid on Libya.
Pan Am flight 103 is blown out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland by a terrorist bomb killing 270 people. This attack is believed to be a reprisal for the 1986 bombing raid on Libya. Libya is also harboring the individuals U.S. authorities suspect of planting the bomb.
A bomb exploded in a garage under the World Trade Center towers in New York City killing 6 and injuring many more. A number of Muslim extremists were arrested and convicted of the bombing. Hamas is suspected of having a role in the attack.
A bomb placed in a rental truck explodes in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Half of the building is obliterated and 168 people are killed. This terrorist attack is the deadliest ever committed on U.S. soil. Individuals with ties to anti-government extremist groups stand accused of the crime. This incident resulted in greater popular focus on domestic extremist groups in the United States.
An IRA bomb explodes in London's Docklands ending a 17 month cease-fire and seriously jeopardizing the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
A truck bomb severely damages U.S. Air Force barracks at the Al Khubar apartment complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans and wounding over 200. Authorities suspect Islamic extremists hoping to force the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia and overthrow the ruling Saudi royal family.
Members of the Tupac Amaru storm the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru taking over 400 hostages, including high level Peruvian government officials and foreign dignitaries. Most of the hostages are soon released, but terrorists hold the remaining 72 hostages for four months. The terrorists demand release of compatriots from prison in exchange for the hostages, but Peru's government refuses. In April 1997 Peruvian commandos storm the residence freeing all but one hostage and killing all terrorists.