What Were The Worst Terrorist Attacks?


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Christopher Profile
Christopher answered
There is great debate surrounding the the term “terrorism” and precisely who can be labelled as such. What most scholars agree upon is that terrorism refers to non-conventional acts of warfare or violence which openly targets civilians, rather than militaries, and aims to force change by striking widespread fear in society. Terrorism is almost always tied to fundamentalist ideologies or extreme political views, which terrorists draw public attention to by their acts of violence.

Identifying the “worst” terrorist attacks in world history can be done by either taking into consideration the number of fatalities or casualties that an attack caused, or by examining the length of time that a prominent terrorist organization operated in a given country without being disbanded by law enforcement agencies. The attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington, DC were by the worst terrorist incidents in terms of the number of people killed, but while this was a one-time event, a range of shadowy organizations managed to terrorize large populations through repeated attacks over the course of many years, and sometimes even decades, in Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?

[Source: Kanadai Magyar Hírlap]

Few people who engage in this type of violence, however, would see themselves as terrorists, as this term has a decidedly negative connotation. The only possible exception was during the French Revolution, when radical Jacobins under Robespierre established the Reign of Terror and consciously saw themselves as terrorists. In other instances, terrorists would like to be called “freedom fighters,” who resort to “legitimate” and “morally justified” violence in an attempt to bring an end to an oppressive situation. The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka normally refer to themselves as a “militant” group fighting for regional independence in northern and eastern parts of the island state. Yet 32 national governments have labelled the Tamil Tigers as terrorists, including the Americans, Australians, British, Canadians and all 27 member states of the European Union.

In stark contrast to the Tamil Tigers, it is much more widely accepted that those who fought against the Soviet forces during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution were, in fact, freedom fighters, rather than terrorists. Hungarian revolutionaries targeted the occupying Soviet soldiers, as well as members of Hungary’s communist secret police, rather than launching blanket attacks against civilians in order to strike fear in society. Time Magazine recognized this by declaring the nameless “Hungarian freedom fighter” as the 1956 Man of the Year. Major media organizations today, however, will sometimes try to avoid using both the words “terrorist” and “freedom fighter,” since the former is seen as a decidedly negative term, while using the latter can be seen as condoning certain forms of violence. As such, more innocuous expressions often used include “insurgent” or “militant.” The BBC, for example, usually refers to Palestinian militants and Iraqi insurgents, when describing those who oppose Israel or the United States.

Carlos, the Jackal

[Source: BBC News]

One of the twentieth century’s most infamous and elusive terrorists was Venezuelan communist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, more commonly known as Carlos, as the Jackal. Starting in 1973, Carlos fought for a range of extreme left-wing causes, and especially under the aegis of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was responsible for an assassination attempt against one of the leaders of the British Zionist Federation, as well as Jewish entrepreneurs.

During the 1970s, Carlos reportedly took part in a series of terrorist plots, including the bombing of a London bank, bombings against three major newspapers in France, a grenade attack on a Parisian restaurant, resulting in two deaths, as well as a rocket attack against El Al, Israel’s national airline.

The Jackal’s most notorious terrorist attack occurred in Vienna, against the headquarters of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in December 20, 1975. A total of six terrorists took part in the Vienna bombing, under the Jackal’s leadership. The terrorist incident was significant because Carlos ended up taking 60 hostages, most of whom were OPEC employees present in the building at the time of the attack. Carlos aimed to use the terrorist attack to raise public awareness of the Palestinian cause and called upon the Austrians to broadcast the terrorist group’s political message on both television and radio. Austrian authorities agreed to the Jackal’s request.

The compliance of Austrian authorities did not help the tense hostage situation. Two days later, the Jackal’s group took 42 of the OPEC hostages and flew with them to Algeria, from where they then travelled to Baghdad. It was at this point, that the organization released 30 of the hostages. The last detained OPEC employees were freed in Tripoli, Libya. The Jackal’s OPEC attack was a widely-publicized terrorist incident, but he had reportedly failed in executing a key element of the plan. Carlos did not kill two of the highest ranking hostages, including Iran’s finance minister, as he had been ordered to do. Carlos continued his series of terrorist attacks into the early 1980s, and Western intelligence agents and police authorities were unable to stop him.

According to most reports, Carlos often found refuge in communist-controlled Eastern Europe, and particularly in Budapest, Hungary. Carlos moved to Budapest in 1983 and lived in a prosperous, quiet and leafy suburb of the Hungarian capital for two years, before the country’s communist government—which was fully aware that they were harbouring a terrorist—expelled the Jackal. Much of Europe was terrified of Carlos, especially after an attack against a nuclear power plant in France, as well as bombings in Paris and in West Berlin and the bombing of a passenger train, all of which led to 22 casualties and four fatalities.

After being booted out of communist Eastern Europe, Carlos found refuge in the Middle East, and then in Africa. The mysterious and elusive international terrorist was caught when a Sudanese bodyguard charged with protecting the terrorist detained him, and handed Carlos over to French secret service agents.

The Jackal was tried in Paris and was finally sentenced to life in prison, in 1997. Although Carlos the Jackal’s attacks claimed fewer lives than other terrorist incidents, his shadowy connections with communist authorities and the Middle East, as well as his ability to evade capture for twenty years make him one of the most infamous terrorists in world history.

Black October and terrorism in Canada

[Source: Historica Canada]

Most people might think of Canada as having a peaceful history, but during the 1960s and 1970s, North America’s most serious terrorism attacks occurred on Canadian soil. Behind a series of bombings, fatal hostage-takings and an attempt at insurrection was the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), a French-Canadian Marxist and separatist organization which fought for the independence of the country’s French-speaking province. These communist terrorists carried out a staggering 200 bombings in Canada and killed five civilians when they attacked the Montreal Stock Exchange in 1969. The FLQ also struck fear in Montreal’s Anglophone minority, as they targeted English-speaking neighbourhoods and placed letter bombs in mailboxes, injuring scores of innocent people.

The FLQ’s most infamous attack, however, occurred in October 1970, and involved the kidnapping of Great Britain’s Trade Commissioner in Montreal, James Cross, as well as the brutal torture and murder of Québec’s labour minister, Pierre Laporte. In addition to its call for Quebec separatism, the FLQ used the hostage situation to demand that the Canadian government release 23 FLQ members who had been imprisoned over the years, guarantee their safe passage by airplane to communist Cuba and demanded that Canada give the terrorists $500,000 in gold. Although these demands were read out on national television, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau took a hard-line, uncompromising approach, by introducing the War Measures Act, which suspended civil liberties, brought in the Canadian military to protect government buildings in Ottawa and Montreal and allowed for the summary arrest of hundreds of suspected terrorists.

European secessionist terrorism

[Source: The Telegraph]

Secessionist terrorism in Europe was most pronounced in the United Kingdom and Spain. The UK—and particularly Northern Ireland—was gripped for forty years by a period of political turmoil and violence, referred to as “The Troubles.” Acts of terrorism committed mainly by groups in Northern Ireland led to very high casualties. An estimated 3,524 people on all sides are believed to have died in violence related to Northern Ireland, between 1966 and 2001. Of these deaths, 1,857 of the casualties were civilians. While these figures include both those related to terrorism, as well as British military operations, what makes the violence in Northern Ireland among the worst cases of terrorism is that the UK experienced over 16,200 bombings during these decades. After Northern Ireland, Spain experienced the most severe terrorism, at the hands of the Marxist-Leninist ETA-Basque organization. Sporadic violence continues.

The 9/11 attacks

[Source: Latino Pundit]
While other countries had to confront a long series of terrorist attacks, spanning decades, there is little doubt that the attacks on New York City and Washington DC were by far the worst, in terms of the number of fatalities. A staggering 2,998 civilians of all nationalities were killed in New York’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon attack and the crashed United Airlines flight 93. What made 9/11 so uniquely horrifying is that never before had passenger jets been deliberately flown into buildings and never had such attacks been broadcast live on television.
Karen Floyd Profile
Karen Floyd answered
I don't know if you would consider the NAZI ERA as a terrorist . But to me it was the worst time I have ever seen. All the  millions and millions of people and children who died because the were jewish. Being put gas chambers, staved to death,  and then throw them in a pile in a hole in the ground. 

Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
I live in NY..I never felt such a feeling of anger and of being violated as I felt on 9/11 by far was the worst terrorist attack woke America up to what kind of madmen we are up against and this country will never be the same because of it...Innocent Muslims lives have been affected negatively also
Angie Knight Profile
Angie Knight answered
No one can agree I personally think that it was 9/11. It devastated so many families and it was a kamikaze act. Worst of all though it happened with our own planes!
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Yes I'd have to go with 9/11, no other act of violent terror has claimed so many lives. While Nazism was horrible it was not terrorism per say it was persecution no different than North Vietnamese killing South Vietnamese just cause of a line on a map and a governmental belief. Just my opinion!
bob nelson Profile
bob nelson answered
I think it was 9/11 :(
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Yes 9 11, holocaust, you can also say the Hiroshima bomb since it was also meant to show Japan that the U.S. Is capable or killing mass loads of people easily, though it wasn't "terrorists" it was an act of bringing terror (along with the destroying of a major military important city).
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Bali WWI
WWII Colombo Ivory Coast Sierra Leone Egypt
Bombay Afghanistan Italy France Ireland Lebanon Colombia Peru
Dov Jacobs Profile
Dov Jacobs answered
Even though as an American it's hard to say that America did a terrorist, but I believe that we did.
I have to say that the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were definitely terrorist acts and by far the worst. They killed tens of thousands of innocent people in a matter of seconds and hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a matter of days.
They didn't target the military, they attacked cities.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
9/11 probably, but I'd also say that Hitler was one of the worst terrorists, and the worst attack on UK soil was the bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie.
Patric Ericson Profile
Patric Ericson answered
How can you say that 911 is the worst? Have you all forgotten the only two nuclear bombs detonated on foreign soil? They where american, and I think that is the worst act of terror in history.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Chechen Mujahideen video is the worst terrorist group in history. Sure you hear of, murders, suicide that sort of thing. But to be-head someone on bloody video! (Russian be-heading video) I am truly sorry that I have said this, 9/11 can never top this.
Patric Ericson Profile
Patric Ericson answered
How can you say that 9 11 is the worst terrorist attack? Have you all forgotten the only two nuclear bombs ever detonated on foreign soil? They where american, and America is the only coun­try to have ever used nuc­lear bombs to mas­sacre civilians. Killing 80 000-120 000 innocent people in one day, and extremly many more up to this day are still dying from them, in cancer. I think that is the worst act of terrorism in history, along with Hitlers ww2. And if you tell me otherwise you must be stupid.
thanked the writer.
Patric Ericson
Patric Ericson commented
Im not saying that 9 11 wasnt an act of terrorism, it was, and I do feel sad for those who died and for there families.

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